The Art of the Heel-and-Toe Downshift

heel-and-toe downshift

We've all read it, manual transmissions are an endangered species, and for us that just makes them even more indulgent. Now, don't get us wrong, there's nothing dishonorable about paddles, (I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy the wonderful burbles they can produce) but anyone who has got a heel-and-tow down shift just perfect knows there's an irreplaceable sense of satisfaction to it.

In the right corner, at the right speed, on the right road, some people might go so far as to call it transcendence. And we think if more people had this type of driving 'religious' experience, well, that'd just help us in the fight to preserve them. 

So without further ado, here's the heel-and-toe downshift explained. 

The faster you're driving, the more important it is to control the momentum of the car. Remember, smooth is fast, and smooth is what keeps you out of a casket.

Even a small jolt can throw you into a spin, especially if you're right about to turn into the apex of the corner.

On the other end, if you're trying to carry speed, you've got to choose the right gear for accelerating out of the turn and onto the next part of road. So you typically do all of the braking and downshifting before the turn. 

The only problem is - downshifting quickly requires you to blip the throttle to match the engine's revs to the lower gear. If you don't, the car could jolt, and lock up the tires just for enough time (think less than a second) to cause a spin. And then you have to brake on top of that too. 

Thus, the heel-and-toe method is essentially clutching, braking, and blipping the throttle all at the same time so that you can smoothly get all of your braking and downshifting done before entering the turn. 

Now that that's established, how do you do it? 

To perform the heroic heel-and-toe deed you'll want to simultaneously: 

1. Begin braking.

2. With the ball of your right foot on the brake pedal, use your left to engage the clutch and select the appropriate gear.

3. Pivot your right foot (still on the brake pedal) and use the side or heel (depends on the car) of that same foot to blip the gas.

3. Disengage the clutch. 

Of course, this all wont make sense without a visual so here's F1 legend Ayrton Senna using the technique in his Honda NSX.

Now, that's how you dance. 


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