How to Heel-Toe Downshift, Or Shift Without the Clutch, If You’re a Heathen

Team O’Neil Rally School’s Wyatt Knox teaches you the how and why of heel-and-toe shifting, and how to skip the clutch altogether.

When you’re first learning to drive a manual transmission, simply getting the car to roll forward without violently stalling feels like the biggest challenge in the world. Eventually, though, you get it, and your next challenge becomes making sure you shift smoothly. Once you get the hang of that, you can safely say you know how to drive stick.

But if you want to drive your manual transmission car in a spirited fashion, especially on a track, you’ll quickly discover the limitations of the no-frills shifting technique. As Team O’Neil Rally School instructor Wyatt Knox points out, not only can a clumsy downshift over-rev your engine or stress your transmission and driveline, it can also cause an unexpected weight transfer or lock the tires up. None of which you want while you’re chasing the elusive eleventh tenth on the track.

 So what does Knox recommend? Heel-toe downshifting. If you’re not familiar, it involves using your right foot to blip the throttle while simultaneously depressing the brake pedal with that same foot. When you get it right, you can smoothly downshift without upsetting the balance of the car. It does, however, take a good bit of practice to get it right every time.

And if you’re really daring, you can also try clutchless shifting. At the right engine speed, you don’t actually need the clutch to shift. That leaves you free to brake with your left foot and rev-match with your right. If you get it correct, you can shift while operating the brake and accelerator pedal, without needing a third foot. Of course, if you get it wrong, it goes very wrong. Don’t practice this unless you’re comfortable with the risk of lunching your transmission.

For a more in-depth explanation of both, check out Knox’s video below.

From: Road and Track


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