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Info:- MR2 Driving Guide

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Having read about or seen many a bent MR2 on this forum I wanted to share some of my knowledge & experience with everyone, so I’ve started writing this guide which I’ll build on over the coming weeks.

I’m not claiming to be a driving god or owt, but have a bit of experience, so if this guide saves just one MR2, one car or even one life then I think it’s worth it!

Ok, firstly a disclaimer…. This guide is just that, a guide. Although I am aiming to give you a few pointers, tips and tricks here no amount of theory can make up for practice, in safe and appropriate conditions. If you attempt lift off oversteer for the first time whilst going round a busy roundabout, in the wet, at 3.30pm, outside a school then on your own head be it!

I’ve decided to write this guide after attending a few driving courses and having driven several high performance cars, including FWD, RWD, MR, and 4WD. My aim is to give drivers, be they new to the MR2 or just new, a few helpful pointers. Please feel free to PM me any comments, questions, criticisms etc. Of course everybody has a different driving style, so I might think you’re wrong, but I’ll probably add it nonetheless as different things work for different people!

Part One



Knowing how to slow or stop your vehicle in an emergency or during “spirited” driving is the most important skill, IMHO, to posses. You can have the best tyres, most powerful engine, top of the range suspension but this is all useless without good brakes and knowing how to use them.
A common phrase I’ve heard too many times (usually just before an accident) is…. “I’m ok, I’ve got ABS”. Yes, ABS (antilock braking system) does help in certain situations, but the best drivers will NEVER rely on the system to slow the car effectively. It works by detecting when a wheel has locked up, then it will release the brake pressure to allow the wheel to turn again. It is incredibly useful for allowing control to be maintained during heavy braking, whilst steering (i.e. emergency stop & lane change on a motorway…..)

Having ABS does not mean it is a case of planting the middle pedal to the floor and letting the system do the rest. When braking the weight of the car shifts forwards, (I will cover this in more depth in the weight transfer section). This is partly the reason most cars have a Front Brake Bias (more pressure applied to the front brake discs).

Scenario 1 – 70mph, flat straight runway, in the wet. Going from steady throttle, the driver jumps to the brakes, planting them to the floor as fast as is humanly possible. This will almost instantly either lock the front wheels or trigger the ABS.

Scenario 2 – 70mph, flat straight runway, in the wet. Going from steady throttle, the driver quickly jumps from accelerator to the brake pedal and takes up the “free play”. He/she then slows down the movement of their foot, progressively but firmly pressing the brake pedal down.

In Scenario 2, if the vehicle has ABS, when the system triggers, then is the time to bury the pedal.
If the vehicle does not have ABS, when a wheel locks is the time to start “cadence” braking. This involves releasing pressure on the brakes to allow the wheel to turn again, then re-applying the pressure to obtain optimum braking. Do not “bounce” your foot on the pedal.

Scenario 2 will lead to a much more controlled, and quicker stop. The most efficient braking situation is just before the wheels lock, therefore when ABS or cadence braking is used, you are varying between too much pressure and not enough.

The trick to braking with an MR2, or indeed any MR car is to allow the weight to transfer to the front progressively. This ensures the brakes front to back are doing optimum work. The quick jump to the brakes & taking up the free play is obviously ideal for slowing the car quicker. The initial period of heavy braking should be to shift the weight to the front, and the final stage is the actual heavy braking.

Try it – Next time the situation & conditions are safe to do so, in a car with ABS, get up to a steady 40mph, and SLAM the brakes on. See how early in the braking phase the ABS is triggered. Try again, but brake more progressively. You should find much more braking effort can be achieved before the ABS is triggered.

Oversteer vs Understeer –

Simple really – Oversteer = The back of the car sliding before the front, i.e. steering too much.

Understeer = the front of the car sliding before the rear, i.e. not steering enough.

Weight Transfer –

Ok, first up the basics……

When you accelerate, you can feel yourself being pushed back in the seat. When you brake, you can feel yourself being pushed forwards. When you go round a right hand curve, you can feel yourself being pushed left & vica versa.

Try it – pop a tennis ball or similar in you passenger side footwell. Find a big empty car park or similar piece or tarmac. Watch how the ball rolls around when accelerating, braking or cornering.

If you think about how much you can feel yourself being pushed & pulled around by the G Forces, think about how much more your car weighs and will therefore have greater forces exerted on it.

Using weight transfer –

Driving at a steady throttle, in a straight line is pretty much the only way to avoid weight transfer, but where’s the fun in that? Weight transfer is an incredibly useful tool when getting your car to do what it is you want it to do.

Understanding grip –

Imagine your car’s total level of grip like this –

The end of each arrow represents the limit of adhesion, so go past this and the tyre’s grip will be lost, e.g. when accelerating the wheels will spin.

The circle in the image represents total grip whilst asking the tyres to cope with direction changes as well as accelerating or braking, so you can’t plant either of the two right hand pedals as hard when you’re turning the wheel…….. This is due to weight transfer. Imagine flooring a 1.4 litre front wheel drive car (a breathtaking proposition I know!) In second gear in a straight line…. What happens? Unless the tyres are shocking or the road surface is slippery, the tyres will put the power down and the car will accelerate. Now try flooring it in second gear coming out of a tight bend, near the cornering limits of the car. What happens? The inside wheel will start to spin. This is because the weight has shifted due to cornering, you are already at the limit of grip. As the weight shifts backwards, and has already shifted to the outer wheels, the tyres fall outside of the circle and therefore grip is lost.
 See below –

1) represents cornering

2) represents accelerating

The blue line represents shifting the weight rearwards through acceleration, thereby overwhelming the grip of the tyre.

In the above scenario the grip is all shifted to the outer rear wheel….. where it is least needed! Now we can start to see why, dynamically speaking, FWD cars are not ideal. Imagine the same scenario in an MR2 (with LSD, limited slip differential). The weight is shifted to the rear, driven wheels. The LSD balances power between the two rear wheels, maximising grip and powering the car out of the corner.

Understanding how a car’s weight shifts around is vital to understanding how to obtain a good balance. Balance is when the car slides equally, front and back when maximum cornering speed has been reached.

One of the things that makes the MR2 such a fantastic handling car, is that it is an MR2! Mid engined, rear wheel drive, 2 seats. All of the weight of the car, i.e. engine, fuel, driver etc is all between the front and rear wheels.

This has the advantage of allowing the driver greater influence over the weight transfer, and therefore the ability to alter the balance of the car to stay on the black stuff.

This also has the disadvantage of allowing the driver greater influence over the weight transfer, and therefore the ability to alter the balance of the car to throw it into the nearest ditch or solid object!

Front wheel drive cars have less ability to weight transfer, as the weight of the engine is usually directly over the front axle. Peugeot 306’s and 205’s excepted, front wheel drive cars are generally very safe.

Scenario -
Most of us will have had a front wheel drive car as a first car. Most of us will have mis-judged the tightness of a bend, and gone in too quickly, and started understeering (not turning enough). Backing off the throttle, or applying the brakes will have shifted the weight towards the front, giving the front wheels greater grip, allowing the car to make the corner.

Weight transfer can be used to great effect in a front wheel drive car: turn into a corner at full throttle, and close it mid corner, and turn a little more (using the extra grip the weight transfer gives you) and the result is a nice bit of “Lift Off Oversteer”. Get back on the throttle, and use maybe a touch of opposite lock to straighten the car and exit the corner.

The same principle applies in an MR2, however the results of your actions with the throttle, brake and steering will be much greater, as the MR2’s weight is roughly central between the axles, any input you make will cause a greater shift in the weight when compared to a Fiesta for example.

If this section seems a little tough going, it is my firm belief that a lack of understanding of weight transfer has caused many, many MR cars to be crashed, and the resulting unpleasantness that comes with a car accident.

Imagine the same scenario as above, but in an MR2. Misjudging the bend and panicking results in the driver backing off, usually too much. The resulting sudden and more pronounced weight shift means that as the front wheels are gaining grip, the rear wheels are loosing them. The resulting Lift Off Oversteer, is unexpected, is often hard to recover. The MR2 has been criticised for this handling trait, but I think it is one of it’s best features, and after all comes as part of being an MR2! In truth the MR2 is, in my opinion, right up there with the legendary Lotus Elise for handling, as it shares a similar layout. Rumour has it that Lotus was involved in developing the Mark one? Anybody know if there’s any truth in this?

Anyway, back to it….

Understeer –

Can be caused either by entering a turn too fast, or turning the steering wheel too quickly.

If steering too quickly has caused understeer, then wind off the lock, allow the front wheels to regain grip, and turn in again, but more progressively the second time around.

If caused by entering a turn too fast then VERY SLIGHTLY and PROGRESSIVELY ease off the throttle. At the same time, reduce the angle at which you are turning the front wheels. As the front wheels regain grip due to weight transfer, and having less cornering demand placed on them, steady the throttle. Turn in again to the corner, to regain the line you originally wanted to take.

In order –

1) Turn
2) Understeer
3) Lift off & straighten up
4) Turn in

Clear? Hopefully so……

Oversteer –

Can be caused either by excessively backing off the throttle, braking, or increasing the steering angle or flooring the throttle whilst mid corner.

Oversteer is, normally, best avoided in the first place. So be smooth with all your inputs, feel what the car is doing and adjust accordingly.

Can’t really leave it there can I? OK, if you want oversteer, on a private road, with nothing coming the other way and no solid objects to hit etc etc, then here’s how to induce it, control it and correct it –


Find a large, empty area to use. NOT Tesco’s car park! It is easier to practice in the wet, as breaking traction is easier.

Start by driving in a constant, large circle, in second gear at about 40 mph. Tighten the circle until the car is at the limit of adhesion. Lift off the throttle. The rear of the car will start to slide. AS SOON as this happens, dip the clutch and steer into the slide (i.e. if going in a right hand circle, steer left). With practice, how much to steer will become almost instinctive. As you build up confidence, allow the car to slide a little more each time, until you know how far you can push the car without spinning. Trust me, when doing this you WILL spin. When you do, dip the clutch and stamp on the brakes as hard as you can. This will help make the spin as “tight” as possible, almost like a handbrake turn.

So that’s how to correct a slide. To extend it, do as before but instead of dipping the clutch, slightly increase the throttle as you feel the rear slide. At the same time, straighten the steering. At this point the rear wheels should be spinning, and the rear of the car sliding. Now apply opposite lock, but keep the throttle constant. If you back off the throttle whilst counter steering, the weight shifts forwards, the front wheels grip, and you head off at speed in whatever direction the front wheels are pointing. This is the infamous “Tank Slapper” Or as the story usually goes, “The car slid, I caught it, but then it skewed off again and I hit the kerb / bush / child / nun”

Once you have got the hang of this, you can try extending the slide even further. Do as before, steer, lift off, apply the throttle again, steer into the slide and apply more throttle. How much throttle, steering etc again comes down to practice. As the engine reaches the redline, the slide angle will reduce. As this happens, wind off the steering, again being smooth. When the car is straight, grab 3rd and off you go!

Easy eh? NO! To do all of this takes practice, car control and a sense of what the car is doing. When driving to work tomorrow, think about weight transfer, and think about the effect all of your inputs are having on the grip you are asking of your tyres.

Remember, the car does not skid, it does not slide, and it does not bite. YOU tell it to, by what you make your hands and feet do. I’ve never seen a car spin without a driver at the wheel, have you?

When driven properly, a MR car is sublime. I’ve driven an MR car around the Lotus test track at Hethel (can ya guess what car?!?) 120 mph cornering, sliding the car in the wet, flicking through a chicane and coming out of a hairpin on full opposite lock, bouncing off the rev limiter. I’ve never had a feeling like it, when it stops being driving and turns into “telepathy”. Everything was “hooked up”, and I felt more in control than I ever have done in a FWD, RWD or 4WD car. This feeling, and the instinct of knowing what to do comes with, you guessed it, PRACTICE! Get yourself along to a track day and learn the limits of yourself and your car in a safe environment.

Heel & Toe Braking

Ok… Why bother? Try this the next time you’re driving along… get into 3rd gear at about 40mph, dip the clutch, pop it into 2nd, and let the clutch up quickly… Doesn’t feel good does it? The jerk you can feel is due to the difference in the speed of the engine & the speed at which the wheels are rotating (through the gearbox).

Normally when changing up, you accelerate, dip the clutch & ease off the throttle, change up, get back on the gas & let the clutch up…. When you’re doing this you’re matching the engine speed to the road speed, and the change is smooth. This is exactly what you’re doing with heel & toe.

Now try driving along at 40mph in 3rd, dip the clutch, drop it into 2nd, blip the throttle so the engine revs higher than when it was in 3rd & let the clutch up… get it right and you won’t feel the clutch engaging. The aim of heel & toe is to raise the revs, while braking to match the engine & road speed for a smoother downchange.

This has the benefits of  -

Using engine braking to slow the car – less wear on brake components.

Less wear on the clutch & drivetrain.

Less chance of “shift lock”

Improved stability & balance under braking.

What is shift lock? Try the first exercise in a RWD car with no weight over the back… I first discovered this in an old, unlaiden transit! As you let up the clutch, the difference in road and engine speed overwhelms the grip of the rear tyres, locking them briefly. It’s a technique that’s good for drifting, but not so good when trying to slow down quickly in the wet!

So, we need to brake, operate the clutch and blip the throttle… 3 pedals and only 2 feet I hear you say!
The term heel & toe originated, I believe from an old Ferrari, where the throttle was positioned above the brake pedal, allowing the driver to brake with their heel & blip the throttle with their toe. All modern cars have a side by side arrangement, so a bit of fancy footwork is required.

There are two ways that I heel & toe, of course you may find your own way but I find these two the most natural.

In this method, you brake with the ball of your foot and blip the throttle with the outside of the foot.

In this method you brake with the left part of your sole, and pivot the ankle to blip.

Some videos (excuse the slightly poor lighting but I think you’ll get the idea!)

Which method you’ll use is down to personal preference and also the pedal setup of the car you’re in. I deliberately put my throttle pedal lower when fitting it to allow for easier heel & toe.

The basic idea is –

Clutch up

The only way to get the hang of it is… you guessed it…. PRACTICE! The best way to start is to sit in neutral on your drive, engine running. Make sure the engine’s warm because you’ll probably rev it quite highly to start off with. Concentrate on maintaining a steady brake pressure, whilst blipping the throttle.

Next step is to try it on a suitable piece of road, preferably an empty stretch of runway! You’ll probably find you’ll slip off the brake pedal, over rev the engine, or brake so hard you nearly go through the windscreen but don’t worry! It’s like clutch control, after a while it’s so natural you never think about it.
I heel & toe every downchange of every car I ever drive, and it feels as natural to me as any other part of driving.

Left Foot Braking - THANKS TO ZEBIDI!!!!!!!!!!!!

LFB is used to level out the balance of the car by bringing the weight back over to the front. Therefore you can go round the corner full throttle and making fine adjustments with your left foot.
Under steer – more pressure on brake (with left foot)
Over steer - Less pressure on brake (with left foot)

LFB is not only used for weight shifting, you can also use it to create brake bias. As the driven wheels are resisting lock it allows for the un-driven wheels to receive a stronger braking force.

This technique is only really for FF vehicles though as they suffer from under steering the most. 4WD vehicles also can benefit from this as most suffer from under steer as well.
Approach corner> heel to toe> perfect gear> throttle> left foot brake> increase throttle> approach corner exit> lift off brake
This will reduce under steer drastically in a front wheel drive car and as you “practice” more you will eventually be able to go round full throttle using the brake to compensate.

Ok, this being an MR2 forum what I’ve just said there is of no use what-so-ever.
So I’m about to go into what benefits can be had for us.

The MR2 has a big, huge weakness……… Lift off over steer.
Say you are flooring it round a corner and you are very aware that you are going too fast, instead of lifting off you can use LFB to reduce your speed instead, so you don’t lift off over steer.

Saying that, I haven’t practiced this yet as I haven’t felt the need for it in a MR car. I listed the above purely to note a benefit for rear wheel drive cars.

Although I’ve had my MR2 for almost a year I’ve only just started to have fun in it, the weather has either been too crap or I’ve not been confident enough. The last few days the weather has been fantastic and I’ve been discovering the wonders of the LSD!

Hope my LFB mini write-up was ok. The best is to get out there and try it yourself. It’s truly wonderful in an FF car, especially on roundabouts. My Yaris used to be very competitive against my cousins Subaru P1.

P.S LFB will put a lot of strain on your drivetrain and brakes. If you use heel to toe however it will save it, so I guess you can say it balances out lol


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