Shifting Gears in the Skip Barber

About a month ago, I decided to only stick to one series, and get better at that instead of joining any one of the car/track combinations that I had bought the content for. At the point I was not sure if one series was enough, and I was afraid that i might get bored with racing just one car on one track for a whole week. It has turned out to be more than enough, and I even some times wish that the series would stay at a track for longer than just one week. I even get nervous and anxious every Tuesday, when the series moves on to a new track.

One of the steps for getting better at driving the skip barber, was watching a lot of videos of fast people driving it. I’d just join open practice sessions, and spectate the fastest guys. Most often than not, they’d just mess up, or get messed up by others. You can get the general idea of what they were trying to achieve though and I learned a lot about how the car is supposed to feel when it’s at the limit of what it can go around a track. Although many things seemed obvious, and easy to replicate, i was confused at how different gear shifts sounded, to mine. So i spent some time figuring out how the fast guys shift gears

My way (the slow way)

I don’t have a shifter, so I only use the paddles on my wheel to change gears. I also don’t use the clutch, because i really can’t get the same feeling that I expect, being used to the clutch on my every day car. This means that I have been racing with autoclutch, and autoblip turned on. This allows me to change gears by simply pressing the left or right paddles when i need to change ears. This is by far the easiest way, and what most rookies like me probably use.

The best method

This sounds a lot worse than it actually is. A few laps should get you used to this, compared to the several weeks it took me to get used to manual gears back when i started! Turn off any assists. No autoclutch, no autoblip, no auto nothing!


You will only be using the clutch for race launches, so lets get this over with right here. When you start the race (from standing starts), just hold the clutch down, put it in first gear, and rev it all the way to the limiter. When the lights go off, simply release the clutch, and you’ll get a pretty good launch compared to many other methods. Some have used the feature in the settings called “Alternative Clutch” to map the clutch to a button. This way they simply release the button at start. This should be slightly faster, but i couldn’t get mine to work.

You will not use the clutch for anything else than this!


For upshifts, you will need to press the right paddle, slightly before you need to change, but don’t release it! As long as you hold the paddle in, it won’t change. Some call this “preloading” the gear, or locking it, but the truth is that i don’t know what this is called. I was surprised that the gear won’t change when the pedal clicks, but as long as you don’t release the paddle, it will stay in the gear you were in. To actually change the gear, simply lift the throttle pedal very quickly, to “release tension”, and press it again to accelerate. This puts the gear shift in effect, and you’ll get a very fast upshift with no wasted time on overreving hitting the limiter.


Downshifting is a lot more straight forward, but also a bit more tricky. Although the gear ratios of the Skip Barber car are very close, you can get it to spin if you downshift too early, especially if you are turning. It’s nothing you really need to think about, as long as you make sure the revs have dropped a bit before downshifting. At some corners you can even use downshifting to get some extra rotation into the car and turn faster, but this is basically what you need to practice and get used to.


There are a few things to remember. For race starts, the car won’t go into 1st gear if it is revving high, even if you use the clutch. You’ll have to wait until the revs drop, to be able to put it in gear. This can be very dangerous when you start the race, so make sure you put it in gear, before you rev it up.

It seems like you need a longer lift off the throttle in the lower gears, and when the engine is pulling the car up a hill. The risk is that you won’t lift enough for the gear to change, and that you’ll miss a gear shift. This won’t, in most cases, punish your laptime enough to lose a race, but it’s good to know.


  1. Probably the best explantion of shifting this car as I’ve ever read. The maximum RPM for engaging 1st on the grid if the engine is revved as you describe is right at 4K or a tad lower.

    Regarding your terms, there are standard terms for those processes and come from the trucking industry actually correct names…

    Lifting the throttle (or fuel pedal with a diesel) = breaking torque
    Pulling and holding the shift paddle (or moving a switch) = pre-selecting

    Again, this is an extremely well-written and detailed instructional article on shifting this car.

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