How to Heel-Toe Double Clutch Downshift

Just learning to say heel-toe double clutch downshifting is a task, let alone getting the feet to cooperate.

Henry Phillips

In an age where modern sports cars have paddle shift transmissions and computers that measure engine speed every millisecond, the art of rev matching is disappearing along with the manual transmission altogether. But for car enthusiasts, it’s required by gearhead law to know how to drive stick, and if you want to be part of the ranks, you have to know your way around the clutch. Still, driving manual is only gearhead 101, and heel-toe double clutch downshifting (HTDCD) — well, that’s respectable higher learning.

Before we get to nuts and bolts, it’s helpful to know why you’d want to perform such an ancient art form. In modern transmissions, there are rings in between gears that help speed up or slow down the adjacent gear. They make for smoother shifts and easier driving. Older transmissions, as found in some classic cars, don’t have syncros. So when you’re slowing down and going from a higher gear to a lower gear, double clutching helps get the next gear up to speed while the heel-toe throttle blip gets the engine up to speed with the transmission. It helps extend the life of the transmission in your classic car and, since something like a 427 Cobra is already a hefty investment, there’s no need to be going through transmissions as fast as tires.

The HTDCD method isn’t just for classic cars, though. The whole process keeps the car balanced and doesn’t throw weight around like you would with a violent downshift. And when you’re on the limit of grip, doing triple-digit speeds in a corner in, say, a modern race car, the last thing you want to do is upset the car. It may be a necessity for older cars and for better lap times, but if you know how to pull an HTDCD, you can look like a driving savant to whomever’s sitting shotgun. Save a transmission, look like a boss, master the HTDCD — wins across the board.

1Brake. As you lean on the brake pedal, have your foot hanging over the edge ready to blip the throttle (which comes at Step 5).

2Clutch in. Clutch out. Disengage the clutch as you normally would in a shift, then deselect the current gear. Instead of holding the clutch pedal down through the shift, reengage the clutch. This helps get the next gear up to speed for a smoother downshift.

3Clutch in, again, and blip the throttle. Disengage the clutch and select the next gear. Then, blip the throttle. This gets the engine up to speed with the transmission, so there’s no sudden jump in RPM that would upset the car.

4Reengage the clutch. If you still have more slowing down to do, repeat the process again. If not, continue on driving knowing you’ve mastered the ancient automotive skill of heel-toe double clutch downshifting.

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