Great driving is all about maintaining proper balance, especially when you're operating a manual transmission. You were probably chastised in the past by your dad/tito/driving instructor for your herky-jerky clutch work. Skilled drivers, whether on the road or on the track, will know to prevent their vehicle's weight from swaying too far to one side when they're shifting.
As racing coach Ross Bentley explains in his book Ultimate Speed Secrets: The Complete Guide to High-Performance and Race Driving, smooth downshifts happen when the engine revs are increased by a slight tap of the accelarator, otherwise known as 'blipping.' Doing this matches the engine's rpm to the rpm of the driven wheels.
So, how do you downshift smoothly without throwing your car off-balance? There's a few ways to do it, and one of the simpler ones is known as rev-matching. This simple technique ensures that your car doesn't jerk when you shift and allows you to maintain your current speed while keeping your engine within the optimum power band. Here's how you do it:
1) Step on the clutch to disengage the engine from the wheels.
2) Move the shifter into your desired gear.
3) Blip the throttle with your right foot to increase engine speed.
4) Once you feel the revs have matched, slowly release the clutch and go back to accelerating. If you've done it right, there should be no jerk at all during the transition.
With practice, you'll know instinctively when to time your downshifts according to the revs and road speed. The next step up from this is heel-and-toe, which incorporates braking into the process. We'll explain how that works in another story.