Since December is a quiet month for racing, this is a great time to focus on improving your skillset for the upcoming 2016 season. Think of it as a winter warm-up for your driving techniques! Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss some tips and common themes that I found were valuable during my coaching this past year.
Our first tip is about how you should approach braking into corners. Drivers have a tendency to over-slow for a corner. This is probably the most common trait I see in performance driving, which actually affects lap times more than many drivers give it credit for.
There is a certain amount of cornering load that your car can accept. A lot of drivers generally achieve this maximum cornering load while they are accelerating out of the corner. They are losing the opportunity to have that max cornering load start sooner, which means they can carry more speed through more of the corner.
If you are missing out on the max cornering load from the turn-in to the apex (where you would normally pick up the throttle), then there is an opportunity to decrease your lap time. If there are 12-15 corners on an average track, and you’re losing a couple of tenths on each corner, that can add up to a couple of seconds in a hurry!
The way to carry more speed through the apex is not by getting on the throttle sooner, but by actually coming off the brakes sooner. (But remember: you can’t defy the laws of physics by coming off the brakes before you turn the car in – you need that weight over the nose to help those front tires turn into the corner.)
The point at which you release the brakes has a big impact on your speed through the corner. If you’re looking at your data and aiming for a higher minimum speed, the solution is not getting on the throttle sooner but getting off the brakes sooner to roll that speed into the apex. This does not mean that exit speed is not important! It is, but corner entry speed also plays a vital role in your lap times.
On the flipside, if you’re going wide of your intended line and missing the apex, then you are releasing the brakes too quickly and carrying too much speed into the corner. If you have carried in the proper amount of rolling speed, you will be picking up the throttle at or near the apex of the corner as you start to unwind your hands on the steering wheel.
Watch some of the pros in sports cars or even in open-wheel racing – listen to where they pick up the throttle in the corner and pay attention to their momentum into the corner.
Next time, we’ll tie into this topic with another braking-related tip for improving your driving.