#237 Racing is life – driving techniques – S3 E10 – Cornering

To be fast around a track you need to be able to take the corners perfectly. Stepping on the accelerator pedal on the straight, that’s something everyone can do. But carrying the speed around the corners, that’s a skill people need to actually acquire. For sure, sometimes people instinctively do the right things, at least the most of the time, but still, this is where you will lose or win your races.

For the sake of simplicity, I will try to make it as short as possible, but also highly recommend you to have a look at training videos online, because they will teach you the basics much more effective than I can do without using anything else besides words.

What is a corner anyways? A corner is a part of the race track or street, that isn’t following a straight line. Therefore this demands a steering wheel input. It doesn’t even matter if it is a sharp hairpin, or a slight bend, still, this is a corner and therefore you can make something wrong. Taking a false line, missing the apex, missing your braking point (if necessary), stepping too early or too late on the gas and so on and so on. Actually, the list is quite long, because there are a lot of things you can make wrong.

If you have followed this season accurately, you might have the therm “Slow in, fast out” already in mind. As mentioned some couple of days back in time, this means that first of all you need to slow down, reach the corner speed that is possible and start accelerating directly after the apex. Well, so far this was the right thing to say, but today we want to take the next step, of course. Therefore, this rule will not apply for every corner from now on, but we will get to that step by step, don’t worry.

Before you even start to get into your car, normally you would analyze the race track. Figuring out which are the most important corners and which are the corners that seem to be not that important after all. How can you do that? First of all, your goal is of course to have a fast lap time. This is why you race, this is what we live for. Therefore, a corner with a long straight afterwards is in the most of the cases the more important to get right, then a corner with a little straight afterwards. Why? Obviously, if you can carry more speed out of a corner, you can use that and reach higher speeds until the next corner comes up. Therefore you will figure out, which are the key corners on the track and use the other corners to make sure, you get the key corners right. That can mean to decide for a line, that will not be the fastest for the first corner, but helping you to carry more speed around the key corner, which in the end will help you to decrease your lap times significantly.

So far so good, but how do we really take a corner. Imagining that you are getting closer to your next corner, you will still accelerate with everything you have, trying to get as fast as possible. For sure, life is not always about 100% performance, therefore you may use the “lift and coast” method sometimes, but for today, this is really not important. As the corner comes up, your braking point get’s into sight. And well, this starts off another discussion.

Should you have a braking point or not?

I guess, this is a topic for another time, because it is actually not that easy to explain all the pro and contra arguments in a very short way, therefore we will do exactly that in the next season, but for today I will just say the following. From my personal experience, you should have a basic braking point, but it is not really a specific point, but rather a zone that helps you to do not mess up your braking completely. This is especially helpful if you are in difficult situations, like dealing with traffic, or bad weather, where you literally can not see anything, but of course you should also feel the car and know instinctively when you need to brake.

Ok, your braking point / zone / feeling comes up. You stop accelerating the car and step on the brakes. For sure, that needs to be done very quickly, but with enough harmony to build up the braking pressure slowly, before being able to get really hard on the brakes. But that was already explained in the braking episode. As your car gets slower, you may need to follow a specific line. The best situation would be to brake in a straight line, therefore it is highly recommended to change your line accordingly, but sometimes this is of course not possible. Therefore you need to know exactly how hard you can brake with that specific amount of steering input. As your speed decreases, you are finally reaching the slowest speed at the apex, at least in theory and can already start to accelerate the car out of the corner again. Starting very carefully and slowly and increasing the acceleration as your steering input gets smaller and smaller.

As we have already discussed, depending on the type of corner ( key corner or preparation corner), you will chose your line and braking points / apexes accordingly.

What are the most common mistakes if it comes to cornering?

  1. Missing your braking point/ zone/ feeling (People tend to overdo it, try to get faster, not by carrying the speed through the corner, but by trying to reach higher speeds, braking later and completely messing up the corner, which in the end makes them much slower.)
  2. Somehow related to that, people miss their apexes. (This comes due to a too late braking process, a not slow enough speed for the corner or not enough steering input after all. In the end, you will lose time, because you need to have more steering input, due to the smaller radius of your alternative line.)
  3. Reaching your corner speed way before the apex and already accelerate/ hold the speed/ play with the acceleration pedal until you are finally at the apex and for sure, that costs time as well.
  4. Stepping too hard on the accelerator after the apex, causing the car to spin, or alternating the line, which will in the end cause a slower lap time, or even a crash.
  5. Having no clue about which corners are important and which not. (People just drive every corner in the same way, which in the end, causes them to be much slower than everyone else.

Top 5 tips

  • You do not need to be fast from the first moment of your practicing sessions. Practice sessions are there for a reason. Use the time and make sure that your line is right.
  • Prepare yourself for the race. Analyze other people driving on that track. Watch some on-board videos and things like that.
  • Make sure that you know the braking zones for your specific car. This will prevent terrible mistakes that may cause losing a lot of time because you are banked in the gravel, or crashed the car into the wall.
  • Due to a lot of different factors, like your tires, the car setup, the weather condition and the racing situation, you need to alternate your line. Therefore be prepared to take corners with other lines as well. For example if you need to leave some space for an opponent, or if you can not reach the apex due to traffic.
  • Do everything with harmony. There is no reason why you should fight with your car. If it looks effortlessly and easy, you are doing it right. Understand the limits of yourself and your car and stay within those limits. There is no price for the most spectacular looking driving style, therefore don’t risk your car.

And this is everything I want to say for today. For sure, you will need a lot of practice to get this right, but that’s what we love about racing. Improving from day to day. Again, I want to mention that you should watch a lot of videos and stuff to get some of the things I mentioned above in a more visual way, because only then you will hopefully better understand what I am exactly talking about.

See you next time!

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