Offseason Training: Part 3 – No Brakes

Continuing our offseason training, we now pick up with one of the most important drills you can do: driving with no brakes. Why would we do this when it’s not the way you intend to race your car?

  • It trains your brain to look for reference points
  • It trains your speed estimation skills
  • It makes you appreciate that the steering wheel slows you down
  • If focuses your attention on optimizing grip
  • It helps you optimize corner entry speed
  • It allows you to focus your attention on your racing line and steering technique

Drill

  • Track: Brands Hatch Indy
  • Weather: default
  • Vehicle: NA Miata
  • Setup: default (yes, use the shitty tires), but you should turn tyre wear and fuel consumption off so that the vehicle doesn’t change over time

After getting out of 1st and 2nd, you will spend the entire time in 3rd gear. No shifting! You will be using only one pedal (throttle) and your hands have only one job (steering).

Do ~20 laps and then take a break. You brain does some important learning in the downtime between sessions.

Goal

Your goal is to lap the track in the lowest time possible. All you have to do is figure out the following:

  • When to cut throttle
  • When to start steering
  • When to add throttle

That’s it. One pedal and the steering wheel. How hard could this be? I’ve made a scale for this so that you can label your progress over time.

  • 1:08+ – novice
  • 1:07.x – low intermediate
  • 1:06.x – intermediate
  • 1:05.x – high intermediate
  • 1:04.x – advanced
  • 1:03.x – expert

I typically lap around 1:03.9.

Faster

So let’s say you’re a few seconds off pace. How are you going to go faster? Well, there are only a few things you can do:

  • Change your reference points
  • Change your position on track
  • Change the way you steer

In addition to these, you can make an even more significant change: change your whole outlook on where speed comes from. Race tracks tend to have a lot of corners, and corner speed comes from grip. If you’re going to optimize your lap times, you first have to train yourself to feel and optimize grip. In your next session, focus on what grip feels and sounds like.

Data

Here’s my data trace for RPM, speed, and throttle (it’s a 1:03.76 lap). The RPM and speed graphs are nearly identical because there is no shifting. The throttle trace shows that I’m using the throttle mostly as an on/off switch.

Reflection

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the utility of this drill. Like other drills, the point is to focus on specific skills in order to improve in specific areas. The main areas we are working on are our eyes (finding and using reference points) and hands (feeling grip and steering). This drill is used constantly in the Keith Code motorcycle schools. They’ll do multiple sessions per day with everyone going around the track without braking or shifting. It’s that important.

Try doing the drill several times over the next week . See how much you can improve. Note where your improvements came from. Was it reference points, position on track, steering rate, or something else? Take notes with pen and paper. Writing things down cements them into your memory.

Compare your “no brakes” lap time to your “use everything” lap time. You might be surprised how similar they are. On this track with this car, I’m only about a second faster pushing 3 pedals and shifting. In some areas of the track, I’m going faster with “no brakes”. I think that’s because I’m able to focus my attention on fewer inputs and outputs. In the picture below, the panels are brake, RPM, speed, throttle, and time delta.

25 thoughts on “Offseason Training: Part 3 – No Brakes

  1. I tried this in Gran Turismo Sport using a stock NA Miata on Comfort Medium (105.428) and Comfort Soft (102.415) tires. AC’s tire model seems to be someplace between GT’s Med and Soft, because there’s no way I’m getting under 1:04 on the Mediums.

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  2. Really fun drill. I did about 25 laps and will likely give it another go as suggested sometime later. I don’t really have much experience with AC but taking away half the inputs makes adapting to it a lot easier! My first lap was a 1:04.5 and slowly worked down to the low 1:04s. Then I started to get creative with track limits to engage in some minor cheating; anyway, link to a video of a 1:03.7

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  3. I’ve learned a ton already. My best is 1:05.5 so far. I’m not very consistent though… Yet!

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  4. Is the “Brands Hatch Indy” from Race Department or the DLC. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

    I can barely get “low intermediate” range and I get my best times in the drill not regular driving!

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    1. I’m pretty sure it’s the DLC. Make sure you’re using optimum track conditions. That could make you go slower. But keep at it, you’ll get better.

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  5. This was super interesting. For me personally, the things that stood out:

    1. I would have expected inducing understeer to slow the car more quickly than maintaining grip and just turning. It makes sense that this wouldn’t be the case, given that a skidding tire grips less than a tire that’s at or under its maximum slip angle. It felt like inducing understeer was pretty much always the worst of all options.

    2. This exercise really emphasized the yin/yang aspect of trail braking, which I guess could be considered ramp steering(?). Meaning, when I think of trail braking, I tend to focus on the braking. But if the speed is decreasing, the maximum steering angle is concurrently increasing. So trail braking is mirrored by ramp steering. In this exercise, we obviously aren’t literally trail braking, but speed is decreasing on the entry to each turn, so you can feed more and more steering in as you approach the apex.

    3. I had two different approaches which led to near identical lap times. One approach was using the throttle as nearly binary. Doing this helped to induce zerosteer in multiple places on track. However, it was super twitchy and easy to screw up. The other approach was to almost always gently ramp the throttle down and up. This was just as fast, but way easier to control consistently.

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    1. Yeah, anytime you’re decelerating and turning, it’s kind of like trail-braking. I don’t think trail-braking is the most accurate way to describe “increasing rotation by dynamically moving weight forward via deceleration”. I think the Skip Barber school calls it “brake turning”. But again, you can get the same effect with a lift.

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  6. I’ll make sure I go over that in detail next post. The file you need is: Documents\Assetto Corsa\aim\telemetry_dump.act Now go to Race Studio Analysis and import that file.

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    1. I was running with penalties turned on to prevent cutting the course, and ran a 1:03.40. It lets you track out pretty wide at the exit of the turn that I think is called “Graham Hill Bend” without telling you that you cut anything. So I took that wide exit since it allowed it. It definitely wouldn’t fly in lemons or lucky dog haha. Aside from that, there wasn’t much noteworthy from the lap. It’s really incredible how much you can miss an apex by, and not lose much time, as long as you’re maximizing grip throughout.

      I would love to compare telemetry—I think I’m going on and off throttle more gradually than you are, but it’s hard to know for sure since I’m just looking at the little on-screen pedal display. I’ll keep an eye out for your post on how to generate those graphs.

      Thanks for sharing such a cool exercise! I feel like I learned a ton from this.

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      1. I should clarify—when I said, “there wasn’t much noteworthy,” I meant that it wasn’t a perfect lap by any stretch. I think every single turn had varying levels of errors and ugliness. It still feels like there is so much room left to improve.

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      2. I always run with penalties on. But even with penalties on, there are places you can cut the course more than others. The run through the grass is also allowed in iRacing. Part of sim racing is knowing exactly where the boundaries of the course are.

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  7. I was thinking that it would be interesting to design a Lemons/Lucky Dog car around this concept. If you completely removed the weight and complexity of the transmission (and any associated coolers), and just had a final drive ratio that would give you equivalent to ~3rd gear at all times, I wonder what the net result would be.

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      1. When i read Twist of the Wrist (by Keith Code) there was a picture of someone’s log book where they mentioned all the reference points. I’d love to hear what people are looking at.

        WOT until almost the second marker past start/finish, then no throttle, wide left. Turn in just past the white line going across the track, right wheel onto curbing, throttle on when curbing lines up w/ 2nd yellow down the hill…. Track to curbing on left. Throttle off about 4 red marks from end of curbing….

        I feel it takes me a super long time to find reference points. I think my brain is small.

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      2. Part of the exercise is finding the reference points, so that’s why I didn’t give any. But indeed, it’s WOT well after start/finish.

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  8. I usually use Grip=90 since it is closer to the times I can actually get. I did a 1:07.5. I switched to Optimum and got to 1:05.7. However, I find I am usually 5-10% slower than the best amateurs and 15% slower than factory drivers. On that basis, I suspect a really good driver might be able to do 0:57 to 1:02.5.

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  9. Co-driving the Exocet this past season, I learned that the car has seemingly endless front grip, but the rear… not so much. She likes to get sideways, and though it’s good fun and definitely teaches you where that edge is, it’s not fast. My driving style is one of really late braking, as a way of overcoming cars that don’t always like to rotate into a corner.

    This car has no such issue, so I was finding myself upsetting the balance of the car and getting way too sideways. I learned that it was faster for me to let off sooner than I normally would, coast into corner entry a bit, then throttle to stabilize the rear. This culminated in a series of no-brake runs at Utah’s Octoberfast event. I was able to run better without the brakes and with less throttle, than I was on my “max attack” runs.

    My co-driver was faster than I was by about half a second, but we were both pretty amazed that the no-brake approach worked as well as it did. Interesting to read about using this as a training technique. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. I’m a slow learner but I got down to 1:04.8 and I think there’s a bit more. One of the things I figured out was going a little slower but carrying the speed works better than inducing understeer to slow down. There’s not enough torque to overcome that. Ditto modulating the throttle on some of the turns. Another thing is why am I spending so much time on this? It is like a puzzle I need to solve.

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  11. 1) Reminds me of the drill of doing the whole track in 1 gear, which can yield similar results if you choose the gear that is the lowest possible without redlining, and if there are no really slow corners. Again midcorner speed can increase with fewer “balls in the air.”
    2) At least once when indoor carting I experienced brakes that were so bad that it was in essence this drill. I was surprised how much speed I could burn by turning the wheel – even more if I exaggerated a side to side motion which induced understeer and slowing.

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