In slow, out fast, and other lies of the racetrack: part 4 of 6

6 Big Lies

We’re half way through 2022 in the middle of the racing season. Seems like now is a good time to talk about some of the stupid shit people say in the guise of offering helpful advice.

  1. Drive the racing line
  2. In slow, out fast
  3. The first driver to full throttle wins
  4. You should be on throttle or on brake, never coasting
  5. Imagine a string connecting your steering wheel and throttle pedal
  6. Separate braking and steering

Always on brake or throttle

I’m sure you’ve read that you’re supposed to always be on brake or throttle, and that coasting is a no-no. But I don’t subscribe to this at all. In fact, I think that coasting is very important. First off, why do people say you shouldn’t coast? I think it’s because novices coast too much. They coast at the end of braking zones. They wait to add throttle in a corner. Excessive coasting is a waste of time, literally, so instructors counteract that by telling novices not to coast. Does coasting make them slower? Yes. Does speed matter at the novice level? No. So who cares if they coast? I certainly don’t. What does matter at the novice level? Safety and fun. Telling novice drivers to be on brake or throttle all the time may make them feel uncomfortable, which results in less safety and less fun. Let them coast. They will get over it eventually.

YSAR isn’t really concerned with the complete novice. The focus of this blog is more on the intermediate driver. And the problem with intermediates isn’t that they coast too much, it’s that they coast too little. The typical intermediate driver has the following pattern of inputs.

  1. Mash the throttle
  2. Mash the brake
  3. Go back to step 1

Trail-coasting

Last time I talked about the importance of maintenance throttle and corner entry speed. So how do you enter the corner on the limit? Mark Donohue says “exiting a corner on the limit is like walking a tightrope, entering is like jumping on a tightrope blindfolded.” I disagree. Trail-braking helps you feel your way into a corner. The self-centering tug on the steering wheel is an indication of how much grip and speed you have. As you let off that last smidge of brake and are coasting, the car is still decelerating while it turns into the corner. Coasting while turning is a soft form of trail-braking. By modulating how long you coast, you can set your entry speed exactly how you like.

Take a look at this ancient diagram from Piero Taruffi’s classic “The Technique of Motor Racing”. Back in the old days, people didn’t trail-brake as much as today partly because tires were different. Look at segment 2. Braking is done, steering has begun, and the throttle is off. Coasting, deceleration, and turning! That’s the soft form of trail-braking I’m talking about. I’ll call it trail-coasting for lack of a better term.

For optimal corner entry speed, your suspension must not be rocking fore-aft or side-to-side. You want the ultimate balance of speed and grip, and that comes with having the car stable. Trail-coasting helps keep the car quiet. It also adds confidence. Without any focus on your feet, you can focus more on the feel of the car. A little coasting will give you the confidence to enter corners at a higher speed. If you go in too fast, coast a little more. If you enter too slow, coast a little less.

If you want to get better at using coasting to your advantage, you need to practice. My favorite track for this is Lime Rock. T1 is a long, decreasing radius corner that requires a lot of patience through trail-braking and coasting. The other corners are all coasting corners if you’re in a low power car. Here are my favorite training cars for Lime Rock in the virtual world.

  • rFactor 2: Skip Barber
  • Assetto Corsa: Formula Ford or Skip Barber
  • iRacing: Formula Vee or Skip Barber

If you’re training in the real world, try to pick just one or two corners per lap. Medium speed corners are best.

3 thoughts on “In slow, out fast, and other lies of the racetrack: part 4 of 6

  1. My car for practicing trail braking is BMW 1M because it has a tendency to understeer. I find it quite challenging to make it oversteer.

    Please write something about scandinavian flick, when to use it etc.

    Like

    1. I haven’t driven a 1M. I think most modern cars are going to be difficult to drive because the stability control gets in the way. If you can afford a 1M, you can afford an old beater to train on. Alternatively, put all-season tires on the rear and sport tires on the front.

      Like

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