Teaching mid-track exit

The usual HPDE curriculum focuses on driving the racing line. The racing line is in every book on racing since the 1950s. Personally, I don’t teach the racing line to novices, or to anyone for that matter. Here are two problems with it.

  1. The racing line has the highest speed. For the sake of safety, do we really want novices driving at the highest possible speed? In an educational event, do we even want to promote speed as a desirable metric?
  2. While the racing line “uses the most track”, it’s also as close to the edges of the track as possible. Most self-inflicted incidents occur when drivers go off track. Do we really want novices near the edge of the track?

Instead of teaching the racing line, I think we should teach mid-track exit. Let’s see what this looks like and then discuss its merits.

The cars are going from bottom to top. The red line is the geometric line through the corner. AKA, the one with the largest radius. The blue line is also a circular arc, but it has a smaller radius. Both lines start on the outside of the track and apex around the same point. However, the blue line doesn’t go all the way to the edge of the track. It’s done turning by mid-track. Here’s why this mid-track exit is better for novices.

  1. It has a slower speed. If something catastrophic happens, there will be less physical damage.
  2. There is more space to recover from problems at the exit because there’s physically more track.
  3. As drivers get more confident, they can add power, which naturally increases the radius of the corner after the apex, pushing the vehicle closer to the edge of the track.

Teaching a mid-track exit leads to driving the actual racing line, with the car increasing speed and radius in the 2nd half of the corner. The line develops with the driver’s skill and confidence.

In contrast, the typical HPDE coach tells their driver to “use the whole track”, which usually involves them steering out to the exit. This is a fake form of high performance driving: it looks fast but isn’t. It appears to be giving them good instruction, but tells them to follow rules (the line) rather than feel what the car is doing. It’s back-asswards. The HPDE curriculum isn’t designed to make people better drivers. You don’t have to believe me, but you should probably believe Paul F Gerrard. In Optimum Drive, he explains why the HPDE curriculum is misdirected.

If you really want to learn how to drive a car, you should go to a skid pad, possibly made from dirt, and learn how to slide a car around. An HPDE track event is not the place to experiment with oversteer recovery. However, HPDE events are a good place to have some fun with sporty cars. I think driving students will have more fun learning how to feel the grip of a car than robotically following the racing line. When I coach, I encourage students to “explore the space”. I would rather have them driving 6 tenths in the middle of the track than steering out to the exit at 4 tenths. I also teach trail-braking from day one, but that is another story.

I have some funny (at least to me) videos I made about HPDE and the racing line. They seem appropriate in the context of this post.

4 thoughts on “Teaching mid-track exit

  1. My early HPDE days I was instructed to late apex which is another way to add safety into exits (I still do this when learning a track). I like your idea better. But I might prefer having paved runoff outside of painted track edges even more – but that isn’t gonna magically appear at my local tracks.

    Oh, and I love sim work (I use iRacing mostly) for what dropping outside wheels feels like, and how to avoid a spin.


  2. Yesterday was my first time on the race track. I was training sim for one year, some parking lot driving and closed public roads. During this one year my picture of what is race driving and how it should look was twisted by 180 degrees. Instead visiting race track during summer months like 99% drivers I picked the most snowy and rainy day. I was the only driver on the track, going low speed, high gear, experiencing understeer and oversteer on almost every corner. That is how my racing looks like after one year of sim.


      1. I see a lot of newcomers pretending to be the next Schumacher. After simracing I realized that I suck at racing, so why not to try some different approach. I will try to implement no brakes, one gear only drills into real life training.


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