Trail Braking – The Key To Speed?

Performance & Race Driving Tip

Speed Secret: Overlap your braking, cornering and acceleration forces.

31Last year I was a guest instructor at a car club event the day after I had conducted a seminar for their members. Throughout the day, I rode in the right seat with half a dozen drivers of varying levels of experience and expertise. But there was one common piece of advice I gave them: overlap your braking and cornering, and then your cornering and acceleration.

Okay, to be truthful, I didn’t have to tell all of them to overlap the cornering and accelerating – that seems to be fairly easy for most drivers to get. But overlapping braking with cornering – trail braking – was more challenging. It reminds me of what Mark Donohue once said: “Exiting a corner on the limit is like tightrope-walking; entering a corner on the limit like jumping onto a tightrope while blindfolded.”

At many car club events I find myself in the discussion (argument?) about whether to teach trail braking, and if so, when. While I won’t get into the full details of my opinion here, my approach to teaching novice and intermediate drivers is to have them simply focus on releasing the brake pedal slowly and smoothly. That’s it. There’s no need to get into the minute technical details of why and what to call it – just release the brakes slowly and smoothly. In doing so, of course, the driver is beginning to learn to trail brake, to overlap the braking and cornering. There’s nothing like keeping it simple. And building good, solid habits from the very beginning.

Check back here often for more tips and advice for performance drivers, race drivers, high performance driving instructors, and anyone else interested in learning to get around race tracks quickly.

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