Q: “I keep hearing that corner entry is the most important part of the corner, and how you come off the brakes will dictate how much speed you can carry. What are some good drills we can do on track or on the street to try and improve our braking and turn-in phases of the corner? I’ve found with practice, I can match mid-corner speeds of some of the top guys, but they’re killing me on entry. I’m doing something wrong during application of the brakes and turn-in that’s losing me a good chunk of time.”
A: Great question! Wouldn’t it be nice if being a fast driver only meant getting the right corner entry speed? Actually, that would take all the fun out of it, or at least most of the challenge.
So, how to get better at identifying and setting the ideal corner entry speed? What “drills” can you use to help with this? First of all, I love your thinking regarding the drills. That is what deliberate practice is all about, and will help you develop skills and techniques faster.
I’ll keep this simple and give you the three most effective practice strategies, or drills, that I’ve ever found that works to improve corner entry speed.
- Focus on the End-of-Braking (EoB) point more than the Begin-of-Braking (BoB) point. By focusing both our vision and mental attention on where and how we release the brakes and fully end using them, two things happen. First, it forces us to look further ahead. And second, it helps us get the timing and rate of release of the brakes right. In doing that, you use the brakes not only as a tool to slow down and manage weight transfer, but also a “speed fine-tuning tool.” Often when we focus more on the EoB than on the BoB, we move our braking zone into the corners further (comfortably because we know that we’ll have the car slowed to the “right” speed and not be entering too fast).
- Do Sensory Input Sessions. Especially do this focused just on auditory information. Take a session or two or three or four… or whatever it takes to drive while solely focused on taking in more auditory input. Just listen to the sound of the engine, the brakes, the tires, the wind rushing past you and your car, the different sounds from the different track surfaces, and so on. A big part of how we sense speed without looking at a speedometer is through what we hear. If we take time to solely focus on what we hear, we become more sensitive to the subtle details, and can use them to fine-tune our car’s speed.
- Be aware of where and how you release the brakes when driving on the street. There is no one perfect way of releasing the brakes, so just become aware of what you’re doing. Then, play with it. Start releasing the brakes a little earlier when approaching a corner, but do it slower. Then try releasing the brakes quickly. Then begin releasing later, but slowly; and then quickly. Experiment with the timing and rate of release, and be aware of what that does to the balance of your car, and how it responds to turning into a corner. Now, on the street I hope you’re not driving as fast as you do on the track! And that’s good for two reasons, with the first simply being safety of others around you. And second, if you can become sensitive enough to notice the dynamics of your vehicle while driving at street speeds, just think how sensitive you’ll be to this on the track.
If you do those three drills, I guarantee your corner entry speed will improve. And when I say improve, I’m not just talking about being faster. I’m also talking about being more consistent.
The last thing I want to comment on here is this: When you improve your corner entry speed, your mid-corner and exit techniques will need to change. And just because your mid-corner speed is currently matching what others are doing, that doesn’t mean that that’s not what you need to focus on. But that’s a topic for another day…