Q: “I have been listening to your podcasts on the way to work for a little while now – I think I’ve listened to 30+. It’s been awesome. I have learned so much from you and all your guests and you have pulled me into this sport even more. I am a “track day” enthusiast. My question for you is; in one podcast you mentioned that trail braking can help rotate the car so you can take the turn better. But in another podcast, you said that if you are braking, the car is not turning, let go of the brakes and the car will turn. Can you tell me the difference between the two situations?”
A: Ahhh, you’ve discovered one of the biggest challenges in driving – whether to use more or less trail braking to help you turn the car!
When you trail brake, you keep load on the front tires, which helps in getting the car to rotate/turn into the corner. But if you load the front tires too much, they can be over-worked, resulting in them losing grip. So, the way to get your car to turn better at turn-in is to either trail brake more, or trail brake less! That’s the challenge. The only way to know for sure is to experiment with more or less trail braking and see how your car responds. And of course, it’ll likely be different for different corners, and in different track conditions.
If I have some understeer, or my car doesn’t turn in as much as I want, I almost always default to trail braking more, as it works more often than less trail braking does. So, if you’re wondering what to do, I suggest starting with more trail braking – it’ll work more than 50% of the time (but not all of the time).
At first I thought this was a silly question (I know, there are no silly questions). But after I thought about it, it’s one of the best questions I’ve seen asked! For mechanical grip, I can see where “it depends”. But if down-force is a factor (like in a Radical maybe?) of course you can use less trail braking on a high speed corner. But great question!