Q: “I have been working on improving my braking and corner entry skills for the last few months. I can definitely see improvements in my lap times. One challenge I have as I’m chasing the last tenths of seconds is that I’m not consistent at threshold braking and trail braking. Mental fatigue, physical fatigue, as well as tires and brakes going off, cause errors. I can do well for a few laps, then the errors cause more lost time than pushing the limits. Luckily most errors are correctable, so very few spins and offs. Any thoughts on the risk versus reward and how to decide when to push the limits?”
A: If I understand your question, you’re asking how to be more consistent with your threshold and trail braking when pushing for the last tenth or two? My first response is that almost no driver is perfectly consistent when pushing for the last tenth or so – that’s what driving on the limit is all about.
Having said that, spending more time close to the limit will mean that the variance or gap from “in control” to “slightly out of control” will get smaller and smaller. Which I think is something to think about: if you’re not perfectly consistent, but turning lap times within half a second of one another, and you’re never or very rarely spinning, then that’s okay. I think some drivers believe that the best drivers never make mistakes – but they do. They’re not perfect. In fact, their driving is a series of corrections. And with more time, the corrections will get smaller and smaller, since the extent of the “overdoing it” will get smaller.
“More practice” would be an easy way of answering your question, too. That practice can happen on the track, but also on the street (without threshold braking at high speed!), on a simulator, and through the use of visualization/mental imagery.
In fact, if you use a simulator, that can be super-helpful, as it gives you tons of time to build the muscle memory that you’re trying to make more consistent. Having said that, if your simulator has a brake pedal that is position-sensitive, as opposed to the better pressure-sensitive sim pedals, that makes it difficult because the feel is so different. But even with a position-sensitive pedal, you can use various rubber bushings that are squishable to help imitate the feel of your race car. Then, spend lots of time solely focused on making your brake application and release more consistent. It’s all about specific, deliberate practice (rather than spending time doing sim races where you won’t be as focused on your braking).