Q: “I have been tracking my car for three years now. It’s a 2017 MX5 with a clutch so I’ve always braked using my right foot. I do a lot of sim racing and do the same there. Recently my right knee has been getting sore from an old bike racing injury. I want to learn to left foot brake on the sim. Any tips to make the changeover easier? Or is it just something I just need to do a lot of to get as good as I am with my right foot?”
A: Sorry to hear about the knee problem, but it does seem like a good time to focus on learning to left foot brake. The sim is the perfect place to start, too.
As you know, the biggest challenge with left foot braking, if you’ve only ever used your left foot to operate the clutch, is that it doesn’t have the fine muscle control that your right foot has developed from all the years of operating the throttle (and brake). Other than just time on the sim to practice it, one other step that I recommend is spending about 10 minutes before you even sit down at the sim to do this: sit in a chair or on a bed where you can get your feet close to the same height from the bottom of the seat/chair. Then use imaginary pedals… hold the “throttle” down with your right foot for a couple of seconds, then quickly release it; apply the “brake pedal” with your left foot, focusing on ramping up pressure quickly but smoothly; after a second or two, smoothly release the “brake pedal.” Focus on the smooth release of the pedal, as you’re building the fine muscle control in that muscle at the top of your ankle.
Going through this process, you can practice 4 or 5 times in a minute, meaning you can build some programming of the foot movement through 40-50 repetitions in 10 minutes (just driving the sim, you might get half that many or less, and you’ll be focused on other things like the line and lap times).
Then – and this is super important – take five minutes to just sit with your eyes closed and relax. Don’t think about anything, really. Just relax. There is research that shows that doing this immediately after performing an action will result in your brain consolidating what you just did, making it part of your mental programming much sooner. This is some of the latest in skill development research, and it makes a huge difference to the speed in developing skills. After you’ve spent 10 minutes using the imaginary pedals, and 5 minutes with a relaxed mind, then drive your sim. You’ll speed up the process of learning the skill, and be a faster driver because of it (and hopefully protect your knee!).
If you can do this imaginary pedal/footwork practice twice a day for a week or two, it’ll really help, even if you don’t drive your sim immediately afterward – but it’s extra helpful if you do drive your sim.
I answered another question about left-foot-braking a while ago, so check out “When should I left-foot-brake? And where should I position my left foot?”. Also, see the video Left-Foot or Right-Foot Brake? on my YouTube channel.