Q: “This question is a variation on one that you already answered on your website. That question asked if the driver could expect the same g-force limit during braking vs. cornering. Looking at my data, I see that the faster the corner, the lower the g-force I’m achieving. I’m not surprised, since I’ve never been comfortable with fast corners. Assuming the track conditions and track camber are the same, should I be able to pull the same g-force in a fast corner as in a slow corner? That would be a guide to how much faster I can do the fast corners.”
A: Great question. And yes, if all else is equal (track conditions), you should be able to generate the same g-loads. And, if your car has some aerodynamic downforce, you should be able to see higher g-loads in the faster corners. For example, a prototype car (i.e., LMP2) might generate 1.5g’s in a slow corner, but more than 2.5 in a fast corner. In a production car, it should be close to equal since most don’t have a lot of aero downforce.
Looking at the lateral g-loads is a good way to start getting more comfortable with fast corners. If you’re seeing 1.0g in slow corners, but only 0.8 in fast corners, then you should feel comfortable carrying more speed. Of course, how you go about carrying more speed is important. If you come into a fast corner and brake super late in the effort to go faster, you may be upsetting the balance of the car, and it will therefore have less grip – and it may not be able to generate the same level of g-loads. When you and I said that the track conditions needed to be the same, the car’s balance needs to be similar, too. If you’re generating 1.0g in the slower corners with the car well balanced, but you unbalance the car in the fast corners, then you won’t be able to generate the same g-loads.
As you approach fast corners, I recommend that you get any speed adjustment (braking or just lifting of the throttle) done early, so you can be adding some amount of throttle as you’re driving through it so the car will be well balanced.
Something else… often, drivers don’t look far enough ahead through fast corners. In slow corners, because they’re typically tighter and shorter, you can get away with not looking as far ahead. But in fast corners – because they’re usually longer – you need to look even further ahead. And because they’re faster, we tend to drop our vision. It’s a bit of a fear response for most people. We also often hold our breath, and when we do that we tense up; when we tense up, we get less feeling back from the car, so we don’t sense the car’s limit as well.
So, I recommend you take time at home and mentally practice driving the fast corners on the track(s) you go to. Close your eyes, relax, breathe, and then imagine driving the track; see, feel, and hear yourself approaching the fastest corner on the track; as you approach it, do your speed adjustment early as you exhale in a long relaxed breath, and look all the way through the corner. Visualize yourself doing this over and over again with an emphasis on the early speed adjustment, breathing, and looking way ahead. With each lap through this corner (you can just do this one corner over and over, as you don’t need to drive the whole track for this mental imagery session if you don’t want to), imagine carrying another 1-2 MPH. Imagine the g-loads – feel them in your imagination – noticing them increasing. Do this over and over again. After you’ve done this for at least twenty minutes, imagine coming back into the paddock, downloading and looking at your data, and seeing that your g-loads in the fast corners are just as high as in the slow corners. Imagine how that would make you feel. Imagine a friend coming up to you and saying, “Wow, you were flying out there!” Now, just relax for another thirty seconds, paying attention to your breath and how you’re feeling, and then slowly open your eyes.
How do you feel after doing this mental imagery session? It’s pretty cool to know that you have a strategy for improving your fast corner speed, isn’t it? It’s much better having a strategy – one based on knowledge – than just “getting braver,” right?