Q: “I am an instructor with PCA and often suggest that students review your work. One particular article, that I can’t find, described your analysis of thousands of hours of data and your conclusion that lap speed was affected by 1) line, 2) exit throttle, 3) braking, and 4) mid-corner speed, which is probably taken care of if you get the first 3. I thought that it was very useful for novices that seem to want to work on everything at the same time. Is there a link somewhere to this article?”
A: I did write that in my Ultimate Speed Secrets book, so perhaps that’s what you recall. Well, very close to what you said, at least.
My point was that in the beginning, a driver should focus on getting the line around the track fairly well sorted out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, too many drivers get so caught up in getting the line just right, that they forget the next steps in this process. But the idea is to get so you can drive a line fairly close to optimal without putting too much mental effort into it – it’s gotten so you can drive the track in your mind before you physically drive it.
The second step of the process is focusing on exit speed, and the goal is smoothly to get back to full throttle as soon as possible (always remember to unwind/straighten the steering while applying the throttle).
Then comes braking, and this is where the biggest difference between the best and the rest is. Having said that, the difference is subtle, and it’s all in the timing and rate of release of the brakes (and not necessarily how hard and late you begin braking). When you get your braking right, you’re able to carry more corner entry speed, and get back to full throttle sooner. The brakes become a tool to set the maximum possible entry speed, and begin accelerating early.
Finally, if you get the rest of these things right, your mid-corner speed will be ideal – not too fast, not too slow.
What makes driving so challenging is that when you improve in one of these areas, you probably have to adjust how you do one of the other steps. For example, if you change how you release the brakes entering a corner, you will likely have to subtly change the line you drive. That’s also what makes our sport so much fun!