Q: I was wondering if anyone’s asked about coasting versus braking into Turn 2 and Turn 9 at Willow Springs? The winner of a race I drove in did not brake into 2. Half the field brakes, while the other half doesn’t. I tend to go full throttle a bit longer on the straight, turn slightly into 2, straighten the wheel, and lightly brake in a straight line as I dive down the hill into 2. Although it’s faster for a split second, I’m thinking it upsets the car a bit too much and prevents a smooth transition as Turn 2 compresses and starts heading gradually uphill. It puts the car on its nose going downhill. I have been reluctant to try coasting and turning to set my speed as it feels slow not to hustle the car, but the trade-off to get a faster entry transition and preserve a flatter platform might be worth it. Likewise, I don’t quite get how the winner didn’t brake going into Turn 9. We’re going about 140 at that point which feels very fast to trust a downshift and coast! We have identical cars and tires. He must have coasted and downshifted and turned the wheel to slow down enough to make 9, but again it feels slow not to accelerate longer out of 8 and do some soft-braking with straight hands before turning into 9. Thoughts?”

A: My first thought is that just because someone won a race, it doesn’t mean that they’re doing everything better than everyone else. Of course, you know that. Without data and/or precise segment times, it’s hard to know which method is faster – and that’s assuming that everything else is also equal. You say you have identical cars and tires, but are they identical? Are the setups identical? The life of the tires? Driver weight? Engine? On and on….

Could it be that you’re slightly faster in turns 2 and 9, and yet the other driver is faster in other places? Or vice versa?

I have done back-to-back comparisons on the same car in fast corners, with a longer throttle lift versus a quick brush of the brakes, and the fastest was… it depended on the specific corner, and the driving style. And here’s the thing: Are you maximizing your style/approach? Is the driver who won the race maximizing their style/approach?

All you can do is focus on being the best you can be with the technique you’re using, and then see how that compares – in that segment – with other cars/drivers. What works for you may not work for another driver/car. Of course, it is very worthwhile to try what other drivers are doing, and give it enough practice time so you feel like you’re maximizing that approach, but don’t get caught up in it. I’ve seen two elite level pro drivers in the same team, with the same setup on their cars, who drove certain sections of the track differently. And when they each tried the way their teammate drove, they were slower.

I’ve driven a lot of laps at Big Willow, and I’ve driven cars where I could barely breathe the throttle entering 2 and 9, and others where it was faster to brush the brakes. I’ve also driven cars where it was flat full throttle in both, and the only speed adjustment was the scrub of the front tires. And wow, I love that track! It’s so much fun, so fast.

Finally, do you ever wonder if the driver who won the race is at home right now thinking, “Hmmmm… that driver who finished just behind me seemed a bit faster than me in 2, and maybe even 9. I wonder what he was doing?”

So, there you go… a non-definitive answer!

NOTE: If you don’t want to wait for me to answer your question(s) here (which can take months, since I have so many!), you can always use my new SpeedSecrets.ai by signing up at SpeedSecrets.ai. The real beauty of using this app is that you can get out of your car after a session on track, and immediately ask it questions and get your answers, as well as what you should work on for the next on-track session. Since it’s “trained” only with my content, it really is like having me with you at the track.