Cowboy Exits - How Small Lifts At Corner Exit Effects Lap Time
Before we get into what the hell I mean by “cowboy exits” I want to be clear I am not here to get super technical and boring using data. Instead, we are just going to highlight one of the core concepts we focus in on at Racers360 and back up what we are teaching with data.
I once heard a fantastic coach explain their approach to a corner in the following way, “controlled and smooth on entry and full cowboy on exit.” So what did they mean when they said full cowboy on corner exit? They were explaining that was once they start to apply the throttle they want to do absolutely everything they can to not lift off or have to release any percent of that throttle.
There are a lot of reasons why drivers may need to release a bit of throttle on exit, but the predominant two reasons are:
- Too much entry speed
- Too early to initial throttle
The amount of lap time drivers lose by the smallest of lifts can be shocking. So, what we are going to do today is show just how much speed a tiny lift on exit can cause by using data to back up our coaching.
So, here we are looking at Turn 1 at Sebring International Raceway and I have uploaded a photo of my data comparing myself to a teammate. I am green and they are red.
What I would like to focus in on here is the throttle percent (the third graph). You can see we both feed in initial throttle slowly for the first 20% before getting into it aggressively. The slope of the line for throttle application is exactly what we want to see. But, that is where the good looking data lines stop.
The mistake that we are focused in on is what happens after we get back to full throttle. You can see here not only do I have a bobble on exit but so does my teammate.. **cue the engineer walking in and slapping both of our wrists**
Let's dig into exactly how much time that small split second mistake cost us??
You can see we are extremely similar on corner entry. I roll slightly more speed and get to initial throttle slightly later. My teammate slows the car down a little more and gets to initial throttle slightly earlier than me. Both approaches end up with us having nearly identical exit speed. You can see I am at a 156.7km/h and my teammate is 1 tenth of a km/h away at 156.6km/h (Yes pro racing is that damn close!).
We took these speeds right before the first driver (me) has a bobble on corner exit. So, let’s see how much speed I lose compared to him while they are still at full throttle.
We see here the tiny lift, not even a full lift off throttle, made me go from .1km/h faster (and increasing) to down 3km/h. Now, 3km/h may not sound like much but in the margins of pro racing that is a decent sized gap.
If my teammate didn’t have a slight bobble on exit as well and this corner led onto a long straight that would be costing me almost all the way down the next straight. That adds up to serious lap time very quick!
Now let’s take a look at how much time my teammate lost by their slight bobble on exit
You can see they went from 3km/h up on me to dead even, down to the tenth of a km/h before the brake zone into turn 3. If you look at the time delta at the bottom you can see that lift killed all the advantage they had.
I hope this lesson helps you with your on track journey! The big takeaway here is that a small innocent lift on exit costs a lot more time than you could ever imagine. One of the hardest things about racing is that we are always looking for balance between so many different techniques on the track. Entry speed, exit speed, braking deep, but not so deep that we can't start releasing brakes at corner entry, when do we want to get to throttle? We need to learn what we need to prioritize at each individual corner to be fast.
A great simple rule is that one of the highest things on our priority list needs to be not lifting once you get back to full throttle.
This will typically cost more time than that additional entry speed you brought in, the split second you picked up the throttle earlier, or those 10 feet later you tried to brake.