How And When To Sacrifice Speed On The Racetrack
Do I Need To Sacrifice Here To Set Up For The Next Corner?
One of the most consistent mistakes we see drivers make comes when it is time to potentially sacrifice one corner to be fast through the next one. Which corner is more important? How much should I sacrifice? We walk through that in our video above and in this article.
As racecar drivers, we try and maximize our speed over the longest possible distance. So, the most important thing we need to ask ourselves is, “What can I do to make me as fast as possible for as long as possible?” It all comes back to this single question.
At Heartland, we have a great group of corners here that come quickly. We identified the last corner as the most important. Why is that? Because it leads onto the long front straightaway. So, if we lose a little bit of time through the previous right-hander by slowing it down, keeping it right to maximize for that next left-hander we will easily make up all the time we lost through the right-hander and a lot more on that front straightaway.
That is the easy one though, the hard part here is deciding the next most important corner. Most think it should be the second left-hander, but in reality, we care more about the first left-hander at the start of the video. That second left-hander does run onto a small straightaway, but it is a straight where we need to sacrifice just a little bit to get back to the left. It is also a pretty long duration corner where we can attack the entry a little more and still get a really solid exit.
In that first left-hander, it is a long duration corner and it is the highest speed corner of the group. Speed is important and you can make up more time by being slightly faster in a long duration faster corner and then slightly slower in the shorter duration and slower right-hander than vice vera. By rolling in as much entry speed as possible into that first left-hander, using as much road as possible and hustling it partially back to the left I will arrive into the next right-hander with more entry speed. That additional momentum is impossible to make up for here and it will carry me all the way to the apex of the next left-hander.
Now, if the right-hander after our first left-hander led onto a long straightaway then it would be more advantageous for me so sacrifice through the quick left.
Using this really simple process it allows you to look at nearly track map and know what your goals should be!
In these corners where we do want to sacrifice speed to set up for the next corner, trail braking becomes even more critical than ever. Here at Heartland turn 13 is a perfect example of this, turn 4 at Virginia International Raceway and turn 10a at Road Atlanta are other fantastic examples of these type of corners.
These are usually pretty tight corners where we are asking for our front end for a lot of grip to keep up us inside with as much speed as possible. If we pick up the throttle at the apex we are making that understeer worse. That “early throttle” also does not have that little bit of a straight to make up for the lack of entry speed we can bring in by not caring about where we pick up the throttle.
We want to focus on trail braking actually past the apex point. That additional trail brake keeps more weight on the front end and helps us rotate the car to point it where we want to go. This all means you will be able to roll in more speed and keep it to the inside at a higher speed when you trail brake vs. pick up the throttle too early.
We have some great articles on learning how to trail brake here:
The next small mistake drivers make is “over sacrificing.” In the video, we have the 13 and 14 section at Heartland Park. We want the car aligned to the right side of the road as we turn into turn 14. But, that does not mean the car needs to be perfectly aligned to the right as we exit 13.
We can let the car drift just a little bit off the inside and still hustle it back and end up exactly where want to be. So, holding it all the way to the right is just giving up free time on the track! The best thing to do is first identify where you want the car to be placed and start off “over sacrificing” then we slowly start rolling in more and more speed and let the car drift slightly wider each lap. When we get to the point to where we can’t get the car back to where we want it we know we have gone too far and we simply bring it down a notch and then you are at the limit of your car!