The Technique for Braking Well on the Track

Before entering a corner on a track you’ll almost certainly need to brake hard to achieve the correct entry speed. While doing this you’ll probably want to retain steering control of your car, so locking up all four wheels may not be the best strategy!

Threshold braking is the technique you should strive for in this situation, which is the quickest method of reducing speed. This method of braking involves braking to the limits of grip without allowing the wheels to lock. However it is sometimes very difficult to judge the amount of brake force the tyres will accept before locking up. This technique must be practiced regularly in your racing car before you can accurately judge the brake pressured required in different conditions.

The key to this technique is progressive braking inputs. If you stamp as hard as you can on the pedal the resulting spike in forward weight transfer can cause wheel lock at the rear (if you don’t have ABS fitted), whereas more progressive braking inputs will allow the front wheels to load up more gradually without compressing the front suspension to extreme limits. This doesn’t mean you can’t brake hard, but try to apply the braking in a progressive yet rapid manner. As you load up the front wheels with the forward weight transfer, you artificially increase the amount of grip available which will further aid your deceleration.

If you do have ABS, this progressive technique is still relevant as sudden weight transfers also upset the balance of the car which needs to be stable before entering a corner quickly.

Another factor to consider is the change in state between a rotating wheel and a locked wheel. Tyre rubber doesn’t change between these two states as rapidly as you might think and there is a transition period of ‘slip’ before the wheel finally locks. The maximum braking force a tyre can provide is actually just as it begins to slip and this is the point to aim for with threshold braking. Sounds tricky and it is!

The next thing to consider is what to do if you do lock up one or more wheels under braking (this will happen fairly often until you become very familiar with your car and the track). When wheel lock occurs you have several options.

  • Keep the brakes on – the wheel(s) will remain locked so this is only really an last resort option if your desired path is straight ahead. Beware that the directional stability of the car will be compromised in this state. If you need to turn you’ll need to release the brakes to get back steering control.
  • The second option is to release the brakes slightly and reapply with slightly less pressure. This should free up the locked wheel and allow you to steer. Now you can resume attempting to threshold brake.
  • Cadence braking involves reapplying the brake, but repeatedly continuing to experience locked wheels. Keep releasing and reapplying the brakes as smoothly as you can to try and find the threshold point. This will give you a compromise between braking and steering, but is not the fastest method of braking. Cars with ABS automatically try and find the threshold point by rapidly releasing and reapplying the brakes.

To sum up, aim for threshold braking, but until you’re a very experienced driver make sure you have a contingency up your sleeve!

For more information on braking techniques, please click here

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