Q: I’m finding it difficult to gauge my braking when I’m right on someone’s bumper. I find myself erring on the side of caution and braking too early, and it’s hampering my ability to make passes. How can I improve in this area?
A: If you constantly brake where the competitor brakes in-front of you, you will constantly get passed. This is called the stack-up effect: where a train of cars all brake one behind the other, and next thing you know you’re braking at the 5 board instead of the 2 board.
The safe, smart way to out-brake some one is by starting the pass two corners before. If you stay on someone’s bumper through every corner, you will make no progress. In pro racing, we hardly stay behind the car in front. When you are next to your competitor, you can brake right where you did every lap before because all you need to do is keep the guy on the outside most of the time. So, you do not have to brake deep and out-brake yourself, because that normally results in an incident.
Being right on someone’s bumper may be a benefit when going down a straight to pick up the draft, but a driver must maximize the brake zone to gain an advantage. Being aware of where your competitor’s car placement is and where you are positioned is important as you can compromise his line in the brake zone because you are now beside that car and able to brake at your normal mark.
Tyler Cooke is a driving instructor with the Ford Performance Racing School and a professional racer in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.