Q: Achieving faster lap times usually comes down to carrying more speed in the corners. What is the most methodical way to build speed in a corner? Are there different methods for different kinds of corners?
A: A Corner has three parts: turn-in, apex, and track-out. When I get to a new track, I push the car past the limit for each corner, not so fast that you throw the car off the track, but fast enough that you exceed the limit of the tire. By doing that, you can back your pace down to the limit, which is easier than trying to brake deeper and deeper and roll more speed.
Different corners also require different methods. You can’t go too deep into an off-camber corner because then you will go off, and you can’t do that with a late-apex corner, either. For those types of corners, first and foremost, you have to find your apex. You will know your apex because that’s the best position for the car to get the best run. It could take you a whole session to find it. Once you find the apex, you can start to find how fast you can go through, without giving up much.
For example, the first left hander in the Attitudes at Miller Motorsports Park, a lot of people go through there fast thinking they are gaining ground, and they are, but then in the following right and left, they lose a lot more then they’ve gained. There are a lot of corners like that in racing, where it’s actually faster to give up a little to get a better run out. To find out how you do that, on one lap go through the corner very fast and see what type of time you put down. If you don’t have data, then have a friend time you or run it like that for the session. Next lap or session, enter it slower and see if it helped the way the car felt and brought down your lap time.
A fast corner is one you have to build up from within yourself. Witchcraft at Miller Motorsports Park is a great example. It’s a corner that takes a lot of confidence to do — like in our Ford Racing School Mustangs — with just a little lift. On the first time, you brake and see how much you give up and then keep building from there, or also follow someone who really knows the track. That’s the big benefit of the Ford Performance Racing School and the skills we teach. You have instructors who race in many different series, from all over the world, which means they have a lot of experience learning new tracks, and how to learn a track the best possible way.
Tyler Cooke is a driving instructor with the Ford Performance Racing School and a professional racer in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.