Q: How do I increase my cornering speeds while not destroying consistency?
A: Maximizing cornering speed while maintaining consistency has as much to do with vehicle setup as it does with driving technique. Let’s focus on how a driver can optimize his speed within the constraints of his equipment. Refer to my earlier article (https://nasaspeed.news/columns/driver-instruction/proper-braking/) to understand the importance of braking and how to achieve a desired entry speed. Next, we focus on the turn-in, midcorner balance and acceleration at exit.
Start with a brake point that provides for proper braking: steady initial pressure, trailing-off to the desired speed at turn-in. Turn the steering as quickly as the suspension absorbs load transfer. Stiffer springs, sway bars and shock damping allow quicker inputs with the caveat that too stiff has the tire losing contact with an undulating track surface. Sports cars and sedans require softer suspension and smoother inputs while formula cars with aero are naturally stiffer and provide quicker response.
Turn-in can be earlier and slower or later and quicker. Too early and too slow causes an early apex while too late and too quick leads to scrubbing speed in order to drive to the apex. A driver may artificially induce understeer or oversteer in order to affect the natural balance of the car by overloading a corner or an axle. This is done through exaggerated inputs: quick steering or excessive use of throttle or brake while steering. It’s best to tune the suspension properly, however a capable driver must be quick to adapt to a vehicle’s compromised balance, especially considering the balance may change throughout a race. Tire temperatures give the best indication of how a driver is using the tires and the state of balance front and rear.
Turning consistent lap times is all about making consistent inputs and incremental changes. At most, pick three corners at a time to work on. Having data acquisition is a big help in determining which techniques yield better times. A stopwatch is sufficient, but data analysis provides better resolution and instant feedback when predictive lap times or real-time delta with respect to fastest lap is available. Alternately, pick spots at corner exit to check rpm for gains or losses.
Sometimes it’s necessary to make big changes. In this case, drivers may require an adaptation period to put all the pieces together to optimize for the change. Generally speaking, smaller changes are better: later or earlier turn-in; abrupt vs. smooth, progressive steering; mid-corner rotation on or off throttle; etc. Smaller changes have less impact on lap times, which preserves consistency but also has more subtle effects that may be difficult to quantify. A capable driver knows whether he is making progress or going backward.
Joshua Allan is a driving coach from California. A mechanical engineer, Allan has worked in the design offices of Ferrari’s Formula 1 team and has been a vehicle development test driver for Maserati in Italy. He is a five-time PTD champion in a Mazda MX-5 with Robert Davis Racing. Learn more at RacerMentor.com