Cornering is not
to be taken lightly. Cornering is the difference between winning and losing
races. In any race that doesn't require pit stops
, cornering makes the biggest difference in time, and thus winning and losing. Some people say, "Corners are what breaks up straights, so you want to get the corners done as fast as possible to get to the straights." That's bullshit
. Straights are what break up corners, corners are what keeps you from slamming your foot to the floor for several hours. If you have a race with no difficult corners, you've got NASCAR
. If you have a race with no corners at all, you've got drag racing
. Corners are racing, period.
Also, as another note, although I've tried to make this generic, I sometimes lapse into talking about my car in particular. It's the car I have experience with. It is an MR2 Supercharged, which is mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive like any good race car is. So, you can pretend (as I do) that I have a race car. If I ever get experience with other types of cars I will post information here. But, be warned that these moves may be different for your Honda or Mustang.
Now that we've got that settled, let's get on to some details!
Types of Corners
Obviously there are different types, and there are basically an infinite number of types of corners, which is what makes them fun. But as with any western concept, corners can be divided into a few important groups: low, medium, right, and tight angle, and decreasing, increasing, and constant radius. There are also blind corners, which you can't see the end of to judge correctly, but they aren't common in amateur motorsports, and I have no real clue of how to negotiate them, so we'll ignore them.
Different types of turns are handled if different ways, of course, but in a sense all turns are the same, it's just a matter of degrees (hahaha).
Psychology of Turning
Ok, here's some ASCII art to help everyone along (and hopefully everyone can see this):
/ , 5
/ , '
/ , '
| . 4 ___________________
| . ' ,-
| ' /apex
| 3 |
Ok, here is the psychology of the turn. We are looking at a constant radius right hand 90 on a track, despite what it may look like :-). What this means is that we have free run of the track. We are going to try to follow the outside, late apex this sucker, and then hit the outside edge again. This increases the radius of the turn, and late apexing allows use to make a cleaner shift from braking, to turning, to accelerating. The path chosen can be connected by the numbers. Oh, yeah, you might get some help out of understanding the traction circle of a tire, because cars are all about traction as much as racing is all about cornering. The traction circle is affected heavily by weight transfers, so you might want to get a handle on that too.
- Here we're at the end of the straight and we're still full throttle (believe it or not, this is one of the hardest things to learn) as we will be at until we start braking for the turn. Let's just say that we're near the top of fourth gear. We know our car well enough to know that we could downshift into third, but we would redline it if we went to second. But, the turn is definitely a second gear turn, so we're going to wait until the first possible moment we can heel and toe into second. We start threshold braking for the turn, in other words as much as we possibly can brake without locking a wheel.
- We are now braking at 100% but we're in the speed range for 2nd gear so we're going to start the heel and toe shift. So as not to lock the rear wheels, we'll lift off the brake to about 80% of possible braking momentarily. This will be enough to prevent lock when the engine brakes stronger after the shift, but it shouldn't upset the heavy front weight on the car (due to braking).
- Vrrroom! the heel and toe shift is complete, and we now continue to brake at threshold, but we're going to lift off carefully to ease the car into neutral weight balance. This is called trail braking. The car is in the proper gear, and if this were my car it would be decending from about 6500 rpm. As we continue trail braking, we start the turn. We have done almost all of our braking now, and we are going to just feather the car into the turn. We do aim for the apex, but later than the center apex. There will be a point in the turn where we are turning as much as we can without sliding any wheels, but neither braking nor accelerating. The car is now 100% turning. If we braked or accelerated, we would lock or spin a wheel (and probably spin the car) because there is no grip left (that's the ideal anyway).
- We have hit the apex. The turn is behind us. Between 3 and 4, the car should begin the transition from cornering to accelerating. We're still cornering, so we can't go to 100% accelerating, but we're going to start trading one for the other.
- We are now on the edge of the road, we're here because we're trying to turn as little as possible, focusing on the acceleration. We should be shifting about here, because we're hit the top of the gear.
Passing in a race is not like passing on the street. You can't simply put the pedal to the floor and move past slower traffic, because everyone's pedal is to the floor already. Passing in a race is done by not screwing up in a turn when your passee does. With amateurs, this is easy, you just race behind someone and wait for a mistake. With pros, you take advantage of the fact that your competitor (and you, since you're stuck behind the car) has probably 2% left. You basically pass by pushing your car that 2% harder, outbraking the car and passing in the straight between 1 and 3. It is imperative that you get back into the line or make a new good line. If you don't, you will get passed again, because you'll have to brake too hard to execute the turn, while the passee is still following the proper line. Of course, if you judged it wrong, and you didn't have the 2%, you'll crash, but c'est la vie.