Stop Driving On The Street by Ross Bentley
Where do you spend the bulk of your time driving? On the street or on the track? Unfortunately, it’s on the street, right? And that's the problem with many track drivers' braking - the habits they’ve built while driving on the street.
Photo: James Boone
When you brake to a stop at a traffic light, how do you apply the pressure? You probably squeeze the brakes, gently increasing the pedal pressure the closer you get to where you want to stop, before finally easing off just as your car stops moving. So your brake pedal pressure starts relatively gently and then increases to its maximum near the end of the "brake zone." That's the opposite of how you should brake on the track.
Photo: Marcel Tauch
On the track, you want your initial braking application to be relatively hard, getting to maximum pedal pressure as quickly as possible. Then you want to maintain that pressure until you begin to release the pedal as you reach the turn-in point. So the pedal pressure goes from immediate maximum pressure to gently trailing off the pedal as you get to the end of the brake zone.
Yep, the opposite of how you brake on the street.
Photo: Dennis Noten
You’ve probably been given the advice to squeeze the brake pedal on, to be smooth. Hey, I wrote that in my Speed Secrets books! But in some ways I regret it. Why? Because many drivers have taken this too literally – they’re too smooth with the initial application of the brakes. What I meant was to squeeze the brake pedal, but to do it really, really fast, ramping up to full pressure as immediately as possible.
Applying hard initial pressure to the brake pedal can be done smoothly. But it might be a little more abrupt than you’re used to because of the way you drive on the street. When I get to take someone for a ride around a race track – even an experienced track day driver or club racer – the comments afterward are predictable. “You’re very smooth! Well, except for when you first hit the brakes. I was surprised at how hard you braked – and how late.”
So if you want to be faster on the track, change the way you drive on the street to develop the habit of braking the right way. Sure, that might be a little harsh on your passengers, but you'll be giving them something to cheer about when they come watch you race. :)
For more of Ross' writing, along with articles by other famous and not-so-famous contributors, go to www.speedsecretsweekly.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.