Here’s why knowing the right racing line makes you faster
Many new to street driving might try to justify swerving like a full-road maniac in some sort of effort to hit what they call a “race line” with their car to be faster. They’re silly, but the actual racing line is crucial to success, and there are a lot of interesting factors that go into how a racing driver approaches a turn.
This video from F1 chain bear provides a good explanation of what a race line is, the mathematical race line of a turn, and the reasons why drivers ignore the calculated race line and do their own thing.
The first factor covered by the video is the size of the wedge. A car will be able to go through a wider and wider bend faster than it could approach a smaller, tighter bend. The faster a car goes, the more likely it is to have less traction and to stray wider in a turn.
The fastest line through a simple 90 degree turn can easily be determined mathematically, but it is not necessarily the best approach. It starts by touching the outside wall of the entrance to the turn, hits the “true top” or “geometric vertex” of the inside of the turn, or the turn point of the road, then swings in a regular curve to meet the outside wall of the corner exit. What’s left is a symmetrical curved line to follow if you want to get around the corner as fast as you can.
However, that might not be the best line for a racing driver on a real world course. How a driver actually approaches a turn depends more on what is leading and following the turn than on the turn itself. It’s more important to maximize speed on the track, which may not be the same as maximizing speed in a single turn.
The video emphasizes that the ideal racing line to prepare the car for maximum speed in a straight line following the turn is to brake later and take a sharper turn towards the top. This method, which is often referred to as “end of the top”, allows the car to accelerate in the straight line much earlier than if the driver had followed the mathematically ideal line in the turn.
The total time it takes for the car to get through the bend and the next straight line with this approach will overall be faster than taking the faster lane through the bend. It’s like visualizing the corner and the straight line as a larger corner and recalculating the best line to follow. The approach to the late summit will be all the more effective as the turn is steep and slow.
The opposite approach would be called taking the “first peak”. If the involved turn is followed by another turn, it is best to maximize the entry speed into the turn and slow the car down after the summit to prepare for the next turn.
If there is a series of turns, it is best to approach the situation as a big turn and focus on maximizing exit speed at the end of the series. The early apex approach keeps the car stable so the driver can navigate the corners, with the latter having to be taken with a late apex line for maximum acceleration outside of the series.
The video also covers what’s called the ‘kart line’ which is a wider line that isn’t as concerned with reaching the top. It’s called the kart line because go-kart racing is less concerned with braking and accelerating, and more focused on maintaining momentum around the track.
Race cars also use the kart line in situations where conditions are more unstable, such as if the track is wet or the car’s tires are badly worn. Since there is less grip and a lack of traction, taking a wider line approach is fastest if you want to avoid spinning or crashing, as it maintains as much momentum as possible without relying too much on it. acceleration.
A driver’s skill lies in his ability to assess and balance the needs of a turn with the overall strategy of the course. There are even more conditions and variables than covered here, and to win, drivers and teams need to develop an effective strategy on paper, as well as know how to adapt to the conditions in the heat of the moment.
But maybe now you have a better idea of what a racing line is beyond just a wide swing on the entry, braking your wheels, then full throttle on the exit.