How to sculpt the perfect running line
If you want to draw an incredibly fast curve, you had better understand how to determine the most efficient line around the turn. It doesn’t matter if you are proficient in cornering techniques like Michael Schumacher, if you are not on the correct racing line you will not be faster than a NASCAR driver trying to turn right.
The general philosophy is simple. We want to open the turn as much as possible, allowing you to shift as much speed as possible through the turn. This can be divided into three phases – entry, middle and exit.
For the entrance, we want to be as wide as possible. For example, let’s say we have a right turn; to enter we want to be on the far left of the road, with our left wheels a few inches from the grass.
When we turn, we bring the car to the tightest part of the inside turn (right side). This is called the summit. We are now in the middle of the turn and our right tires are probably brushing the painted edges on the inside of the track.
For the exit we let the car come out of the bend and cross the race track on the far left once more.
What we did was go “out, in, out” and widen the turn as much as physically possible. By opening the turn we have effectively reduced the tightness of the turn and as we all know if the turn is less tight we can get through it faster.
It’s the easiest, although not that easy to explain in writing! Now let’s move on to the more technical part.
You heard me mention the word apex. This is probably the most important term in this whole subject. The top is the part of the turn where the racing line is closest to the inside of the turn. This is the exact spot where our inner wheels will touch the curb. It also varies in placement from round to round.
You may have heard people talk about adopting an “early apex” or a “late apex”. This means that they adjust their turning point to produce a peak point sooner or later. The reason you are doing this is quite simple.
Let’s say you come out of a sequence of turns in a tight hairpin curve. At the end of the hairpin bend there is a long straight line. You want to sacrifice the entry of the turn to allow better exit from the turn. The time lost at the entrance will be worth it considering the time saved in the long straight. In this case, you would be going late and the apex would be late. This would require you to enter a lot of turns at the start to bring your car back to its highest point from its late turn, but by doing so you will be able to straighten the car up sooner and be energized sooner, resulting in better speed. exit that will carry all the way down the long straight.
The reverse would be true if at the end of that straight you came to another tight hairpin followed by a series of turns. Now the output is not as relevant as you are immediately in the next section of curves. So the important part to focus on is getting the most out of your fast speed and carrying it up to the turn. So when you step on the brakes, you turn early to peak earlier. You’ve almost ‘dipped’ the top carrying as much speed as you can, braking as late as possible. The philosophy is to get in as hard as you dare and just fix it on the way out. This way you maximize your entry speed and don’t lose much on the exit as you are immediately in the next turn.
Make sense ?
In each type of turn, on each race track, the line and peak will vary slightly. The key is to analyze the corner and find the most efficient way around. Be aware that you can adjust your line if conditions differ, the handling of your car changes, or if you attempt to pass (or defend yourself) against another runner. You have to be able to adapt on the fly and constantly try new things to find a faster path.
Most importantly, you have to be smart. You can’t enter a turn without a strategy on how you’re going to navigate the turn as quickly as possible. It’s like a quarterback in the NFL. They don’t just throw the ball and hope their man catches it; there is a carefully thought out plan to ensure maximum efficiency. However, if the defense is successful, they are always willing to change it and rewrite the playbook.
If you have mastered the racing line, you have taken the first step to becoming the best driver you can be. It’s like building a house. Once you’ve got a solid foundation, you can start building the structure.
Next : Braking, steering and acceleration techniques.