Speed Secrets: Brakes Make You Faster

By Ross Bentley

July 12, 2017

Brakes can slow you down. Well, duh! But they can also make you faster. It's all about the timing and rate of release of the brakes.

A few years ago I was coaching a driver whom I'd worked with since the age of 12 when he was racing karts. By this point in his young car racing career, he was being paid a fair sum to drive for one of the biggest NASCAR teams. But he started his season where he had for the past three years, driving in the Daytona 24 Hour race in a Daytona Prototype car.

After the race we talked about the fact that he had set the race's fastest lap. Specifically, we talked about how he did it. His comment was, "I remember the lap. It was the only lap where the car rotated just perfectly in Turn One, allowing me to fully commit to the throttle earlier than ever before, or since. Other laps, the car had understeered just a little in the middle of the turn - enough that I had to delay getting on the power. But that lap, it didn't do that - it pointed where I wanted it to go and I stood on the throttle."

In talking more about this lap, this turn, we determined that the reason the car rotated the exact amount he wanted, and no more, was due to his timing and rate of release of the brakes.

Since that time I've worked with a lot of drivers, having them focus on the timing - when, in comparison to the turn-in point (i.e., slightly before, right at that point, at some point after turn-in) - and rate of release (i.e., quickly coming off the brakes, slowly easing off) of the brakes.

I'll say it again: It's the timing and rate of release of the brakes that make all the difference in your ability to carry corner entry speed, and still be able to get back to and commit fully to the throttle early in the corner.

Every driver that I've worked with who focused on the timing and rate of release of the brakes has made big improvements in their driving.

But make no mistake - there is no one perfect timing and rate of release. It's different for every car, every track, every corner, every weather condition and every driver.

The next time on track I recommend you "play with" the timing and rate of release of the brakes. Try releasing early but slow; late but quickly; at turn-in and slowly; at turn-in and fast; etc. Experiment with it. The objective is to develop the ability to adapt the timing and rate of release of the brakes (some drivers do it the same way in every corner, no matter what the car really needs). Then, having learned what the effect of different timings and rates of release are, you can deliberately choose what you need, when you need it.

Use the brakes, and specifically the timing and rate of release of them, to make you faster.

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