Speed Secrets: To Trail Brake or Not to Trail Brake - Part One

By Ross Bentley

May 09, 2018

A common question I hear tossed around among race drivers is, “How much trail braking is needed?” I wish there was a magic formula for determining exactly when and how much trail braking you should use for each and every corner – but there isn’t.

One factor that does determine how much you should trail brake into a corner is whether it is what I call a “rotation turn” or “set turn.” Typically, but not always, “rotation turns” are shorter, tighter, slower corners and “set turns” are longer and faster.

In many fast, sweeping corners, it is best to be on power, on the throttle from the second you turn in. In other words, no trail braking. Why? Because the car is better balanced this way – the car has taken a set. If you enter the turn while trail braking and then transition to acceleration, the car’s weight distribution is changing. The weight is transferring off the front and to the rear, while the car is cornering. In most cases, a car will have more traction or grip – a higher cornering limit – when it is set, when its weight has stopped transferring from one axle to the other.

This is especially important in corners with a long mid-corner phase. Because you’re spending more time in the corner, ultimate cornering grip is critical. In shorter, tighter turns whose mid-corner phase is almost non-existent, then the ability to rotate or change the direction of the car is more important than overall cornering grip. In this case, you should trail brake more. Trail braking enables you to rotate or turn and change the direction of the car quicker.

Given the choice, if you could accelerate all the way through every corner, rather than having to slow down and rotate the car, you would accelerate, as the car would have more overall traction. You would be able to maintain a higher speed through the corners. But that isn’t practical or useable in every corner. The main objective for some corners is to change direction. These are Rotation Turns, because the main challenge is rotating the car. The main objective in other corners is to maintain as high a speed as possible through the turn. These are Set Turns.

Speed Secret: The faster and longer the corner, the less trail braking you should use and the earlier you need to be on the power; the slower and tighter the corner, the more trail braking you should use to help rotate the car.

Ross Bentley

For more information about Ross’s tips, coaching, eCourses, newsletter, Virtual Track Walk videos, and other resources to help you drive at your best, go to www.SpeedSecrets.com