By Dev Clough
The line is the path around the track, that when driven at the
limit, will yield the fastest lap time.
The line through any particular corner is accomplished using a
connect the dots approach. There is a specific turn
in, or corner entry point, which is the point
where you begin turning the wheel. At the approximate middle of
the corner is the apex which is the point in the turn
where the inside wheels are closest to the inside edge of the pavement.
At the end of the turn is the corner exit, which is
the point where the car is no longer turning, and the wheel is straight.
Going quickly requires that you learn the line and drive it consistently
and precisely. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to learning the
line is overdriving the car while trying to learn the line. (Particularly
at corner entry).
If you are going slower than the traction limits will allow, you
can place the car exactly where you want to. If you are going too
fast, the car will be controlling you, and you will be forced to
follow the line established by the speed of the car.
Racing drivers are all aware of the adage In slow, out fast.
The most important goal of most corners is to carry as much speed
as possible onto the straight following the corner. It has been
said that the race winner is not the guy who goes fastest around
the corners, but the guy who gets between the corners fastest.
The proper line can often be felt. Some things to look for:
At the turn in point, the car should be as close to
the outside edge of the track as possible, this will allow the car
to travel the arc of the greatest radius through the corner. At
the apex, the car should be as close as possible to
the inside edge of the track, and at corner exit the
car should be all of the way to the outside edge of the track again.
Many turns have berms (Usually a concrete curbing) at
the apex and corner exit. Racing drivers commonly drive on the berms
to increase the radius of the turn by another few inches. I dont
advocate that in a street car, but I ask my students to try to just
feel the edge of the berm, to know they have used the
whole width of the track. Note: It can be helpful in learning the
line to look at where the rubber has been left on the berm by the
Hot tip: You will know when you are on the correct line when you
turn in at corner entry and do not have to change the wheel position
again until you begin to unwind (straighten) the wheel
about 50-75% of the way through the corner. You must hit your apex,
and wind up at the outside edge of the track for this to be meaningful.
This is what you will want to feel: At corner entry the car should
turn in easily. The car will lean on its suspension, and take
a set, when it does you should gently begin to apply a small
amount of throttle (the car is more stable under throttle than if
just rolling free). Gently increase the throttle, feeling how much
the car can take, if the car begins to go wide (remember, you must
hit your apex!) either stop increasing throttle application, or
lift very gently. Lifting quickly will probably spin the car if
you are anywhere near the limit, but lifting gently will just point
the car in to the apex. As you pass your apex point you should be
able to gradually apply more throttle, as you do you will feel the
car tell you it wants to go straighter (because you are going faster)
and you will have to unwind the wheel. This unwinding should carry
you all of the way out against the edge of the track at your corner
exit point. If the entire corner felt smooth, and felt like the
car was developing a consistent G force from the beginning
to the end of the corner, you probably nailed it. Remember, none
of this means anything if you do not connect the dots!
Most drivers use visual reference points to establish where they
apply their brakes, the turn in point, the apex and corner exit
points. It is the easiest way to be consistent, particularly when
learning a new track. Look for objects that will always be there,
and that wont move. Cones are a bad idea, a missing chunk
of pavement is a good idea. When establishing a braking point, be
conservative. First, because of slow in, fast out and
secondly because as the day progresses you will probably be exiting
the previous corner faster, and therefore carrying more speed into
the braking zone.
Hot tip: While learning the line, if you find yourself running
out of pavement at corner exit, move your turn in point closer to
the turn. If you have pavement left over at corner exit, move it
back. You must hit your apex for this to work!