Updated: Apr 29
You may be following pro tutorials, other drivers, and your friends and still losing time in every corner. Well, have you considered how you're braking? This will be a very important video if you're an ABS user as you might be losing time and not even realising!
As always, you can find the video's full script below in case you would like to read about certain details.
The Most Important Thing for Braking Later in Sim Racing (full script)
We're all always concerned with braking later and later, and you might check out a pros video, replicate their braking point and still not make a corner. The question is, why is that? You have the exact same car, probably even the same setup as someone else, you try to brake at the exact same distance on track but they make the corner and you don't.
In this video, we're going to talk about one very simple thing you might want to change which is actually keeping your steering as straight as possible as you get onto the brake pedal. We're going to talk about what is important in a braking phase, why straightening your steering is absolutely critical to you making those apexes and shortening your braking distance and we're going to talk about different lines you should and shouldn't take based on that principle.
To get us started, let's start looking at two examples, one good, one bad and see how braking in a straight line has huge advantages for you as you're out on track and we're specifically going to do this in the same car on the Nürburgring Grand-Prix track's Turn 7 as that is a classic example for where straight line braking really benefits you.
Turn 7 around this track is such a good example because the braking phase isn't actually straight as you can see it's a right-hand turn but the braking phase is slightly compromised and isn't completely straight but instead quite a long left-hand bend. So let's jump into the onboard comparison to see what goes wrong.
Let's look at what turning even a little bit can cause here so coming down the hill and you can see the curvature of the braking phase, getting on the brakes but turning in a bit to the left, then to the right and you can see the driver doesn't quite make the corner as a result of that turning input.
Now let's compare that to a better example. So we're coming out of the previous turn, approaching the corner at a similar speed, hitting the brakes at the exact same point but watch what happens, we get on the brakes, bang on straight steering, quite an aggressive V-Line and we easily make the corner, definitely not even on the limit. So that's what straight line braking can get for you, you can brake much later and in a much more consistent fashion.
So you could see from the side by side comparison that braking in a straight line massively reduces your braking distance. So why is that? Let's look at the physics details to really understand what's going on here. Your car's tires have limited grip available to them, if you ask too much of them you simply start sliding.
Why is that important to understand why you should brake in a straight line you might wonder? When braking we want to ensure that we can utilise all the available grip to slow the car down not to turn, and in physics terms that means we want to maximize our longitudinal performance. The problem with turning the steering wheel even a tiny bit is that once we do that we rob the tires of a portion of that available grip.
Looking at our beloved friction circle you can see that by turning in even a tiny bit the available grip for braking reduces instantly. If you drive without ABS you will very quickly notice that your front inside wheel tends to lock up suddenly. However, as many of you might drive with ABS switched on you might not even be aware of the negative impact this has on your braking performance as the ABS helps you out.
This might avoid the lockup but what the ABS does is it simply lowers your brake pressure as a result of that and that leads to longer braking distances and ultimately missed apexes and slower lap times. So far so good, now we understand what braking this straight line rather than slightly turning that steering wheel is beneficial for you. The really juicy bit though is how that affects your racing lines and why you should actually sometimes sacrifice the supposedly ideal line for a shorter braking distance. Let's look at that.
A great track to understand examples of how you should alter your line for better braking performance is Imola. Let's look at Turns 13 and 14 first. So this is a downhill braking phase quite an important one where a lot of drivers overshoot it and you can see Turn 13 is a super-wide one, easily taken flat on any type of car, however, most drivers actually take quite an early turn-in here and by doing that have to turn a bit through the braking phase into Turn 14.
What you should do instead is take an artificially late apex by turning in quite late so that by the time you hit the brakes your steering wheel is completely straight. Let's take a look at the onboard. So we're coming out of the chicane, remember an artificially late apex is what we're looking for here so we're staying all the way on the left-hand side for a long, long time then cut across the track so that by the time we get on the brakes the steering wheel is completely straight and you can see we're getting the apex quite nice, pretty decent run out of the corner and then back onto the start-finish straight.
Another really good example around Imola for this is what you should do if you're going into a transition phase so changing the car's direction from the left to the right or the other way around. And that usually happens if you have to brake in the middle of that transition. If you've ever driven Turns 5 and 6 around this track then you know it's quite an awkward braking phase as you're just about finishing Turn 5 as you need to change direction for the slower Turn 6.
So let's look at the slo-mo of an on-board to see what we're doing here to maximize our braking performance. So we're approaching the pretty fast left hand Turn 5 here and we have a braking phase in-between Turn 5 and the following slower Turn 6. So watch what happens, we go into Turn 5 and rather than changing direction immediately we have a tiny phase of straight steering where we get on the brakes.
Let's watch that again, so turning in left and let's stop it here. You can see the steering wheel straight just for a moment so rather than changing instantly from turning left and then to turning right we have a mini moment where we keep the steering wheel straight, we stamp on the brakes quickly, reduce our speed quite a lot in that phase and only then actually start turning in to the right into the following Turn 6.
So if you keep struggling in the braking phase especially with longer braking distances than your opponents, if you have to brake earlier to get around the corner without locking up the inside wheel or missing the apex you might not just want to look at your braking technique but also how much steering input you give the wheel.
As we saw braking in a straight line has a huge impact on lap times and braking distances most importantly. And as we saw in the examples, altering your line just ever so slightly might be the thing you have to do to brake that tiny bit later.