How to Learn a Racing Line

The techniques of automobile racing are quite different from the techniques of street driving, and for more reasons than just that the vehicle travels faster. Perhaps the key aspect in race driving that street drivers do not face is making the car turn as efficiently as possible. It is difficult to get the mass of a high-speed racing car to change direction, and to do so while keeping the speed up as much as possible. What works to the advantage of the racing car driver is that he does not have to stay in a lane. A race car can be directed over any available portion of track to create the ideal racing line. The racing line is the line of travel that allows the driver to turn the car while losing as little speed as possible. If the line takes a bit more distance than the obvious direct turn (which it always does), that is part of keeping the speed of the car up and not wasting any more time and energy than is absolutely needed to decelerate into the turn and accelerate out of the turn. Use these tips to learn a racing line.


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    Determine the apex of the corner. The apex is the point on the corner that the racing line needs to run through for best effect. The apex of a corner is the point in the turn where the corner transitions from forcing the car into the turn to opening out to allow the car to complete the turning motion and resume a straight course. It is the point at which the radius of the corner comes closest to the road edge.
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    Understand the importance of the apex. Definitions of racing line often refer to hitting the apex. Hitting the apex means that rather than hugging the road edge in the turn, the car starts out wide from the corner, sweeps in to just hit the road edge at the apex, and begins to sweep back out again. Ideally this line begins at the farthest possible side of the track from the apex, sweeps across the track to hit the apex, and continues to sweep out to the farthest possible side of the track leaving the corner. This line straightens out the corner into a longer but softer one, and the car can take the softer turning required at speed without losing traction and spinning out. It also means that the car comes out of the corner already at high speed and ready to race on, without needing to accelerate as much as it would have had it hugged the corner at lower speed.
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    Plan the application of power through the turn. All braking should be done in advance of hitting the apex. Braking and beginning the turn towards the corner (called the turn in point) should be delayed as long as possible. Determining the limits of turn in and braking must be found through trial and error, as each racing car has different balance and braking capabilities. Once the apex has been hit, accelerate as hard as possible. Once past the apex, the car is out of the danger of spinning in the turn and should be brought up to straight line speed as quickly as possible.
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    Plan for the continuation of the track beyond the corner. What follows the corner on the track will affect the line chosen for the corner.
    • Prepare for the straightaway. If the corner is followed by a long straightaway, the basic apex technique will work. However, many drivers intentionally change the line for a late apex (clipping the road edge later than the classically defined apex) if the corner is followed by a long straightaway. This late apex allows a racing car with good acceleration to apply power before the apex is hit. This technique is not recommended for slower racing cars.
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    • Set up for the next corner. If the next corner is turning in the same direction as the corner that was just negotiated, simply follow the racing line for the first corner and it will drift the car out wide for the following corner, which is where the driver wants the car to be. However, if the next corner is in the opposite direction as the one that was just negotiated, the car comes out of the first corner on the wrong side of the track to take the second corner. The exit from the first corner must be flattened, rather than allowing the car to sweep out, which gives time to get the car back across the track for the following corner. This is accomplished by taking a later apex, but not applying full power out of the first corner.
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  • Never hit an early apex. There is no recovery from this and the corner has been mishandled.

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