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3 questions — driving tips: turn initiation, apex, exit

June 23, 2011

When it comes to driving techniques, we’ve already talked about left foot braking. Today the same dedicated reader Randy Samson asks me about a few other driving tricks and I’ve got the perfect pictures from the Can-Jam Motorsports Black Bear Rally to illustrate the answers. Hope you folks find this helpful and it makes your driving experience more fun.

First one

My next 3 questions are about controlling your rally car.

Please walk me through turn initiation, how to get the back to step out.

—    Let’s imagine that we are in the Beast, on a gravel road, braking for a 90 degree right turn after a straight.
—    Time is made up on late braking… so we’re flat out until the very last moment. Brake really hard, downshift, probably twice. Thank God (and Stewart) for our great dog box: no clutching needed. But if we were in the Bastard with a stock syncro box, I’d tow-hill while braking and downshifting.
—    Racing center differential controller gives you extra braking grip by locking the center diff when you are on the brakes, which prevents either front or rear wheels from locking up. Try the same braking with the diff off – you won’t make the corner.
—    The most important thing that happens on hard braking is the weight transfer: weight goes to the front, rear become light — the back steps out.
—    To make sure the rear steps out to the correct direction (left in this case), we slightly initiate the turn to the right early on.
—    You want to initiate just enough turn to make the back step out, but if you do too much, you will have to counter steer more and that means losing time. For tight corners, especially on rutted and soft surface, a quick pull on an e-brake does the job.


Please walk me thru how you control your car from initiation to apex.

—    A good racing instructor would teach you to maintain the speed from an entry to your apex. Maintaining means getting back on the throttle after you’ve finished braking, but not accelerating too hard. Something called trail braking comes into play as well, but that’s a different story.
—    On gravel, things are a lot less precise and more violent, so theory doesn’t always work. The theory is to get on the throttle when you are hitting the apex, but in reality, the earlier you can get on the throttle, the better. Providing, that you don’t come off the throttle again!
—    You shouldn’t be stabbing the throttle, you should squeeze it, like an orange, but that’s very hard in a rally car.
—    When you stop braking and start accelerating, the weight goes back to the rear wheels, giving them grip to push you out of the corner.

Weight transfer is perfectly illustrated here: look at how low the front is, when on the brakes; and how high it gets, when I get back on the power.

Looking at the line from the front wheel, you can see the car almost jumping up because the weight has shifted back and left.


What inputs are you using to control the car from apex to completion of turn?
Thanks very much Randy Samson

— The key is to treat our tight corner to a slightly later apex. If done properly, you would be flat on the power before the apex.
— If you haven’t set the car too sideways at the initiation, and the car has a nice neutral setup, all you’ll have to do is straighten the wheel and keep your foot down:

Images were kindly provided by Peter MacDonald

Analyzing the pictures:

What’s right:
1.    The initial turn in is not too sideways, but has some degree of the slide, which helps to scrub off the speed and makes it a little more exciting -:)
2.    Braking was hard and I got on the power very early.
3.    The apex is late. You’ll see that if look at the line left by the right front wheel on all 4 pics.
4.    The wheels are straight at the exit, means no time is lost. Very important.

What’s wrong:
1.    We didn’t cut enough – could have been another half a meter in – to give some thrill to the photographers.
Solution: Either need to change the note (add ‘CUT’ or a ‘Big CUT’), or need to listen better.

2.    You can see that despite being on the power nice and early, we didn’t carry enough speed on the exit, because we are not using all the road there.
Solution: Believe in your skills and brake less. The problem with this is that if you brake less, but don’t get the corner 100%, you will go off…

So, the technical execution is near perfect, but there is a lot more speed left in that corner. I need more seat time to maximize moments like this.

P.S. Having said all that, I have to warn my readers, that I’m by far not the most experienced, nor the fastest rally driver out there.

I’m simply doing the best I can, and sharing that little I’ve learned so far. I thank you for your immense support, which makes me want to continue talking about my passion even more!

Every Wednesday I answer 3 questions about anything. Unprecedented honesty! Send me your questions:

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2 Comments to "3 questions — driving tips: turn initiation, apex, exit"

  • mattymays wrote:

    hi xmas greetings to every one – matty mays

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  • Howardlerton wrote:

    hello there steve here is there web address details,ring them for advice ,say Howard l recommened you

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