Carrying too much speed into...
Carrying too much speed into a corner can cause you to run wide at the middle or exit of the turn, opening up the track for the riders behind you to make a pass.
One area where many track riders attempt to gain ground on the competition is at the entrance of a corner. In these cases, brake markers are generally slotted back a few feet and the throttle held to the stop for split seconds longer. There are advantages and disadvantages to getting more aggressive at the entrance of a turn, and increasing your entrance speed won’t always work in your favor in terms of lap times. Understanding when to rush a corner and when to maintain your pace is an important part of being smoother and faster at the racetrack. Knowing which corners to be more aggressive in can also lead to better passing opportunities.
Increased corner entry speed offers an advantage in terms of time saved through the first half of a turn. The added speed generated at the entrance makes it more difficult to get back on the gas through the middle of the corner, however, and the time saved at the entrance is typically offset by an elongated off/on throttle transition. Rushing a corner can also cause you to run wide towards the middle and exit of a turn, forcing you to travel a further distance around the track; a topic we discussed in the August ’12 issue that contributes to slower lap times. In extreme cases, getting into a corner too hot can even cause you to run off the track. Sometimes the time saved at the entrance simply isn’t worth what’s risked and/or given up.
Figure 1 shows the data for...
Figure 1 shows the data for a rider through the turn 14-15 complex and straightaway at Barber Motorsports Park. The top set of traces shows speed for two consecutive laps, while the bottom traces depict throttle position. Notice the rider carries more speed into turn 15 (top red trace) but is unable to open the throttle until later (bottom red trace) and thus loses speed down the straight.
The speed lost at the exit of a corner is exacerbated if a straightaway succeeds said corner, a scenario demonstrated in Figure 1, which shows the data for a rider through the turn 14-15 complex and front straightaway at Barber Motorsports Park. The top set of traces shows speed for two consecutive laps, while the bottom traces depict throttle position for the same laps. Notice that on lap two (red traces) the rider increases his speed through the entry of the left-hand turn 15 by opening the throttle more and by leaving it on longer (10,600-foot mark), but that he also takes longer to get back to the gas and opens it slower than he did on the previous lap (black traces) as indicated by the relative steepness of the throttle position traces. From the 10800-foot mark until the end of Barber’s front straight the rider is no less than 5 mph slower than the red-trace lap, easily offsetting the time he saved at the entrance of the corner. If the front straight at Barber were longer, the time lost would be even greater.
Figure 2, which shows the rider’s line over the course of the same two laps, in conjunction with Figure 1 highlights another drawback to rushing a corner, the possibility of running wide. Notice in Figure 2 that the increased corner entry speed causes the rider to turn in early (red line), forcing him to also run wide at the exit and chop the throttle in an attempt to avoid running off the track. In stark contrast, the black trace of both figures show the rider rolling off the throttle earlier and following a more attainable line through the turn. Even though the rider gained .2 seconds on the red-trace lap entering the corner, the difference is a .06 second advantage through the entire segment for the black trace and a near crash for the red trace. Races have been won by six-times less that amount.
Figure 2 shows our rider’s...
Figure 2 shows our rider’s line over the course of the two laps depicted in Figure 1. Notice the rider makes a mistake and turns in too early when carrying additional speed and runs wide at the exit of the turn forcing him to chop the throttle, as depicted in Figure 1, bottom red trace.
The story reads a bit different when there’s no straightaway following the turn, and here’s where an aggressive corner entry has the potential to work in your favor. Notice in Figure 1, for instance, that it’s not until 150-plus feet out of the corner that the red speed trace is finally met by the black speed trace (slower-entry lap). Should another corner have directly followed the left-hand turn, the rider would have potentially been able to maintain an advantage and improve his lap time. Being more aggressive at corner entry through this tighter complex could also open up a pass opportunity, but remember that if you’re unable to get back on the gas through the middle of the corner you risk being re-passed on the exit. Important to remember also is that rushing a corner and being more aggressive on the brakes can cause your bike to move around more. If you’re unable to keep the bike’s chassis in line and under control, you’re putting yourself at risk for a potential few milliseconds; slow and steady doesn’t always win the race, but it sure does cut the chances of a crash in these situations.
Life is full of sacrifices, and so it’s no surprise to find that track riding isn’t without its own share of compromises. Rushing a corner has its advantages in terms of time saved at the entrance of the turn, but it’s important to understand that the time gained can quickly be offset by the time it takes you to get back to the throttle through the middle of the corner. Being more aggressive at the entrance of a turn can also cause you to run wide, meaning it’s important to weigh the benefits before you begin pushing your brake markers back. Pay attention to the track and areas where a quicker corner entry may pay off, then go about increasing that speed slowly until you find it more challenging to keep your exit speeds up. Lap times will follow.