Bad driving tip #5: always drive the school line

In 1971, Alan Johnson published “Driving in Competition”. In that seminal work, he codified the three types of corners: Type I (leading onto a straight, Type II (after a straight), and Type III (connects other turns). The usual HPDE instruction focuses on the Type I corner. Here’s a charming picture from his book that uses Matchbox cars instead of an illustration.

The thing I find most interesting is point 3, which he calls the “balancing point”. Ross Bentley calls this the “end-of-braking”. In my book, I call it the “nadir” because if every corner has a top (apex) then every corner should have a bottom (nadir). Regardless of the terminology, this is the slowest point in the corner, and it occurs before the apex (point 4). Also note that it is described as the transition from braking to accelerating. The term trail-braking probably hadn’t been in use in 1971, but the fact that brakes are released during the corner entry means that trail-braking was part of Alan Johnson’s cornering technique, and probably many other drivers of the time. Mark Donohue is given a lot of credit for talking about brake release, but “The Unfair Advantage” was published 3 years later in 1974. I would guess that drivers were trail-braking from the beginning, because it’s the fast way through a corner.

In the HPDE world, students are taught the geometry of the Type I corner but not how to trail-brake, which is considered and advanced skill. I don’t want to get into teaching philosophy or this post will stray even further from the original intent. Let me just say that I completely disagree. So, back to the typical HPDE corner: start at the outside of the track, brake in a straight line, turn in to a late apex, track out to the outside. Oh, and if a faster car comes along, stay on the line and let them work around you. That may be fine for HPDE days, but robotically following this advice on a race track is folly. Here’s a trio of videos that will hopefully send that message home.

To be clear, these drivers aren’t at fault for the incident. They didn’t do the hitting, they got hit. But let’s say that the result is that the car is done for the weekend. It was supposed to be a weekend of racing with friends and it turned into a weekend of frustration and repair bills. You know what would have been better than following the line? Realizing that when you set up on the outside of the track, the shit-for-brains behind you sees that as an invitation to dive-bomb you.

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