Trail braking is an advanced driving technique that allow the driver to control the balance of a vehicle entering a corner.
Most drivers think the brakes are used for just slowing down the car, but more importantly they allow us to control the weight transfer and balance of the car. You must be able to control the balance from rear to front as well as side to side when entering a corner.
By controlling the weight transfer of the vehicle, you alter the balance of grip from tires, rear to front and side to side as you enter a corner. You have the ability to modify the balance of the vehicle by using the brake and throttle properly. This sets you up to get the most tire grip out of each end of your vehicle entering a corner. Four tires working instead of one, by weight transfer control.
What Is Trail Braking?
Trail braking is the technique of controlling weight transfer through proper use of brakes and throttle, while turning into a corner. To blend braking, throttle and turning at the same time. It enables a driver to brake slightly later, but more importantly, manipulate the vehicle’s mass to aid corner entry. Trail braking allows four tires to work instead of one. This saves the right front tire from doing all the work, leading to better tire wear and faster laps times.
How To Trail Brake
Trail braking is a difficult technique to do consistently right. It requires a lot of feel to get the most out of all four tires at corner entry. When you get it right, you’ll be fast!
A. Braking Zone – Brake in a straight line at maximum force
B. Corner Entry – Slightly before the turn in point begin to ease OFF brakes (15%) & ON throttle (10%) slightly
C. Turn IN (Roll) Zone – Turn into the corner using throttle (0-5%) & brake (10-5%) to control weight transfer
D. Apex – As you increase steering angle, no brakes just rolling, increasing throttle (10-15%) controlling balance
E. Exit – Apply the appropriate amount of throttle to keep car well-balanced to full throttle at corner exit
Remember to balance the weight transfer of the car everything done with the pedals is smoothly but quickly. Learn to apply the throttle smoothly, get on and off the brakes quickly, but smoothly and the same goes with the throttle. Balance weight transfer with both throttle and brakes.
Braking & Steering
Brake Pressure (Red) and Steering (Blue) diagram showing the trail braking technique in a corner. This chart shows gives a visual of how much Braking / Steering input to use at a specific point in a turn. Left out the throttle in this chart.
Trail Braking In Detail
Braking Zone A – Brake (up to the grip threshold) in a straight line without any steering to decelerate as quickly & smoothly as possible.
Corner Entry B – Released brake pressure somewhat (10-15%) and begin to turn into the corner. As car enters the corner apply amount of trail braking required to balance the weight transfer of the car. Remember four tires working instead of one.
Ideally you want to be using all of the available grip from all four tires. This is accomplished by applying the brake and throttle, slightly more or less on each, balancing the chassis to control the weight transfer. Get all the tires working.
• More Braking = More front/less rear grip
• Less Braking = Less front/more rear grip
• Balance – Control inside to outside grip
Turn In C – Turn into the corner by increasing steering angle. At the same time, using a little throttle (0-5%) & less braking (10-5%) to control weight transfer. The goal is to decrease the braking and apply a little throttle. This is the roll zone. Again balancing the chassis by controlling weight transfer using less braking.
Apex D – Just before the apex the driver should be completely off the brakes and all 4 tires grip will be used for cornering and not deceleration. This is the area to finish balancing the chassis and let the car roll out with a little more throttle smoothly (5-10%). I like to refer to it as “keep the drivetrain (driveshaft) loaded”. The goal is to pick up the throttle just before or at the apex.
Exit E – Apply the appropriate amount of throttle to keep car well-balanced getting to full throttle coming off the corner. The idea is to achieve full throttle as soon as you can, carrying all that speed into the next corner braking zone. Try to pick up the throttle at apex or slightly before, while always maintaining car balance. When done correctly the car will roll out at the wall, using all of the track. If you come up short of the wall, pick up the throttle a little sooner. Hitting the wall on exit, then too early or too fast applying the throttle.
Why Use Trail Braking?
Use trail braking as a means to get all of the available grip from all four tires when cornering. Allows balancing of the vehicle by controlling the weight transfer by using the throttle and brakes.
G-circle diagrams – G stands for G-Force
These diagrams compare a Professional vs. Amateur driver as they drive through a corner.
The G-circle shows the potential grip available for braking, turning and acceleration with the outer ring displaying the maximum grip potential in any given direction.
The blue line shows each driver’s usage of available grip. The professional driver is using 100% of the grip available all the way through the corner, while the amateur is far from it. Here’s what’s going on for both
1) Car arriving at corner at near constant speed
2) Brakes as late as possible, using 100% of the available tire grip and on the threshold of locking up the brakes
3) Turning into the corner he balances the reduction in braking force and increase in steering and throttle perfectly, using all of the available grip from all the tires
4) Deceleration and balance is complete and now the car is using 100% of available tire grip to turn
1) Car arriving at corner at near constant speed
2) Brakes too early not using all of the available tire grip to brake and is too careful about locking up brakes
3) Not using all the available grip for deceleration and turning from braking too early then releasing them too early. Does not apply enough throttle and begins to turn into the corner too soon.
4) With deceleration complete and the car turning with peak g-force, the vehicle is not using all the available tire grip to carry a little more speed in the corner
By not utilizing all of the available tire grip, means the amateur won’t be able to carry as much speed into the apex of the turn. The vehicle also won’t be balanced with the proper weight transfer allowing the ability to get back into the throttle sooner, which will lead to losing lap time.
Speed graph showing the Professional (Red) vs. Amateur (Blue) cornering speed differences.
The Red line carries much more speed to the apex of the turn, whereas the Blue line does not control weight transfer balance correctly. The Blue line is oversteering on corner entry due to too much front weight transfer, causing the front tires to grip too much from keeping the brakes on too long, and with the rear tires sliding.
This is poor control of proper weight transfer balance: too much weight on the nose, the front tires have a lot of grip and the rear tires have very little grip. This does not allow you to get on the throttle sooner.
Release the brakes earlier, balance the car by easing off the brake, while applying a little throttle to control weight transfer. This lets the nose settle and distribute the car’s weight more evenly. This allows the use of all the tires to grip, creating an even balance car to take a set . Now start rolling into the throttle before or at the apex, caring all that speed into the next turn. This will lead to better lap times.
When To Trail Brake
Trail braking is basically best suited when we want to rotate the car before the apex. Making the car to turn more, opening up the exit of the turn, enabling to get into the throttle sooner.
To be quicker in faster corners don’t trail brake as much (probably trail brake a little) and come off the brakes earlier (back up the corner) so you don’t transfer too much weight to the front tires and can keep the rear of the car settled.
The amount of trail braking you need is a dynamic approach as the difference in corners, setup, track temperature and so on will affect the balance of your car and the amount of trail braking required. Trail braking is about feel and reacting to how the car moves underneath you once you’ve turned in. Trail braking is used to cure balance issues.
We can change our driving technique with the use of trail braking to help cure the loose and tight conditions by controlling the balance of the car, which leads to all four tires griping.
A car that has too much understeer, where as soon as you turn the car into the corner, the front pushes wide and likely won’t make the apex. This is called ‘Front Limited’ balance as the front tires do not have enough grip. When this happens, control the weight transfer by allowing the front of the car to have more weight, which allows the tires to grip on entry better.
How Is This Done?
By controlling the weight transfer of the vehicle, you alter the balance of grip from the tires. Control rear to front and side to side balance as you enter a corner. Control front to rear and side to side balance as you exit a corner. By using the brake and throttle properly you control the balance of the vehicle. This sets up the most tire grip out of each end of the vehicle. Remember four tires working instead of one, by weight transfer control.
Keep a little more weight over the front tires when turning the car into the corner. This is accomplished by releasing the pressure on the brake pedal slightly later. The front of the car is diving more and has more weight on the nose which leads to the front tires having more grip. More grip helping the balance issues.
Trail braking is an advanced driving technique that is difficult to master. With practice you will feel and gain experience to get it right. You’ll be faster and able to overcome different track and setup issues.
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Written, Composed and Illustrated by Michael Schrader
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