Another aspect of advanced racing skill that has to be developed with experience is reading the course and planning the line you want to take. Here are several strategies to get you started, and how to deal with most tricky course lines.
This is article is part of the advanced racing series. Each of the articles are linked from the Advanced Racing Introduction.
Start by getting a map of the course. If you can’t get one, draw it out yourself. Develop a plan for where you want to be at each point on the course. For each corner, look at where you want to be during entrance and exit to take the fast line through the corner. When they line up with each other, things are simple and you know where to plot the line. The real skill here comes into play when they don’t line up.
When turning onto a straight or into another same-direction corner, the biggest decision to make is whether to keep the ideal line, or late-apex to gain better acceleration out of the corner. In the first example onto a straight, a late-apex probably would be helpful. In the second example, you won’t gain much from the acceleration, so holding the ideal line is preferable. However, whether to late-apex the second turn in this example can’t be decided by what’s in the diagram—you’d need to know what’s further ahead on the course.
More complex situations require a different approach.
In the last Advanced Racing article, we talked about late-apexing and its effect on acceleration into a corner. Late-apexing is also an important strategy for setting up for a fast corner change. Because you get most of the turn done early in the corner, you have more flexibility with how much you accelerate and where you plant yourself on the line into the following corner. When there are back-to-back opposing turns, it becomes necessary to do this to be able to set up for the next turn properly.
A set of corners in the same direction can be a challenge as well, because the ideal line through the first corner might place you well outside a useful line for the second. when this happens, it’s best to treat both turns as a single, long corner. You can use the ideal line for a long corner, or late apex, placing you close to what would have been the ideal line through the second corner.
There are many more combinations and complex scenarios, but the takeaway is to plan each corner exit by looking at what’s needed for the following corner’s entry.
Practice Exercise: Plan and Look Ahead
We’ve spent a lot of our practice time so far looking at individual corners, but that’s not how many race courses are constructed. For this exercise, design your course before you go to the field and set it up. Looking at the course map, draw where you think the race line should be. when you go to the field, try to fly your line.
When you are flying, you should also be looking further ahead. As soon as you enter a corner and establish your line, look ahead to the next corner. Try to see and plan for where you will enter the next corner.
Now that we’ve explored the theory, we’ll be looking at real-world application. Next up, I’ll break down 30 seconds of applied cornering and show just how and where this all takes shape on the course.