Last year's season was left off with many thoughts about braking and weight transfer. As a beginner at the start of the season, I would finish braking much earlier than the turn-in point or sometimes misjudge the braking zone and have to double brake before turn-in. Sometimes I even braked mid-corner, sending the car in an unintentional trail braking that was nowhere close to the real thing.
'Brake in a straight line THEN turn in' was the mantra to live by.
Towards the end of the year, however, I had nailed the elusive heel-toe and was also fairly consistent with braking at the end of straights. The progression is natural with seat time and a desire to learn, so this wasn't a surprise. The next logical step was trail braking, which most drivers at my (Intermediate) level had heard about but not experienced.
Trail braking uses the forward weight shift to make the car turn in more eagerly, allowing you to carry more speed at the end of the straight without the dreaded understeer that usually comes with it. It takes a well-timed, slow and controlled release of the brake pedal to execute this technique.
'Brake in a straight line THEN turn in' was now the mantra to forget.
However, it was the end of the season and time or weather weren't on my side anymore. The obvious next step was to take things indoors and begin experimenting on the VR motion simulator. I loaded up Lime Rock Park in my favorite Z4 GT3 and went at it. Over several months and multiple sessions, I was laying down faster and consistent laps. When we hooked up another monitor for telemetry analysis, things became clearer. Brake release carried on into the corner, gently overlapping with turn in and then coming to zero brake pressure as turn in is increased before tracking out and throttle.
Fast forward to the first DE event of 2018 at Thompson – it was my first time at this track, and also my first time driving with the PCA. Trail braking wasn’t even on my mind. Understanding the club’s etiquette and my own driving line was the priority for the first couple sessions. Fortunately, help came in the form of Dick Anderson, a PCA instructor who generously took time away from his shiny new GT4 to help me with the above goals and more.
Three sessions later, towards the end of a very hot day, I realized that I was most definitely trail braking into turns 1 and 4. The moment of realization was fantastic – a little scary, a little exciting, but mostly a loud Eureka that made me smile in the car. To go from straight line braking to manipulating weight transfer to my advantage, from the confines of our office in Plymouth, was truly a testament to the power of simulation.
Now if only iRacing would laser scan and make the Thompson road course available…
BMW Z4 Thompson 0518