In this guide, we’re going to tackle the adjustments professional racecar drivers make when they are driving a lower-horsepower car.
The point of this article is to point out the differences in how we approach these types of cars. What is going to surprise you is what does NOT change. Or how small the changes are.
Driving a racecar is a skill-based sport with clear fundamentals. Even if the vast majority of drivers have no clue what the fundamentals are because they weren’t taught properly. I do not change those fundamentals. My fundamentals remain the same if I’m driving a 500hp+ car or a 130hp Spec Miata.
What does change is the last 1%, the tiny nuances of what I prioritize in each corner. It’s more of slight adjustments than anything else.
So, what are the adjustments I make? Let’s dig into that here!
Four Adjustments to Make When Racing a Low-Horsepower Racecar
1) Momentum Is King
In any car I race, I’m always thinking about how it generates speed and what matters most. In a higher horsepower car, I care less about momentum mid corner and more about getting the rotation I need to be able to get back to full throttle.
In a lower horsepower car, I know I generate more lap time (within reason) from rolling speed into corners and keeping my minimum speed higher. I care less about where I get back to full throttle or where I pick up initial throttle.
The key here is to remember that I’m talking about small adjustments. If you were to look at my data when driving a high-horsepower car vs. lower horsepower car you’ll likely see two small things:
- My min speed in the corner will be slightly higher in the lower-horsepower car
- My min speed will come a tiny bit (1 car length or so) later in the corner
Remember how I mentioned that I care more about roll speed and less about where I pick up that throttle? Well, as I roll in that speed and try to keep my momentum up you will also typically see a little bit later min speed in a corner.
2) Lighter Brake Applications
There are two main reasons why I typically have a lighter brake application in lower-horsepower cars:
- Most of the lower horsepower cars I drive are maybe not the best setup cars in the world. The ABS systems aren’t as good, or they move a ton under braking which can upset the car.
- I’m trying to roll speed! Lighter braking helps that and a lot of time lower horsepower cars (Spec Miata’s for example) can be super free (meaning oversteering) on entry, so I want less weight on the front.
Want to learn more about oversteer and how to adjust your driving if you have it? Check out the in-depth Blayze oversteer masterclass here!
When I’m driving a car with a not-so-great ABS system I try to avoid getting into it at all. The lighter brake application overall just naturally helps me roll in that extra speed.
Where in a high-horsepower car I may be braking at a 10 out of 10 pedal. In a low horsepower car maybe I’m slightly more progressive on my ramp up to peak brake pressure (still comes early in the brake zone) and maybe I only get to an 8 out of 10 on peak pressure.
Did you know the brake zone is the most important part of the corner? Why, because it’s where the corner starts! Learn about mastering your brake application by reading our FREE Braking Masterclass article here.
3) Shorter Trail Braking
I find that I tend to trail brake for less amount of time into corners when I’m in a lower-horsepower car. Once again, there are a few core reasons why:
- They tend to have more oversteer on corner entry
- I need less rotation to get back to full throttle
- I want to keep my speed higher
The big point here is that second one. I’m going to go more into detail on this below!
I also find myself spending more time “coasting” in lower horsepower cars (coasting means I'm not on the throttle or brakes). So, the time between when I come off the brakes and then start applying the throttle can be surprisingly long in a lower-horsepower car.
Are you one of those drivers that was taught that you always need to be on the throttle or brakes? Well, unfortunately, you have were taught wrong. Pro drivers use coasting every single lap! [Take a look at our in-depth article about coasting here](https://blayze.io/blog/car-racing/do-you-always-need-to-be-on-the-brakes).
4) Slightly Earlier Throttle Applications
In a lower horsepower car, I can have more lateral load in the car (meaning steering input) as I accelerate because it doesn’t have as much power. Less power means it requires less grip from the tire for acceleration.
Tires typically do not like doing two things at once and if I’m turning while accelerating, I’m asking for the tire to give me lateral & longitudinal grip. The more power the car has, the more longitudinal grip I’m asking for from the tire. The more power, the straighter my hands need to be as I go to throttle.
Remember in the point above how I mentioned I don’t need as much rotation in a lower horsepower car? Well, this is why!
Because of all of this I can get back to throttle and even full throttle and have the car continue to turn. In a higher horsepower car, you’ll typically create more understeer as soon as you touch the throttle which can get you in BIG trouble at corner exit.
Now, the keyword in all of this is: slightly. I want to be slightly earlier to throttle, I don’t want to be getting back to the throttle at the turn in point (which is what I see most drivers doing).
To show you the difference let’s take a look at the video below. I’ll show you how I drive through turn 9 in a high horsepower car (Audi R8 LMS GT3 Car) and a lower horsepower car (Audi RS3 TCR). You’ll see exactly the difference in where I get back to throttle - notice how small the change actually is!
The main takeaway that I hope you see here is how nuanced our sport is. I created Blayze because I knew coaching had to be personalized to an individual driver, in their car, on a specific track, or in the conditions they are driving.
99% of how I drive does not change car to car. It’s all in the finesse, that last 1% that changes and adjusts depending on the type of car that I’m driving. My fundamentals never change!
Are you ready to take your driving to the next level? Learn more about how we use your onboard video, from any camera system, on any track, in any car to coach you 1-on-1 for 98% less than in-person coaching here!