In the Blayze trail braking guide we will discuss what trail braking is, how to trail brake, when and where to trail brake, and why it’s fast.
Even if you’re an experienced driver we recommend you still go through each chapter so that we can ensure we share a common language as we discuss learning to master your trail braking to go faster on track.
Table of contents:
Chapter 1: What is Trail Braking and Is It Dangerous?
Trail braking is the act of continuing to brake while turning into the corner. If a racecar driver has any amount of our brake pressure engaged while turning they are technically trail braking in the corner.
There is a belief in grassroots racing that trail braking is dangerous and that we should not teach amateur drivers about trail braking. Many organisations and instructors will teach the “brake in a straight line” only technique. At Blayze we strongly disagree with this approach.
Is trail braking inherently dangerous? No! Does that mean we want beginner drivers trail braking? No, it just means we do want to teach them correctly from the start but have them slowly build up to it.
Racing not only has fundamentals but it has an order in how we teach fundamentals. Trail braking is one of the last things we have drivers work on but we want them to understand the right way to drive on track from day 1.
The way we teach trail braking is by focusing on three core areas:
- Initial braking reference point
- Slow point of the corner reference point
- Car positioning and placement
With a beginner driver we have them start off with a very conservative initial brake zone so that no trail braking is necessary. When they arrive at the turn in point they are able to completely release off of the brakes and coast until they get to the apex.
Once they are at the apex they can accelerate and head towards the next corner.
As the driver gains experience we slowly brake deeper so that they need to carry just a little bit of brake pressure past the turn in point in the corner. This allows the driver to systematically build up to trail braking with good technique and get feedback each and every lap.
It is an technique we work methodically and slowly towards!
Chapter 2: Why Should I Trail Brake & Why Is It Fast?
Racecar drivers trail brake for two reasons:
- Direction: Trail braking shifts more weight to the front end after the turn in point which helps rotate the car more in the corner. This helps the driver direct the car and get it to point in the direction they want.
- Brake Deeper: Trail braking continues the deceleration deeper into the corner. This allows a driver to brake deeper and have more speed at the turn in point, while still hitting the same minimum speed at the same point of the corner.
We never want to trail brake in a corner just because we know we’re supposed to be trail braking. Trail braking just to trail brake results in over slowing the corner. We want to use this technique because we need to in order to get the car pointed to where we want it to go.
At Blayze we have started changing the name “trail braking” to “directional braking” with the customers we privately coach so that they can reframe the reason behind why we trail brake.
To understand how trail braking helps the car rotate you have to have a good understanding of weight transfer. If you aren’t an expert at weight transfer yet I highly recommend you pause, click here, and watch the 1 minute video in that link.
When we teach trail braking at Blayze we have drivers follow these steps:
- We’re going to start by not trail braking at all! First, focus on a decently late brake zone (not very deep, be conservative) and work on getting off the brakes and coasting into the corner!
- Work on rolling more entry speed by getting off the brakes earlier and earlier.
- Once you start missing the apex, having your minimum speed come too late in the corner, or don’t get enough rotation mid corner we slowly build up to trail braking.
- When we get to this moment, we move our initial brake zone slightly deeper into the corner and begin carrying a little bit of brake pressure past the turn in point.
- Slowly experiment with how late you can brake and how much brake pressure you can have past the turn in point to find your ideal amount of brake pressure while trail braking and ideal length of trail brake.
Chapter 3: How Much Brake Pressure Is Needed While Trail Braking?
How much brake pressure we want on the brake pedal and how long into the corner we want to trail brake will heavily depend on the type of corner we’re in and the balance of the race car.
In the video above, we highlighted three different corners at Sebring International Raceway:
The amount of brake pressure and the length of my trail brake was very different for all three. Let’s discuss the three types of corners we generally will want to have some amount of trail brake in:
Hairpin corners like turn 7 at Sebring is the most common type of corner to trail brake into. These corners are going to be the type of corner where we have the longest period of trail brake and the most amount of brake pressure in the trail brake zone.
The reason why is because hairpin corners are tighter corners that generally lead onto longer straightaways.
In these tight corners we want more rotation and we care less about a high amount of minimum speed mid corner. The recipe to be fast in these corners is to compress our braking zone (we’ll highlight in chapter 5 how trail braking helps with this) and get the car rotated to get back to full throttle earlier.
Because we want more rotation we want a longer trail brake with more pressure. Remember, more pressure equals more weight being sent to the front end.
In sweeper style corners such as turn 1 at Sebring we want a shorter trail brake zone and we want to have very light brake pressure.
Here it should feel like your big toe is just resting on the brake pedal when trail braking.
The goal of trail braking in these corners is less about trying to get the car to slow down and more about just trying to get the car pointed where you want it to go. Remember, when you’re at the limit on the race track you will steer a racecar more with your feet than your hands!
Double Apex Corners
In a double apex corner we really want to bring in a lot of speed past the first apex and get the car rotated mid corner to get pointed towards the second apex.
That rotation helps us pick up full throttle earlier in the corner. The longer trail brake (past the first apex) achieves the rotation we’re looking for and it’s why these types of corners have a longer braking zone than most.
The only type of corners we typically avoid trail braking in is very high speed corners. We generally want to have as much confidence as possible in the rear of the car so we have little to no trail brake at all in these types of corners.
Take a look at the graph in the image below to see how drivers gradually release off brake pressure at they go through the corner.
Chapter 4: How Trail Braking Allows Drivers To Brake Deeper
In the image above we have an example using data to show why trail braking allows a racecar driver to brake deeper.
Notice the black line brakes deeper but achieves the same minimum speed as the red line. How does it achieve this?
By extending our deceleration zone deeper into the corner we can have more speed at the turn in point while still achieving the same minimum speed.
If we can have more speed at the turn in point, that means we can brake deeper! But, let’s look even closer at this data to find another important insight.
Notice how the black line rolls in more entry speed (looking at the top GPS graph here) but it’s also faster at corner exit. How does this happen?
By trail braking deeper into the corner not only does the black line roll in more entry speed, but they also get more rotation. This allows the driver to unwind the steering wheel and commit back to full throttle earlier!
Remember, we don’t trail brake just because we think we’re supposed to. Let’s change the name to directional braking and we only use it when we need to.
By only using directional braking when we need it we can be sure that we aren’t over slowing on track and actually producing slower lap times.
How much brake pressure and how long we want to brake into the corner greatly depends on the type of corner and the setup of your car. There are two main reasons we want to use directional braking:
- To get the car pointed where we need it to be pointed
- To brake deeper
If you want to take your driving to the next level this is a critical and difficult skill to master! Working 1 on 1 with a Blayze coach is highly advised and you can start for just $29 for your first 30 days! Click here to learn more about Blayze coaching for racecar drivers.