Certain corners you can’t look at a track map and guess the correct driving line on. Turn 9 at Laguna Seca is one of the most glaring cases of where the “traditional racing line” is wrong. This is what makes Turn 9 at Laguna Seca earn a spot very close to the top of the list of corners of where our pro coaches see drivers making the most mistakes.
Where Most Drivers Go Wrong
The traditional line would have drivers sacrificing a little bit of speed at the exit of the corkscrew so that they can get the car back all the way to the right side of the road at the entry to turn 9. They would then have a nice slow turn in so they progressively bring the car in and have a late apex down the hill at the red hotdog curb inside the apex curb.
That is exactly what we see most drivers doing at this corner, but it is not the fast way through.
The Correct Way Through Turn 9
The right way into turn 9 is to not sacrifice any speed out of the corkscrew, we want to maximize our entry speed into turn 9 so every additional mph we can bring into it by getting a good exit out of the corkscrew will help us. We also do not want to open up back to the right any more than about one car width off the inside. We can use absolutely all the road on the exit out of the corkscrew and be exactly where we want to be on entry into turn 9.
While we don’t treat turn 9 as a double apex it can help some drivers to think of the line as somewhat similar to one. You will see in the video above that we are about middle of the bridge or just a little bit to the left of that as we go under it. The bridge is also a great visual point to begin our turn in.
Here is where we want our drivers to do something is often shunned by many “instructors” or “coaches”… we want our drivers to coast. We want to bring in a lot of entry speed here and we don’t want to shift too much weight to the front end at turn in, so releasing off the throttle and letting the car roll here is totally fine. Fast corners like this are typically corners we want to avoid any real type of trail braking or maintenance throttle, we want to carry that full throttle as long as we can as we approach the turn in and then have a full lift.
Our goal here is to bring in enough entry speed so that we can’t hold the inside white line all the way through the corner. We want the car to slowly understeer and push us to about 1 - 1.5 car widths off the inside. Timing the rotation of the car to make it down to our apex is the next critical thing here and can be quite hard to time as there aren’t any very clear visuals for exactly where to make it happen.
The best way we can describe where to get the car to rotate is to use where the road starts to compress as our rotation spot. In the video right at the 3:44 mark is where the decline of the road goes from pretty steep downhill to more flat which creates a little bit of compression. We combine that compression (which adds grip to the front end first) with just a tiny tap of the brakes to shift more weight onto the front end to get that car to rotate.
Want to know why we shift the weight to the front end? Well, we have a great article about weight transfer here. If you don’t know about weight transfer it is one of the most critical elements to understand about racing so this one is a biggie!
Now we should have our car pointed correctly and we want to get our left front tire on the flat blue and white curb right when it starts and apex the start of the red hotdog curb (definitely not touching the red hotdog though!).
If we have done this all correctly we have made it until this point without touching the throttle after the turn in. We only want our initial throttle to start to pick up right here at the apex and working back to full throttle by the time we get out to the exit curb.
Why Don’t We Want To Run Wide On Entry?
There are two main reasons we don’t want to set up all the way to the right on entry:
- 1) It is off-camber and dirty. All the way to the right is just ever so slightly off-camber but it is also the dirty part of the track and does not have the rubber that the inside of the track gets. If you ever get to walk the track try walking on the racing line and then walk to the outside, almost every weekend you will feel the grip difference on your shoes.
- 2) You have to turn more aggressively initially when you are farther out. When you run closer to the inside you will actually have a line where you are pointed straighter as you initially drop down the hill. That is right at the highest speed point of the corner and the more you have to turn the more you have to slow down the car. So, by running wider and needing to turn more initially it means you can not bring in as much entry speed and slowly bleed off speed throughout the corner. This often leads drivers to pick up the throttle too early, which creates an understeer and then leads to a big snap oversteer at corner exit. Most spins we see at turn 9 are actually caused by a too early of an initial throttle.
Hopefully next time you are out at Laguna Seca you see significant lap time gain from this line change!