The most fundamental aspect of competitive driving is knowing how to drive the perfect racing line. Seconds are gained, races are won and champions are crowned when the racing line has been mastered.
So what is the racing line?
When talking about racing lines, we are talking about the fastest line through a corner on any given race track. The line itself will be different from corner to corner due to the curvature of the corner, the width of the track and the severity of the turn, however, the method on how to take the line will always be the same.
There are four specific areas of understanding racing lines and learning these key points will help you to become a better racing driver no matter what level you compete at.
Step 1 Braking
The first thing to learn is the method of braking. When to break, how hard to apply the brakes and when to come off the brakes. These will all be determined by speed. Coming into a corner too fast can result in braking too hard which will result in the locking of the wheels which in turn will make you lose speed, position and precious seconds.
For maximum grip, the optimal time to break is in a straight line and coming off the pedal just before the turning in point of the corner. This is the purest way of starting the entry into the racing line. Some drives such as Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo who are known for their aggressive driving styles will use the late-braking technique for overtaking manoeuvres.
Step 2 Turn In Point
The next step is the turn-in point, this is the point at which you come off the brakes and turn in to the corner. The important thing when starting your entry is to have a visual of the Apex of the corner that you are aiming for. Turning in too early will allow for quicker entry speed however this will have a knock-on effect and will result in slower exit speed. Turning in too late will result in the loss of speed being maintained through the corner.
Step 3 Hitting the Apex
The most important part of the racing line is hitting the apex. But what is the apex? The apex is usually the geometric centre of the turn on any given corner at any given circuit. The clipping point as it is also known, allows the driver to take the straightest line whilst maintaining the highest speed through a corner.
The apex of a corner is easily recognisable as the majority of race tracks around the world will have a curb around the corner, these will usually be coloured making for an excellent visual aid. Once you have hit the apex, you are now in the perfect racing line, all is left is to begin the exit procedure.
Step 4 Exit Point
The exit point will start just after the apex has been clipped and you have started to reintroduce the throttle. At this point, you should start to steer towards the far side of the track and as you slowly straighten up you should commit to more throttle and power through the exit. If all steps have been done correctly, you have just driven the perfect racing line.
Differing Racing Lines
There are two types of the racing line, the slow line and the faster line, both of which are determined by the corner. The varying types of a corner will greatly impact the speed of which a driver can go through the optimal racing line. Slower lines will usually be found on corners such as hairpins where the driver will hug the apex a lot longer before the exit. The fast line can most often be found on more open corners with less curvature meaning less time on the brakes and quicker back onto the throttle.
So to summarise, there are 4 key points to remember, they are braking, turn in, apex and exit. If you can get all of these right and all at the same time then you have just mastered the art of the racing line.