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iRacing Driving School Chapter 3A: Fundamentals of the Racing Line & Cornering


Every racetrack that you encounter, both in the sim and in real life, will be comprised of a series of straightaways linked by a series of corners. Well it makes sense, right? You've got to turn at some point. Your job as a driver is to make use of all the available pavement on a racetrack in order to find the optimal path or line. A line that allows you to optimise the cars handling abilities and carry maximum speed through every corner and onto every straight.

The rewards for mastering the line in conjunction with your other driving skillsets are faster laps times and hopefully race wins. Also keep in mind whether you are racing on an oval or a road course these basic principles still hold true.

So, we are now going to take a closer look at how to find the best racing line as well as the proper techniques for cornering. Although you will find that not all corners are created equal lets take a moment to discuss some terminoligy that we'll be using to break down a corner.

First is turn in, or the initial point on the track at which the driver turns the steering wheel to guide the car into the corner. The turn in point varies from corner to corner but it's vital because it adjusts the trajectory of the car to guide it to the next important target the apex.

The apex is the term used for the inside edge or bottom of the corner that you are negotiating. The apex is the heart of the racing line and accuracy is important you want to be within inches of the apex of each corner every lap.

The final portion of the corner is the trackout or the last possible piece of asphalt at the edge of the track as you exit the corner. This is the easy part because if you have executed the turn in and apex correctly the car will naturally want to travel to the track-out.

The reason that these three turns are so important is because when driving through a corner if we accurately place the vehicle next to each of these three points we will be travelling on the largest possible radius through that corner this is vital because the larger the radius the higher the speed we can carry through a given corner.

But there is a lot of maths in finding the radius. Let's clarify the raduis equals speed equation in basic terms. If you could take a car onto a large open parcel of pavement, turn the steering wheel a quater of a turn or forty five degrees and start driving on that constant radius you would eventually reach a maximum speed based on the grip available from the tyres on that vehicle. Holding on that same radius any efforts to increase your speed would either create understeer or oversteer, most likely understeer as the increased lateral forces cause the vehicle to overstep its grip threshold.

Now if your were to reduce your steering angle by as little as five or ten degrees changing trajectory to a larger radius you would note the the vehicle would be able to travel at a higher speed. This is the principle that we have to apply at every corner. It's important to use all available pavement to create the largest possible radius for maximum speed through the corner.

You'll note in this diagram that three separate radii have been outlined. The first and most common misconception is the fastest route through a given corner is the shortest route meaning hugging the corner. Although that minimizes the amount of real estate that has to be covered you can see that if forces the vehicle to travel on the smallest radius and this at the limit carry the lowest speed through the corner. Another radius as you can see would be to drive the vehicle around the outside of the corner. While this does give you a larger radius and more speed it is again not the optimum method for getting around the corner.

Now if we apply our turn in, apex, track-out model you'll see that the radius created is simply more efficient than the other two. A higher rate of speed is carried through the corner and our track-out speed is optimum.

Showing all three lines taken at the same time, you'll see that, finding the right turn in, apex and track-out is the fastest way to get through a corner.

Next we're going to discuss different corner types.

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