If you’re cruising around at a track day or competing against other drivers on a racing simulator and realise that you’re significantly slower than the other people driving the exact same equipment, I’ve got some bad news: you aren’t cornering fast enough.
Taking a corner seems like a pretty straightforward manoeuvre, but as we’re going to learn from Driving instructor Scott Mansell at Driver61 today, it’s the biggest problem that impacts drivers’ lap times. If you want to go faster, you have to corner better.
Mansell outlines the components of this problem:
If you’re dropping the ball when it comes to cornering, the problem manifests itself in several ways. If you hit the brakes too many times or jerk the wheel on entering a corner, the car’s weight distribution will be all off and it’ll feel super unstable, which is not good for developing the confidence necessary to go fast. Instead of a smooth turn, you’re flailing around dealing with tons of different inputs, and everything feels very bad indeed.
That’s step one. It is relatively basic physics: you want to eliminate all possible variables. No brake modulation, no fluctuating grip. When you’re mastering this technique, you don’t even want to go fast! Take it nice and easy, go slow, and understand what it feels like to properly enter and exit a corner.
Only then can you move on to Mansell’s other tips, like consciously setting incremental goals for improvement by using the same braking reference point, looking through a corner to prepare for the approaching bit of track, and avoiding over- or understeer. But you can only start tackling those next steps if you’ve mastered the first one; you can’t spell words until you learn your ABCs.
One of the biggest things that helps me when I’m struggling at a track day is relaxation. It sounds silly, but I’m a supremely nervous driver even when I’m setting laps on a simulator, and if you’re riddled with anxiety, you’re not functioning at your best.
An article in the Universal Journal of Psychology lays out some of the problems: anxiety causes your brain to process tons of false threats that have nothing to do with the actual information of the situation, it gets your muscles all tensed up which limits range of motion and reaction, and it skews your perception of performance. Basically, you shut out the big, wide world around you and instead panic over a very narrow field of perception—all things that are the direct antithesis to driving well! Confidence in yourself and your car are crucial to a faster corner entry, but sometimes you also need to remember that chilling the fuck out before you strap on your helmet is the best thing you can do.