number one job as driver? Power
transfers weight back, off the steering
wheel. But if you spin the rear tires
a little, so they slide more than the
lightened front, you can rotate the car.
Of course, you’ll be sliding the front
and sliding the rear simultaneously,
what circle track southerners call
“bound up.” Fun to watch from a safe
distance, yes, but tricky to control,
and a surefire recipe for hot, greasy
tires and losing positions late in a race,
‘cause you’re burning up your rears.
Why you’ll need to change your
setup: Trail braking makes your car
turn better. Most humans do not do
this by nature. It feels kind of weird,
in fact. So if you have not been
doing it, braking only in a straight
line, you’ve been going to the gas
too early while you still need to turn,
thus the front tires are unloaded and
your car understeers, so you add
rear bar and spring and whatever
to balance it while turning. It’s all
good until you reach your apex and
roll on the torque. Now what?
Your neutral, balanced car now
receives more load and power to
it’s rear wheels, overloading them
and giving you glorious but slow
power slides that challenge your car
control skills but look great in photos.
Because your chassis is set up with
too much oversteer, the rear tires are
easily overloaded, especially as the
stint wears on, and you slide around
blaming the track for getting greasy.
Well, it’s your fault, straight-line braker.
In my Motor Trend track testing
of new cars, I’ve gained a reputation
with the manufacturers as one who
hates oversteer. This is partially true.
I hate turn-in oversteer in rear-drive
cars, for all the reasons above. I trail
brake, and I leave the weight up front
until I’m aimed at the apex. If a car is
too loose too soon (most Corvettes
and Miatas, any Viper but the terrific
ACR, most Jaguars), I have to power
too early to move weight back to
control the rear grip, and the perfect
smoothness of the friction circle at
the limit of tire adhesion cannot be
achieved. Plus, I don’t want to spin
it, so I slow my entry speed. Yuck.
If a racer has dialed in a little
understeer, about a one or two on
a scale of 10, the car can enter a
turn with prodigious speed, but still
OFF THE GAS
From Vipers to
Miatas, trail braking
is an art that can
take years to perfect.
Getting it right,
however, can give
you the edge you
need to get out front.
HOW’S YOUR BACK?
Be it incomplete evolution – or slightly less intelligent
design – the fact is that the human back is not well
engineered for upright posture. Or maybe mine just isn’t.
My right foot used to go numb in long races, and my
back would spasm regularly with great pain. It would, that
is, until I added strong lower lumber support to my race
seats, right at the bottom. Especially Recaros, with their
pronounced mid-back hump. I’d grab a rolled-up bath
towel or a half roll of those blue paper ones, or make one
from dense seat padding. Changed my world. Try it!
slowing down. That’s my number
one speed secret. Enter corners
amazingly fast, but still slowing down.
You now know why? It keeps load on
the front, gravity-fed downforce of
a sort, improving your turning until
your weapon of choice is starting
to point down the next straight,
so you can then squeeze into the
horsepower as you unwind the wheel.
This power moves that weight
back to the rear meats, but the
understeer keeps some load in the
front so the rears don’t overload
so easily. Ah, so beautiful!