How to Approach a Race Track’s Three Types of Corners
A race driver’s main objective is to complete a lap or race distance in the shortest amount of time.
On most race tracks, the amount of time that you spend on the straights, at full throttle, is significantly more than the time that you spend in the corners.
Consequently, there is more time to be gained or lost on the straights versus in the corners. So, a driver’s objective is to spend as little time as possible on the straights.
With that setup, let’s review the different types of corners you’ll encounter and how you should approach them.
The first is “Type A” corners. These are corners that lead directly onto straightaways, and as such, these are the most important corners on a race track. Top drivers will give a Type A corner the highest priority as that is the corner that leads onto the longest straight. The objective is not to take the corner as quickly as possible, but rather, it is to maximize your exit speed coming out of the corner onto the straight. The classic approach would be slow in, fast out. Get the race car slowed and stabilized, then turned in with a late apex and back to power as soon as possible to maximize exit speed. Drivers having to lift off the throttle after initial power application, undoubtedly went into the corner too quick or too deep, and will need to make an adjustment by scrubbing off more speed prior to that turn on the next lap.
The second is “Type B” corners. These are the corners that you encounter at the end of the straightaways.
The objective of successfully navigating Type B corners is to maximize the top speed at the end of the straight, and then to apply the brakes as late as possible. As your exit speed out of a Type B corner is not the priority, a driver’s speed at corner entry can be higher resulting in an earlier apex.
The third is “Type C” corners. These are the other corners found between corners, and usually between a Type A corner and a Type B corner.
These corners, although important, are the lowest priority of the three types of corners. The objective with these is to maximize exit speed out of the subsequent Type A corner, and as your second priority, you’ll want to maximize entry speed from the preceding Type C turn. Cornering speed and the driving line will be compromised on the Type C turns as a result.
When you have a corner that could be considered either a Type A or a Type B corner, you should treat it as a Type A corner. This would be a corner between two straightaways, where your exit speed takes priority over late braking into that corner. You might gain a little under the brakes but at the risk of losing much more lap time leading onto the following straightaway.
Your philosophy should almost always be to maximize your corner exit speed even for very short straights, but with all tracks, there are always exceptions.
It is highly recommended that you do a comprehensive track walk prior to heading out on track with your race car. This helps you to learn key points on the race track, identify those zones where you can risk a little bit more, and get an idea of the ideal driving line. Bear in mind that the driving line may not always be where the rubber is. Many times, the rubber is laid down by drivers that are off-line and have to put more steering input to save themselves. Make sure you analyze how and why that rubber got there.
Whenever there is doubt on how to attack a corner, it is recommended that you walk that corner backwards. Start from where it is you expect your car to be at the exit of the corner and then determine where you should be placing your car in mid-corner and again at corner entry.
Make sure that you learn how to identify these corners, break the race track down into sections, prioritize the corners by their relationship to the straightaways, and of course, practice.