Free shipping when you spend $500+

Track Your OrderNeed Help? Call Us: 918-512-1281

Free shipping when you spend $500+

Brakes Feet

Developing a Brake Technique for Road Racing

Braking Is a Critical Aspect of Speed

For most drivers, brake technique is one of the last skills we develop. Many newer drivers first work on finding the fastest line, then work on throttle application. Even seasoned drivers at a newer track will spend early test sessions learning the line. Its counter intuitive, but speed can be found under the brakes. And drivers at a new track who are able to develop brake technique quickly will find speed quickly.  It is a skill that separates the great drivers from the good drivers!


In a typical corner we will spend maybe 3-5 seconds under brakes. Yet, in this short amount of time we dissipate more energy and generate more G forces on the car than we do under throttle or cornering. All that kinetic energy we’ve built up under throttle from the previous corner exit to the current brake zone has to go somewhere. This energy is dissipated into the brake and suspension components as heat, and into the chassis and ourselves as G forces. Learning how to dissipate this energy in a controlled manner will us to keep the car balanced so we can get the most from the tires available grip.


Why Do We Use the Brakes?

We use the brakes not to slow the car, but to select a speed with which to negotiate the corner. If we don’t use the brakes and try and turn the car, the car won’t turn. We use the brakes to select a speed to negotiate the corner. We select a speed so that we can remove enough energy from the car so that the tires will have some lateral grip available so that we can negotiate the corner.


Brakes, and thinking about brake technique, needs to be a part of what we do on track and part of our plan each session. And not thought of as something we HAVE TO DO that takes away from throttle time.


Visualization for Brakes

BrakePressureDataTrace revised cropped


The plot provided is a graphical representation of what we would see if we did a data capture of brake pressure in a standard lower speed corner requiring at least two downshifts using a data acquisition system.


We have initial brake application following release of the throttle. A rapid rise to maximum pressure with a period of threshold braking. Then the release of the brakes.


Initial Brake Application

Initial brake application follows the release of the throttle. When we release the throttle, it needs to be an immediate and fast as possible release of the throttle.


When we apply brake pressure it needs to be smooth, quick and deliberate. We don’t want to “romp” on the brakes. Rather we firmly, yet deliberately, apply the brakes. We are seeking a quick build to maximum pressure. We also don’t want to “ramp up” to maximum. It needs to be quick, yet deliberate. Think smooth.


What we seek is a build to maximum pressure where we exceed the rotational limit of the tires. We don’t want to lock the tires, rather we seek a gentle, quick, build. Don’t worry this skill takes time to learn and develop. This is called threshold braking. More on rotational limit of the tires in a moment.



Threshold Braking

The key to fast lap times is maximum time on throttle, and minimum time on brakes. Rather, enough time on brakes so that we can remove energy from the car enabling us to get back to throttle. In order to do this we need to learn Threshold Braking.


Threshold braking is when we’ve exceeded the rotational limits of the tires. Not exceeded such that we get tire “lock up”, but rather a graceful exceeding of these limits. This is one of the first key skills to learn and develop on brakes! What we seek is about 3-10% of longitudinal slip. What this means is if the car is going 100mph, the tires are rotating at say 97mph. This would be 3% of longitudinal slip. 7% of longitudinal slip would be the car going 100mph the tires rotating at 93mph, and so on. We can sense this in our butt in the seat as the car under us will attain a little wiggle. This is good.


Longitudinal slip is very similar to the lateral slip we experience while cornering as we sense understeer and oversteer, except in the longitudinal direction.


This takes time to develop. And Yes, confidence in ourselves and the tires available grip. We don’t jump right to this. Rather we creep up to it. Little by little. Braking slightly later each lap.



Release of Brakes

The Release of the Brakes is the second key skill to develop! This is the area where great drivers begin to separate from the good drivers!


Shift In Mental Focus

This is a good segue to thinking about the brake zone differently. If you’re brand new to track driving, or maybe have a few seasons under your belt, your focus has probably been on the beginning of the brake zone, or the initial brake point. That is those little markers on the side of the track counting down from 5-4-3-2-1. Your focus has been on at which marker do I release the throttle and begin brake application?


Here’s where I want to offer a different way to think about the brake zone and a skill and thought process that we can begin to develop.


Focus On the End of the Brake Zone. Not the Beginning of the Brake Zone

The focus here is on the release of the brakes, and specifically the last 10% of braking. This is where we setup the car for the most crucial part of the corner sequence, corner entry. Everything else in the corner sequence (maintenance throttle and exit) starts and ends with corner entry. We get corner entry correct, the rest of the corner is cake.


Corner entry begins when we have removed enough energy from the car so that we have some lateral grip available from the tires. We did this in the Initial Brake Application, and specifically the Threshold Braking phases. (Again, for a car with a given setup (tire/pad combination, camber, static weight, etc.) Threshold Braking means we could not have applied any more brake pressure without locking the tires).


Be Hypersensitive in This Zone

As you release the brakes and begin turn-in be hypersensitive here. Make an effort to consciously focus on what your senses are telling you: your butt, your hands on the steering and your eyes. Make mental notes so next lap at this corner you can let your brain go to work and develop a plan for the next lap.


As you turn the steering wheel are you getting understeer? If getting understeer, and you’ve threshold braked, then you have too much energy yet in the car and coming in too hot. Try backing up your initial brake point a heartbeat earlier. If you are getting oversteer as you turn the steering wheel, then you may have too much brake pressure yet on the rear tires. Try and trail brake a bit less next lap and come of the brakes (release the brakes) sooner or more rapidly.



Trail braking

Many track driving schools teach to get your braking done in a straight-line then turn-in.  They teach this because it is safe. But if you have any kind of real track experience under your belt you’ve probably been trail braking and not known it.


Trail braking simply means you still have some brake pressure applied as you begin to turn the steering wheel for turn-in.


The best wat to think of trail braking and how to do it properly is imagine a string is attached from your steering wheel to the brake pedal. The timing and rate of release of the brakes should match the input at the steering wheel. As your foot begins to come of the brake pedal you should be turning the steering wheel, and at the same rate you are releasing the brakes.. Like wise, as you begin to turn the steering wheel you feet should already be coming off the brakes, and at the same rate you are turning the steering wheel. This is a skill to develop (it takes time and being sensitive) and will differ slightly from corner to corner.


Some corners are slightly uphill requiring a slightly longer hold on the brakes. Some corners are downhill requiring a sooner and more rapid rate of release of the brakes. In an uphill corner (like turn 6 at Mid-Ohio heading to the old Honda Bridge) the front suspension is compressed coming off the downhill turn 5 and the entry of turn 6 is slightly uphill. With the front suspension already compressed coming off the brakes too soon here will cause the front suspension to “jump” causing understeer. Releasing the brakes here a heartbeat slower will help keep load on the front tires helping front grip.


Another example is turns 5 and 6 at Gingerman. Turns 5 and 6 look like a typical double apex corner or “diamond” corner. Many drivers will clip the apex of 5, then brake and turn between 5 and 6 clipping the apex of 6 before applying throttle to the exit of 6. I have an NA Miata and like to carry more speed through this corner. I’ll enter 5 maybe a half a car width off the apex, apply a dab of throttle mid-corner then use trail braking to help the car rotate to clip the apex of 6 before applying throttle to the exit of 6. A few tenths can be gained here.


Experiment With the Brakes

After having nailed the overall line of the track. and we are now consciously focused on the release of the brakes we can begin to experiment in the brake zone. Make this a focus of a session. Pick one or two corners. Don’t do too much.


Allow your senses (butt (sensing longitudinal and lateral slip), hands (with power steering disabled you sense understeer and oversteer) and eyes (where is the car going)) to do the work. After threshold braking we seek a smooth release of the brakes, the car “takes a set” on turn-in, the car feels neutral on turn-in and mid-corner (maintenance throttle). Your feedback is pretty instant that you did things right. Are your engine rpms higher at the exit, are you WOT (Wide Open Throttle) sooner in the corner, and are you up shifting sooner heading to your next brake zone? Make mental notes on what you did. If it felt right, repeat what you did next lap. Use the above information provided, if you need to make corrections. Seat time (experience) will help you find these limits sooner.


The great drivers are able to repeat this consistently. See previous content on “desire, discipline and determination”.


Skills for a High Speed Corner

The skills discussed above are for a typically lower speed corner requiring maybe two downshifts.  Higher speed corners (like turn 1 at Mid-Ohio) that may be more aero-sensitive require a different approach to the brakes, which can be a piece of content in itself. In these corners we want a lighter touch on the brakes. Many call it “brushing” the brakes. Think of painting and laying down a light brushstroke. Here we just want to bleed a bit of speed, get some subtle weight transfer to the front to get the front tires to “bite” to clip the apex. Don’t “tap”. Think “brushing” like a light brushstroke in painting.


Walk The Track


Lastly, a skill which is more “old school”, OG, but can help us piece all this together, is to walk the track. This really helps you to see the track, see deformities in the track surface, uphill and downhill sections and touch the surface. Your brain will use all this information. If you get to the track early in the weekend you can take an evening and walk the track when its cold “no cars on track”. Or on a Saturday evening after awards and banquet. It takes just over an hour to walk Mid-Ohio for instance. I walked Hallett (our home track) in the clockwise direction and was able to see slight uphill and downhill sections in the brake zone. Take a track map with you. Take notes on it and use these notes to develop a plan for your next session.


I recommend actually walking. Some guys will use bikes or golf carts. But walking forces you to slow everything down and you can easily touch the surface. As you walk the track you can also turn around periodically which helps you to see the track from another perspective.


Lastly, have fun! Motorsports is fun!





Call To Grid was created to serve the grassroots racer! We offer only the most premier brands for the driver, car, and shop to help keep you safe, looking good and on the podium! We develop original content to help you and the car find speed! We know why you race; it’s the desire, discipline and determination required to do something well. It’s the camaraderie you experience at the track with people who share this passion of motorsports! Join us at Call to Grid to join the community of passionate drivers like yourself today!