How to Master Trail Braking
Everything you wanted to do know about trail braking, but were afraid to ask.
Trail braking occurs when you’re approaching a corner with ample speed and you brake aggressively in a straight line to slow the vehicle down. Once you reach a reasonable speed for the approaching corner, you look around the turn and ease off the brakes as you add steering.
In this video by Team O’Neil Rally School host Wyatt Knox shows the viewer the best techniques for mastering solid trail breaking. Trail braking is a balancing act of braking enough to weight the front and adding enough steering input, so the car directs safely. If you maintain full brake pressure when you turn, the car will understeer. If you release the brakes completely when you turn, the car will understeer as well. Drivers need to find the perfect ratio to make it around corners safely and effectively, without the need of oversteer.
Knox explains this clearly. And, as a bona fide pro, he shows us how to finding the perfect balance between stomping on the brake pedal and using enough braking. Obviously, this does requires practice. Braking hard and smooth and trail braking around the corner can be enhanced with more speed as you gain experience, which will change your braking points and eventually allow you to take a given corner far faster than before.
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Trail braking emphasizes how the brake use is for much more beyond slowing a car down. As per a famous Mario Andretti quote, he showed his amazement at how “drivers still think the brakes are for slowing the car down.” Braking can allow drivers to control the weight and pitch of their vehicle from front to rear, aiding when entering a corner. Just before the turn’s apex, the driver should be off the brakes, allowing the tires’ grip to utilize for cornering and without grip for de-acceleration.
Keep in mind, trail braking into all corners is not necessary. Trail braking is ideal for slower corners where drivers want to rotate their car before the apex, helping turn the car. Faster corners don’t require trail braking as much, with the driver typically coming off the brakes earlier, so there’s not too much grip transference to the front tires.
Have fun trying this out, and stay safe!