Why you need to trail the brakes
Trail Braking Techniques in Simracing: How Popometer.io Can Help You Master Them
Trail braking is a technique used by many successful simracers to shave off precious seconds from your lap times. By using the brakes to shift weight and aerodynamic balance around the car deliberately, drivers can optimize their entry speed into a corner and maintain higher speed throughout the turn. However, mastering this technique requires a thorough understanding of how braking affects a aero dependent GT3 race car, as well as plenty of practice and analysis of telemetry data. This is where Popometer.io comes in.
Impact of Braking on a GT3 Race Car
Braking is much more than just a tool for slowing down a GT3 race car. In fact, it is a key means of shifting weight and aerodynamic balance around the car to optimize performance. When braking, weight is shifted to the front of the car, increasing grip on the front tires and reducing grip on the rear tires. This allows for more precise steering and better turn-in, but also requires careful management to avoid losing control of the car.
Additionally, braking at the same time alters the aerodynamic balance of the car. The amount of braking into a corner influences how much the car pitches forward. The more a car pitches forward, the more downforce (as a rule of thumb) it generates on the front and the less it generates on the rear. Drivers can exploit that deliberately by inducing oversteer and rotate the car into a corner. The higher the speed, the more delicate this becomes - so be careful.
This is where the car setup plays a big role: By setting up the ride heights, springs and bump stops you can control where in the aero map the rear and front end of the car "sit" during the braking phase. Aero maps in ACC are not linear. Some cars will generate more downforce on the front with a pitching car, until you pitch too much and actually lose downforce again. However, this can be desired as the rear end becomes very lose and having less downforce on the front might actually help keep the car stable until the brakes are released and the front raises back right into the peak downforce window. The Porsche 992 GT3R is a perfect example of that and setups with large front bump stop range show this effect.
In slower corners the mechanical effects of trail braking will outweigh the aerodynamic impact. Shifting the weight forward is good to load up the fronts, but you can also easily overload them as you start turning for the corner. It's important to only use as much grip as the tire can offer, excessive combined steering and braking will easily lock up the tires. Here trail braking falls in line with increasing turning angle, always staying and the combined maximum grip of the tire.
Additionally going of the brakes more slowly will allow the rear to settle more predictably and build grip as you enter the turn. Releasing the brake too quickly can lead to the rear not being "ready" while the front tires already change directly aggressively - leading to the rear snapping on entry.
Trail Braking Techniques
Trail braking is a technique that involves using the brakes later and longer into a corner, with the aim of maintaining higher speed throughout the turn. This technique allows for a smoother and more controlled entry into the corner, as well as better traction and acceleration out of the turn, because of more rotation being done during the slowing down phase into the corner and that subsequently leads to a more straight car on the exit, requiring less rotation to be done under acceleration and thus converting more throttle into actual speed.
To successfully execute trail braking, drivers must carefully manage the weight transfer and aerodynamic balance of the car. This requires a thorough understanding of the impact of braking on the car, as well as plenty of practice and analysis of telemetry data to fine-tune technique and car setup.
How Popometer.io Can Help
Popometer.io can provide valuable insights into how drivers can improve your trail braking technique through the analysis of telemetry data. By comparing your driving inputs and lap times to those of professional simracers, drivers can identify areas for improvement and adjust your technique and car setup accordingly.
For example, by analyzing telemetry data, drivers can see how your braking inputs affect weight transfer and aerodynamic balance, and adjust your technique to optimize performance. They can also experiment with different car setups, such as brake bias and aerodynamic settings, to find the optimal setup for your driving style and the specific track conditions.
In the below image the driver is trailing into turn 1 on Valencia. A high speed corner with more than 160 kph through the apex.
During the initial hard braking you can see the driver countersteering to balance the lose rear end after a tiny initial turn in movement. Now the trail braking starts to slowly shift the weight back to the rear, let the front rise and balance the downforce between front and rear end on the brake pedal to keep the car rotating. You can see the steering increasing and holding several times in this phase, as the driver is "testing" how willing the car responds to the inputs.
Only as the brake is fully released the driver reaches maximum steering angle for the turn, requesting all the grip from the front tire when the rear is planted again.
Trail braking is a powerful technique that can help simracers achieve faster lap times and better overall performance on the track. However, mastering this technique requires a thorough understanding of how braking affects a GT3 race car, as well as plenty of practice and analysis of telemetry data. With the help of Popometer.io, simracers can fine-tune your trail braking technique and optimize your car setup to achieve optimal performance on the track.