Is “Slow In, Fast Out” Actually Fast?

Posted on April 3, 2013

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Is Slow In, Fast Out Actually Fast?

By: Rob Oakman

Racing is full of adages  and sayings- some good, some crap – and people just love to throw them at you. “The way to make a million dollars in racing is to spend two”. “To finish first, first you must finish”. “Getting wrecked is half your fault because you know what can happen on a track, and you went out there anyway”. I like the last one personally, Ken Schrader said it,  but the one we are interested in today is the one that drivers like to use so they sound like Racers, “Slow In, Fast Out”.

Storming turn 1 in Australia
( courtesy of indianf1.com )

“But, its true isn’t it?” I can hear people ask. No. It isn’t…sort of. The idea behind “Slow in, Fast out” is that by slowing a bit more on entry you can make a perfect apex and get back to the throttle sooner, and by getting to the throttle sooner you make up the time you gave up during entry and then some. This is only true under one (or both) of two conditions:

a: You are a driver that doesn’t grasp that if you enter the corner too fast you’ll miss your apex and end up way off on your exit. In this case someone is trying to teach you that your brakes can make you faster; not to mention that your tires are now scrubbing off the extra energy your brakes should have so they overheat, wear out quicker, and begin to suck faster.

b: You think that brakes are just for slowing the chassis down (This is taken from a quote by Mario Andretti and was the subject of the last article “Braking and Turn-In”).

I’m going to throw one more at you. “The faster you go, the faster you eat up distance”. This is no mere adage or saying, this is one hundred percent true, and one of the most obvious things in racing. It is also why Slow…anywhere…is not the way to go.

When you approach the corner you want to get on the brakes as late as you can and slow down as quickly as possible until you reach your release point (When you get off the brakes fully). This increases your average speed because you are going faster for a longer period of time and slower for less. This is why the braking power of an F1 car is…well…so powerful; to take full advantage of the higher average speed that late braking affords. By slowing down early you cost yourself time and you largely diminish your ability to use your brakes to turn your chassis in the corner. Remember that when you release your brakes is dependent on how your chassis is handling and how you like to drive it. It isn’t always the slowest part of the corner like some people say. If you are running anywhere near the limit than no amount of throttle will make up for early braking because you still can’t accelerate until after your apex.

Lewis Hamilton following a crash during practice in Bahrain

Don’t worry Lewis. Mario Andretti is proud of you.
( courtesy of the guardian.co.uk )

Of course it’s easy to overdo your braking. You can usually tell if you have or not by the amount of damage you have done to your chassis and the wall you ran into. Mario Andretti once said that “If you don’t come walking back to the pits every once in a while holding a steering wheel in your hands,  you’re not trying hard enough” so don’t get discouraged when it happens to you. There is a balance you must find between waiting too late and braking too early and that means pushing the limits of you and the chassis. A good indication you are getting close to that long lonely walk back is if you are locking up. Conversely though, if you never have to make a steering correction or you find you can easily get back to the throttle well before the apex (And you’re not using the “Power Through” technique) than you are braking too early. Knowing when you have it right is a matter of feel that you develop in time and is judged, as always, by the stopwatch at the beginning, middle, and end of a run.

There is a technique in Karting where you use enough brake to slow the rear axle down so that the tires are dragging but not enough to lock them up. This gives you the ability to enter the corner loose while keeping the angular momentum (The way a spinning wheel wants to stay straight) that keeps you stable and in control of which direction the chassis will go. This will work in any type of car or bike really but the problem is that in a heavier car, or when you are on soft compound, the amount of heat and wear this generates in the tires is very high.

The balance in choosing a braking point is mainly affected by grip, braking power, wear, temperature, and talent. Low grip and braking power make the braking point early because you have low grip or low braking power (duh). Temp is important to keep a feel for because – unless you are driving an F1 car – it is easy to overheat brakes; particularly if they are steel. Do this and what ever time you made up by late braking you will quickly loose when you have no brakes left. Wear is a problem in some classes of racing. If this is true for you than you have to balance your braking with either your pit strategy or by race length. You can loose a lot of time changing pads so you have to compare the time it takes to do that versus the time you can make up on track. If you only have a limited life on your parts and pit stops are not a reasonable option (Or are not required by length) than you have to be sure you don’t overuse them so they can reach the end of your race. It is tricky to balance aggression with wear but it is a must in endurance racing and anywhere that brakes are heavily used. Chassis set-up makes a huge difference here as well. The better you’re handling the less brakes you need to use. Talent is something that takes a bit more time to work on. Only practice, testing, and coaching can fix talent. I fear that Wally’s are hopeless.

So as you begin this season and you start working on your skill set remember that adages and sayings are a “mixed bag” to be taken with a “grain of salt” and that “early birds catch things” while “grasshoppers starve in winter” for some reason…or are some of those metaphors??? The point is that braking can make up a lot of time both before the corner, by waiting as long as you reasonably can before you use them, and in the corner, as a means of making the chassis do what you want it to instead of what it wants to do.

Gil giving it all he's got...and then some.

Gil giving it all he’s got…and then some.

“If you want the most out of your chassis you have to take it, because it sure as hell won’t give it to you without a fight.” (My contribution)

I’m going to save the section on braking to make a pass for later articles on Passing techniques. Instead, next time I’m going to get you through the apex and out onto the straight again.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to send them along below and follow OakmanOnRacing.

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Posted in: How to Race