How to Late Brake Part 3: Defending

Posted on October 11, 2014

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How to Late Brake Part 3

Defending

By: Rob Oakman

No one likes being passed… ever.  So how do you stop that from happening?

You won’t always be the fastest person on any given raceday day. Even if you are drafting means that other racers can hang on behind you. If you like staying ahead then you need to learn how to defend your position. Defending a late braking pass obviously depends on the corner that you’re in, but generally speaking there are four main ways. The first is the most obvious. Out-brake ’em back.

1. Defend by Out-Braking

1991 BTCC championship.  Photo courtesy of speedhunters.com

1991 BTCC championship.
Photo courtesy of speedhunters.com

Out-braking someone that has set you up is hard to do but not impossible. Often, when the track is slick, or the other racer’s chassis isn’t working well, they haven’t gotten far enough up beside you, or they lack confidence, you can run harder into the corner than they can and take the inside line back.

What you are doing is controling their line from entry to apex so they have to give up their attempt. When someone is trying to out-brake you and they are not as close as they would like, they will have to focus on you and wait for you to give them the line. If you don’t they have to decide if they wan’t to risk a crash or wait and try again. I say make them wait.

When you enter the corner you will see in your mirrors or your peripheral vision that someone is making a move on you. Track the other racer’s front end as you enter the braking zone and judge if they are gaining ground. If they are less than half way up on you as you as you reach the end of the braking zone then you have a chance of holding them off. Brake as late as you can and as hard as you have to to keep them from passing you. Next you need to turn in as close to your normal line as possible and force the other racer to run your line. The reason is that you want to make the corner entry as sharp as possible for the other racer and make them back off.  Trail braking is key. Adjust your brake pressure to keep the other racer from getting further up on you as you turn in and begin to run a normal line. Remember to be watching the other racer to see if they are trying to stick the pass. If they are adjust your line by easing your turn very gently so that you are still coming down in a proper racing line but your apex is just a bit later. If they see you ease up too much they will recognize that you are watching them and they won`t back off. Only adjust your line enough so as not to hit them. As you approach the apex keep in tight enough to show that the line is yours. When they see that you are coming down and they don`t have position they should back off.  Then you take the line, hit the go-pedal and run your line out of the corner.

There are a few problems with this method.

A. It entirely depends on the other racers position and speed.

B. You are relying on someone else to decide they can’t pass you. This is giving up control and we don’t like that.

C. You are on the outside so if there is contact you are more likely to end up off track or in the wall than they are.

Most of the time you will use this when someone has tried to out-brake you from too far back and couldn’t get up beside you by the time you reach the corner. Only in rare cases will this work when someone is clearly beside you but, it is not impossible. I have used this about a dozen times or so in my 20 odd years racing when someone had a good run on me. Rare as the circumstances may be this can be an effective way to defend your position so keep it in your tool box.

The second method is an extension of the first method. It is also a bit riskier but far more likely to happen. Method two is to kill the other racers momentum.

2. Defend by Killing Their Momentum

Plato and Muller fight it out in the BTCC. Photo courtesy of taringa.net

Plato and Muller fight it out in the BTCC.
Photo courtesy of taringa.net

When a racer is clearly beside you and you can’t out-brake them how can you stop them completing the pass? kill their momentum by taking away their ability to run the line they want.

What you are trying to accomplish here is to keep the other racer from getting to the throttle when they want to by blocking their natural line from the apex to turn out. A normal racing line is the old outside, inside, outside (turn-in, apex, exit). Acceleration normally happens around the apex or inside point of the corner heading to the exit. By staying on the other racers outside and keeping them pinched down you have effectively tightened the corner for them extending their braking zone and delaying when they can get to the throttle. They can’t accelerate quickly and drive past you.

If the other racer gets beside you and has the inside line it is possible to control them by staying outside all the way through the corner. This is just like defending by Out-Braking except you don’t have the ability to take the bottom line away. You break as late as possible to hold your position beside them and turn-in as close to the normal line as possible. This will force them to follow your line and not the one they want to run. This makes the corner sharper for them so they have to brake longer. You will be trail braking as hard as you can on the outside while keeping your chassis as close to the other racers as you can. Pinch them down. You need to carry a lot of speed out there and hold the other racer down at the apex while getting to the throttle as soon as possible. Stay beside them and keep them low on exit to restrict their ability to drive out of the corner. You are carrying more speed, more speed means you have the ability to drive ahead on the next straight, or at least give you the edge in the next corner.

Always remember that if the other racer is more than half way beside you then they have a better chance of controling your line than you do of theirs. If they are half way beside you or less then they are more likely to give in when you try to control their line. This is where knowing the other racer is critical. You need to get a feel for their on-track personality either by watching in practice, during the race, or from previos race experience. Some timid racers will back off even if they are slightly ahead of you while other racers will press the pass even if they only have an inch up on your bumper. Racing personalities will be the subject of another article soon (Link here when available) but just remember that a racers off-track personality has nothing to do with who they are on track.

The obvious problem with staying on the outside is that you have to have grip  in order for it to work. A bit of dirt or debris buildup will kill any chance you have of holding the line. You also run the risk of the other racer running you off the track on exit. The general rule is that if the passing racer is more than half way past you then you should give way. The reason is that the racer on the inside can claim that they couldn’t see you anymore. This is obviously silly nonsense that for some reason everyone gets away with, but it is the way it is. So don’t try to stay beside someone on exit if you are on the outside and your front tire is at their back tire because you are just going to lose the position and get run off track. But if you have the grip and position, this can keep you ahead.

A modified and more agressive version of this and the out-braking move I often see is to pull down a lane as the other racer first gets underneath you. These drivers are tring to force the other racer to change lines at the last second causing them to brake and turn sooner, thus breaking their momentum. Changing lines like this can be demed as a block and is a great way to anger other racers so don’t be Wally and try this. Instead try the third and coolist way to defend a position and make other people look like amatures. The Crossover.

3: Defend with a Crossover

ECKC DD2  (Photo courtesy Cody Schindel INTL-KartingMedia.com)

ECKC DD2
(Photo courtesy Cody Schindel INTL-KartingMedia.com)

A crossover is just a modified late-apex corner that can be used almost any time someone is trying to pass you in a corner. It is modified from a regular late-apex in that you are crossing another racer’s line inches from their bumper at apex and passing underneith them on exit.

This is done by allowing the person passing you on the inside…to pass you. Yep. Sounds nuts, but this is the trick. Because they are braking as hard as possible and entering the corner a lane below you, they have to turn at a sharper angle and apex early. This means that they are going to wash out – slide out wide on the exit. Because they are apexing early and exiting wide, all you have to do is enter wide, apex late and drive back underneith them.

What you do to make a crossover work is set up for a late apex by braking a bit late. Once you are about half way into the braking zone the other racer will be fully comitted and will not be able to abort their pass or change their line. Stay on the far outside and wait until they turn in. This next part is all about timing. The other racer will clear you pretty quickly because they are covering less distance on entry. You need to time your turn-in so that you are hitting your apex after the other racer has already hit theirs and cleared the bottom lane. Practice is the only way to learn the timing involved and what that looks like.

Now because the sharpest part of a Late-apex is at turn-in this is your slowest point. You can get to the throttle well before the apex and will already be accelerating when the other racer is just getting to their apex. As they slide out from the bottom line you will pull underneith them and hit your late apex. As they get to the gas you are already coming up beside them at full throttle with momentem on your side, the inside line, and the clean track ahead. If you do this right you will end up back in front of the other racer as you exit the corner. At worse you’ll be able to pull up beside them which gives you options for getting the position back in the next corner or straight.

The common mistakes people make with crossover moves are about timing. Because of the very real risk of a collision this need practice. Remember not to fixate on the other racer. You are still racing the track so don’t ignore what is ahead. You may pull off a great move only to plow into a wreck you didn’t notice. Also don’t brake early to let the other racer ahead before the corner because all you have done is give your next move away. Defending against a crossover is done very easily which I will explain below. Also, don’t try to out-brake them or they will still be beside you when you want to turn-in. Just brake a bit late and watch their line. Don’t try to pinch them down on entry either. Even if they are right up against you in the braking zone the crossover will work.

I said that it is easy to defend a crossover if you know it is coming. Here’s how. Hit the brakes for a split second at the apex. This is called Short Braking. If the person ahead brakes through the apex they will still be on the bottom of the track when you are trying to get below them. This means you either have to hit the brakes yourself to avoid running into them  – thus killing the momentum you need to pass them – or you will hit them, which accomplishes the same thing and may result in damage or a penalty. Make it a general rule that you do not want anyone to know what you are going to do until it is too late for them to do anything about it. Life behind the wheel works much better that way. This brings us to the fourth way to defend your position which is probably the most effective and yet the most costly too. Stop them from getting below you in the first place by driving a Defensive line.

4: Running a Defensive Line

Gilles Villeneuve in the 1981 Spanish GP. Photo courtesy of richardsf1.com

Gilles Villeneuve in the 1981 Spanish GP.
Photo courtesy of richardsf1.com

A defensive line is when you drive the middle of the track around the entire racetrack. Instead of being on the outside of the straight like normal, you run a chassis width or so lower.

What you are doing is holding your line. Remember that there is no rule that says what line you have to drive on track. It only says you can’t change lines irratically or dangerously. If you run the middle the person who wants to pass you has to drive even lower than that to get under you. This puts them on the dirtiest part of the race track when they try to out-break you and makes the corner much shaper on entry. Breaking on the much slicker surface makes it harder for them to maintain control and the sharper entry makes them even slower. The passing racer has to brake sooner no matter how much they want to get by.

A defensive line is the most effective way to stop somebody from making a pass.  But this isn’t fool proof for four reasons.

A. This puts you in danger of damage or a wreck. Because the other racer is on a slicker surface and is making a desperate move the chances of a crash are very real. More likely is contact and damage. If you do have contact and get away without too much damage you should be fine. Holding your line is a racers right so contact is deemed the passing drivers fault.  Obviously you want to avoid contact as much as possible because being right and wrecked still means you lose, so use this only if it really counts. Like on the last few laps if you are under real pressure for a win or championship.

B. A really aggressive driver will continue to try and pass you no matter how low a line you run. As my former racing boss used to say “If you can’t pass on the inside. Pass on the inside”. If the other racer ascribes to this philosophy you still have options though. Because you  made their entry tighter and therefore slower you can use one of the above methods to stay ahead.

C. A defensive line is slow. If you are battling with someone you risk letting others catch up and joining in your battle. Trying to defend against one racer is tough. Adding more can really complicate matters. This also means that anyone ahead of you will be able to drive away, puting at risk any chance you have of catching them. Fighting for second place is great unless you are giving up a real chance to fight for first. Then you just look stupid.

D. The last real issue here is when do you use a defensive line? Sometimes you can use it from lap one. Sometimes that is suicide.

If you are in a series where aerodynamics are everything (F1) or the track is notoriously difficult to pass on, then running a defensive line can keep you ahead indefinitely, maybe even to the checkered flag. Gilles Villeneuve did just that at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1981. He held off 5 cars for 60 incredible laps. But remember that if you use a defensive line early in a race you are blocking anyone behind you from making progress and they will hate you for it.They may even run you off the track to get by. See pretty much any NASCAR roadcourse race.

There is a justifiable time and place for running defensively. If you have set up your chassis to come in late, or your tires are cold, then being defensive early will allow you to hold position long enough for you to get up to speed without having to pass the other racers back later. If the other racer is on older tires or has consistently slowed up more than you in a run then again it is prudent to try and stay ahead. But if you are running a defensive line in the early laps… just because, then it is like calling for a nuclear strike on a shoplifter – its overkill and will make you no friends. This also makes you open season for a bumper up the ass. And trust me when I tell you that the officials will have no sympathy for you when someone decides to move you out of the way. So do yourself and your reputation the favor of not Wallying up the place and don’t driving a defensive line on lap 2 of 250… Or 2 of 20 for that matter. Use it like every other skill in your tool box, when it is the right tool for the job.

These are four practical ways to defend being passed under braking. It’s up to you how vigorously you defend your position. Keep in mind that even though the passing driver must be the one avoiding contact as much as possible you also have steering, braking, and a throttle of your own, so you take at least some of the responsibility even if the rules disagree.

Next time we move on to passing on the straight. Until then have fun out there.

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