Hit your marks
Learning tracks fast is essential to becoming an effective simracer: Which line to take, how fast to take corners – it can fast become complicated. However, if I could impart one tip for learning tracks faster:
Memorise your braking points as early as possible.
When you enter the circuit, note the existence (or absence) of braking boards - you know the ones that say 200 / 150 /100 / 50 metres before the corner? If the track has them - great, but not all tracks will. What can you do then? In that case, spend time turning slow laps of the circuit, observing the trackside scenery. Note anything that correlates to braking zones that you might be able to reference when you are braking, and by reference, I mean memorise where they are on screen when you begin braking. There is no need to have exact marks (great if you do though), however having an object to reference or offset your brake mark against, is far better than picking your marks by feel. The problem with feel is that you are bound to change with that ‘feel’ from lap to lap, and this usually results in inconsistency.
The same goes for turn-in points – especially faster corners. Memorise those objects when you dip the throttle or dab the brakes. Once you know your references, you have an objective way of stretching out those braking zones, as you know they never move. In a real life scenario, I remember Michael Schumacher was interviewed by his ‘old mate’ Damon Hill. Damon asked Schumacher “How is it that you brake so late?”, to which Michael replied “I just look at where the wooden plank hits the track, which generally happens in the braking zone [when the car pitches forward], and so I just brake later than that”. Genius.
Watch your delta
Now that you have solid references, it is time to push the boundaries, but how do you really know if the lines you are taking are gaining you tenths of a second in the long term (i.e. overall lap time) as opposed to just the short term?
The answer is simple: Use a realtime delta laptime app and watch it like a hawk.
When you try a new line, brake or turn-in point, you will gain immediate feedback if you gain or lose time in that moment. Worth noting too, when you go too deep and gain a large chunk of time in a single corner, remember those moves to gain track position on an opponent during a race - even if that means destroying your overall lap time. Sometimes sacrificing overall pace is necessary to gain track position, so long as you understand your limits.
Adjusting the brake bias on the fly, on your wheel or an external shifter, can potentially make a huge difference to your lap pace (provided it does not become a distraction). Some of the best drivers will alter the Brake Bias from corner to corner, depending on the track, two clicks up for this corner – one click up or down here or there, etc. It seems like madness, but often a static setting does not cover all bases, and so drivers will find that unexpected lock-ups occur that are otherwise avoidable - gaining large chunks of time.
Some basic principles:
- Front brakes work harder than the rear brakes, due to the car body pitching forward under braking load
- The heavier the car, the more forward bias is required, as the weight transfer is greater
- The load transfer to the front tyres lessens during braking as the fuel load drops. Tyre wear also yields less grip at this point, and so as the race continues, a more rearward bias helps to prevent unexpected lock-ups
- Rearward bias helps the car rotate during braking and prevent early front tyre lock-ups, which is especially helpful for those quick jabs on the brakes during faster corners
- Frontward bias helps with stability during braking and can allow the car to slow faster, provided there is enough load on the front, and that the tyres have enough grip to support the pressure applied to the brake pedal
Problem & Remedy
Turn-in understeer = Dial rearward
Turn-in oversteer = Dial forward
The key is to remember the bias setting that works best for each corner, making small changes throughout a lap, but also as fuel & tyre grip drop off during a stint.
Where do you focus your eyes? Inexperienced drivers only look at what is coming up next, tending to focus on the current corner entry / apex / exit. Experienced drivers, however, look as far ahead as is practical to do so - and with good reason...
Looking further along the track means that you see the bigger picture.
Sometimes we focus too much on the details. We tend to over-correct for traction loss ‘in the moment’ because of what we see just metres ahead. On the other hand, if we shifted our gaze further down the road, this would tell a different story, giving us visual cues of where we want to be. Once we know the true extent of just how much we are veering ‘off course’, the decision to counter-steer (or not) becomes more intuitive. As a result, instincts for corrections become more nuaunced, as your body does everything it can to get where the eyes focus. It really pays to train your focus as far forward as you can and let what comes naturally happen as a result.
All the above means nothing if you are driving with the wrong point of view…
I look at it like this: If I run off the track at a particular point, miss an apex, or continually brake too early every lap, then it is possible that my driving view is not aiding my cause.
To select the best view, I boil it down to two requirements: Immersion & Driving Accuracy (connectedness)
As a sim racer, we need to connect with the car we drive, because immersion breeds confidence. Feeling as though we are actually in the car, connected to it, means we trust it will do what we tell it and by the degree we envisage when we turn the wheel or push the pedals. Part of this immersion is in finding the perfect camera angle that supports our emotional connection.
What I look for when choosing a driving view is not necessarily the most accurate or realistic camera angle, but instead the view that helps me become more accurate, allowing me to hit apexes and braking points with relative ease. If for example you find you are braking too early, simply experiment with moving your view towards the rear more, and vice versa. You would be amazed at how a simple change such as this can really help with game immersion, driving faster and increasing your precision.
Happy sim racing!