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Trail Braking in sim racing

Going fast on the (virtual) racetrack is not just about pressing the accelerator down as hard as possible or accelerating out of a corner as fast as possible. No, most of the time gained is with braking. Indeed, with braking! And I don't mean braking as late as possible - with the result that you miss your braking point or block a wheel - but by braking early and taking the right balance into account at corner entry and exit.

The braking technique you can use to do this is called 'trail braking'. What this technique entails, how to do it and why it is faster can all be read in this article. We cover the following topics here:

Sim Racing Braking Tips:

  • What is trail braking?
  • The Benefits of Trail Braking
  • Knowing when and how to brake
  • How to vomit trail?
  • Why is trail braking faster?
  • When should your trail vomit?
  • Trail braking supplies

What is Trail Braking?

Trail braking is a braking technique for racing and motorcycling in which the brakes are applied beyond the entrance to a corner (turning in) and then gradually released (slowing down). In other words, it is a combination of braking and steering at the same time.

This technique is also widely used in sim racing. As a driver, this braking technique allows you to brake a little later. You 'manipulate' the mass of the car to make turning into the corner easier. So you don't brake in a straight line, but gradually release the brakes as you turn into the corner. This ensures perfect balance and more grip when turning in and out of a corner.

The Benefits of Trail Braking

Enhanced Auto Control

By trail braking, you maintain better control of the car, as the weight of the car stays to the front wheels during turn-in. This results in more grip at the front, allowing you to brake later and corner faster.

Faster lap times

By extending the braking zone into the corner, you reduce the total time spent on the track without accelerating. This can result in faster lap times, as you use the brakes more effectively and maximise corner speed.

Better Tyre Control

Trail braking also helps manage tyre temperature and weartage. By gradually reducing brake pressure, you reduce the risk of wheels locking up, which can lead to tyre flats.

Knowing when and how to brake

Knowing how to brake or where to brake in the corner can make or break your lap times. This is an essential part of sim racing. Trackwalks (youtube is full of them!) can help you determine your ideal braking point and 'read' corners. This will undoubtedly give you an advantage when you first hit the track.

Most drivers will agree that almost all of their lap times become inefficient due to braking hard and (too) late, leaving you out of control and causing the car to start sliding. With dire consequences.

Trail braking technique
Maximising the braking phase. Source: Driver61

The initial brake pressure is high (maximum, depending on the type of corner), but as you approach the apex, you lift the brakes (reducing the pressure) allowing you to help the car to (turn in). Then, at the apex of the corner, you get back on the throttle at the right moment. By doing so, you maintain maximum grip and corner exit.

How To Break Trail?

Trail braking is a fairly easy technique to learn, but a difficult braking technique to apply consistently. It requires a lot of patience to practice properly. It also requires a lot of feeling to make sure you get the most out of all four tyres when entering the corner. If you apply this braking technique well, you will see it immediately in your lap times. Practice, practice and more practice!

https://driver61.com/uni/trail-braking/
Scott Mansell of Driver61 Explains in great detail how to trail vomit.

Trail Braking in 5 Steps:

  1. Brake in a straight line with maximum force on the brake pedal: It all starts with corner braking: as soon as you approach the braking zone, press the brake pedal with maximum force while your car is still in a straight line. This is where you lose the most speed and prepare the car for turning into the corner.
  2. Start gradually releasing the brakes a little before the turning point: Just before you get to the point where you would turn into the corner (the turn-in point), you start to gradually reduce brake pressure. This is a delicate balance; you want to take off enough speed to make the turn safely, but also not so much that you lose momentum.
  3. Start turning in: As you reduce brake pressure, start steering into the corner at the same time. The transition from braking to turning in should be smooth to keep the car stable and optimise tyre grip.
  4. Reduce brake pressure as soon as the steering angle increases: As you steer further into the corner and the steering angle increases, you reduce brake pressure further. The goal here is to allow the front wheels to maintain enough grip to get through the corner without being overloaded by both heavy brake pressure and high steering angles.
  5. Use the right brake dose and force to steer the car well-balanced through the corner combination: Finding the right balance in brake pressure and steering input is crucial to guide the car through the corner without losing speed or losing control. This requires a lot of practice and a good understanding of both the dynamics of the car and the characteristics of the track.
Sim racing braking tips

Trail Braking Supplies

Applying this braking technique is easy. All you need for this is a good set of pedals. Preferably load-cell pedals, such as the new and revolutionary Fanatec CSL Load-Cell pedals. Are your pedals in need of replacement? Then check out the wide range of pedals from Fanatec. Should your sim racing hardware not yet be (semi) professional, a load cell upgrade of your existing entry-level pedals may help. The AXC True Brake mod for you Logitech G29 is highly recommended for this purpose.

Developing the Right Technique

To control trail braking, there are a number of steps you can take:

  1. Start Slow: Start at low speeds to get a feel for how the car reacts when you reduce brake pressure while steering.
  2. Focus on Weight Distribution: Pay close attention to how the car's weight shifts as you brake and steer. Good weight distribution is crucial for maintaining grip.
  3. Practice in Simulation: Use sim racing as a safe and controllable environment to hone your skills. Simulators can very realistically mimic the physics of a race car.
  4. Analyse and Adjust: Use telemetry in sim racing to analyse your braking points, brake pressure and the line you take through the corner. Make adjustments where necessary.
  5. Build it Up: Increase speed gradually as you become more comfortable with the technique. Each corner and each car will feel different, so take your time to learn each situation individually.

Summary

Trail braking is an advanced braking technique that is difficult to master. Perfecting the technique takes quite a bit of time, but once you have the feel and experience to do it right, it shows immediately in your lap times. Most sim racers agree that a good pedal set makes you faster. So choose a semi-professional pedal set from Fanatec or a high-end and professional pedal set from Heusinkveld.

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Wilco Verhaegh

Author Wilco Verhaegh

Over 18 years ago, my passion for sim racing began with Grand Prix 4. My passion for racing, motorsport photography and gaming knows no bounds. With Motorsport-Pictures.com, I capture racing cars on film. Moreover, I am proud of my book 'Mastering The Art Of Sim Racing', in which I share my knowledge and insights with aspiring sim racers worldwide!

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