Skills and Knowledge
The Racing Line
If you played any racing games like Gran Turismo or Forza, you are familiar with the color-changing line that shows you where to go. You will often hear this line referred to as the racing line, which represents the fastest path for getting around the track.
Two types of lines
The geometric racing line
The geometric racing line is the shallowest arc through a turn, meaning the path through the turn that requires the least amount of steering input. Less steering input is good because it allows you to carry more speed.
The classic racing line above is the geometric line, which starts on the outside of the track, hits the apex in the middle of the turn, and exits towards the outside of the track. The geometric line uses the entire width of the track to make the arc as shallow as possible.
The geometric line is fastest way to take a corner. However, the ideal racing line doesn’t solely depend on the shape of the corner in isolation. It also depends on what comes before the corner, and more importantly, what comes after.
The ideal racing line
Oftentimes, it’s better to enter a corner slower and wider so you can exit faster, carrying more speed on the subsequent straight. This is shown in the double apex and hairpin examples above. Hitting the apex later, after the middle of the turn, allows you to straighten out your car and get on the gas earlier.
This is what we call the ideal racing line, which is less mathematically elegant than the geometric line but more practical. The theory behind the ideal racing line is to always set yourself up in the present to maximize your speed later.
Car setup and road conditions impact the shape of your ideal racing line, so no two cars will have the exact same ideal line. For example, a Mercedes F1 car will have a very different racing line from a regular street car like a Toyota Supra. The lighter F1 car will be able to carry higher speeds around turns, so its ideal racing line will be sharper than that of the much heavier Supra.
Geometric vs. Ideal
The geometric racing line is a good starting point on how to tackle a corner, but ultimately, it’s incomplete. The ideal racing line takes into account the whole track and other factors, so finding this line for your car will be one of your primary goals.
As you improve as a driver, you will learn about other types of racing lines, such as time trial lines and wheel-to-wheel lines. We’re not going to get into those right now, but the point is the best line for an event depends on what that event is and many other factors. There’s no one best way to drive around a track.
For beginners, don’t stress too much about memorizing the perfect racing line. Just get out there, start exploring the track and feeling your way around the turns. As you get more seat time, you’ll naturally start to discover your ideal line.