Speed Secrets: Determining Entry/Exit Speed Balance

Features, Racing I By Ross Bentley I September 28, 2022

I can still recall the day that I stood at the Uphill at Lime Rock Park observing the driver I was coaching, but noticing one particular car that I thought was extremely well-driven. In fact, it was bloody fast! The name of the driver of that car, Jonathan Goring, stuck in my head and I kept an eye on his results for many years.

Two decades later, I had a chance to work alongside Jonathan at an SCDA event at Club Motorsports a few weeks ago, and I loved hearing the way he spoke about driving. So, naturally, I asked if he’d share some of his knowledge and experience with you. The article below is the result, and I couldn’t be happier to have Jonathan’s contribution to all of our learning. Be sure to check out his website for more advice and tips.

Determining Entry/Exit Speed Balance

by Jonathan Goring

I recently had the opportunity to do a “check ride” for a student with an organization who was looking to be promoted to an instructor-less run group. He did not pass. The explanation? He was too fast in the wrong areas of the track.

But to set a fast lap time, don’t you want to be fast everywhere? Yes, but. The thing is, in order to average the fastest speed over the greatest distance (the literal definition of a fast lap time) you must know precisely the right areas of the track in which to be “slow” in order to go the quickest overall.

MIN Speed Location
A corner is defined as anything you have to slow down for. This means — anywhere you’re not full throttle! In every corner, you have to slow down and then accelerate out. The slowest speed in the corner is your “MIN” speed. WHERE the slowest speed in the corner occurs is your MCSL (MIN Speed Location).

A driver’s MIN speed LOCATION in the corner tells the story of their entry/exit speed balance. In an exit speed corner, a driver would want an earlier MIN speed. For an entry speed corner, a driver would want a later MIN speed.

When a driver executes the MIN speed in the wrong location for the corner, they are simultaneously hurting their lap time AND increasing the risk of crashing. Too early a MCSL speed and the temptation to JUMP on the throttle too aggressively will arise, and too late, a driver is playing with fire, carrying too much entry speed into the corner.

With clients driving a track for the first time, I sit them down and we discuss where in the corner the lowest MPH should occur. This provides the framework for going faster, and keeping the MIN speed in the correct location, as the weekend progresses, prevents a driver from being too fast in the wrong areas of the race track.

Exit Speed Corners
“Exit speed is king” is a good philosophy for the average driver. Traditionally, being fast OUT of the corner can pay higher dividends on the stopwatch than being fast into or through the corner.

However, exit speed is not determined exclusively by getting to throttle early. Sometimes exit speed is a function of rolling speed through the apex, and sometimes it’s about putting the power down early. The ideal compromise is somewhere in the middle as a combination of both, but it changes based on the characteristics of the corner and preceding straight. Typically in higher speed corners, it’s more about rolling speed, and in lower speed corners, it’s about getting to power.

Don’t know what’s best? Measure your exit speed. Pick a reference point on the straight after a corner and look at either your tachometer or speedometer. Read the number at that reference point. Try adjusting your entry/exit speed balance trying different min speed locations until you get the highest number.

Once you determine the fastest exit you can possibly get, focus on coming into and through the corner as quickly as you can UP UNTIL it affects the exit speed number. At that point you are focusing on entry speed while still working in the context of prioritizing exit speed. Get this right and you are a PRO! (Much easier said than done!)

Entry Speed
Send it.

Ironically, sometimes racing is technical and methodical and sometimes it’s intuitive and instinctual. Much like there is entry/exit speed balance, there is a balance between overthinking/under-thinking. Exit speed corners are typically under-thought, and entry speed corners are often overthought. The ideal racing driver would have one brain cell on entry speed corners but many brain cells on exit speed corners. :)

But if we had to overthink it, I’m thinking about where on the track I want to be the slowest. With entry speed, this is later in the corner. Once I pick this point, the speed that I roll into the corner will have a direct correlation to where I want to be slow. And where I want to be slow depends on the shape and direction of the upcoming corner.

Always think ahead, “What’s next?!”

The Guide to Road Racing: Winding Road Magazine's ultimate guide to getting your start in racing.

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