Assessing a Track and Finding the Speed

How to find the speed around a given circuit by focusing on the right areas

It’s very common for riders to look in the wrong areas in their attempts to unlock speed (and time) around a given track.

As I have commented on a few times before, from a riding perspective one area in particular where riders make this incorrect judgement is in braking areas.

“If I brake later, I’ll gain time, right?”

Well, if everything else remains the same once you get off the brakes, yes, but charging into turns in an attempt to brake as late as you dare doesn’t always yield better (or even the same) results in terms of time saved.

Equally, when thinking about particular areas on the track itself where riders might look to gain time, it can be all too easy to look in the wrong areas.

It goes without saying that even the fastest guys on a track day can make time up in every corner.

But I’m sure it also goes without saying that you’re going to want the biggest gains in the shortest amount of time.

In which case you’re going to need to know what areas of the track to focus on in order to unlock the biggest gains.

Being that it has a good mix of corner types, I’ll use a Snetterton track map to help in this exercise.

There are two main track area types to look out for in your hunt for speed and time gains. We’ll start with arguably the most important.

Long Straights

Well, not the straights themselves, but the corners that precede them.

It was Simon Crafar that coined the phrase…

“It’s not the first on the gas that wins, it’s the first on full gas”

It is all too easy to simply think about getting on the gas earlier as being the only goal, when the next immediate goal should then be getting to full gas earlier. Assuming you’re not already on the limit, of course.

Take this philosophy to the corners with exits onto the longest straights, and if there is a sizeable disparity between you and another rider on track in how you exit the corner, you will be making considerable time over that rider.

Forget tenths. We’re talking seconds just from one corner exit if the straight is long enough.

These are the sorts of sections of track that I would be looking to first (pink).

As you can see, it is these corners that lead onto the most important straights.

If I can get a better drive out of these corners compared to a fellow rider, I will be gaining considerable amounts of time on them.

Fast Corners

By their nature, fast corners tend to be longer, meaning that you are on the side of the tyre for a good length of time.

As a result, the speed that you carry into the corner is largely the speed you’re going to have to hold for the duration, until you’re able to start picking the bike up again.

The reason this is important is because a higher average speed over a set distance means a shorter amount of time spent covering that distance.

So a rider taking a good chunk of speed more into the corner – say, 5mph – will gain a good deal of time over another rider.

The longer the corner, the greater the effect too.

As the corner gets longer, you’re going to have to spend more and more time on the side of the tyre, and that’s more time where you cannot change your speed.

And as I said the speed you take in is the speed you’ll carry though the corner, for the most part.

It is improving your confidence to take more speed into these corners that will bring you the most amount of time.

And it is corners like the following where this is most obvious.

Fast Corners

You are on the side of the tyre for a long time throughout these corners, so more MPH into these turns will bring you greater results compared to many of the others.

None more so than Coram in this example.

Fast Corners onto Long Straights

The effect is compounded when you have fast corners leading onto long straights.

When you have slow corners onto straights you don’t gain much time because there’s not usually as much disparity between riders and where they start their throttle application.

But take a lot of speed into a fast corner, giving yourself a good line with the exit in mind will certainly yield you much better results.

The corners that come to mind most at Snetterton are…

Fast Corners Onto Long Straights

When I first started getting these corners right, not only was I visually gaining masses of time against other riders, but that speed differential then gained me time all the way down the proceeding straight.

By getting it right you are not only gaining time mid corner, but the slingshot you give yourself onto the straight gives you a massive advantage over the rider that goes in slower and uses a poor line that negatively affects their exit.

Deciding Where to Focus

Take a good look at the track you ride.

Assess the most important exits and the corners or sections of track where you cannot accelerate and where your speed must remain fairly static.

This can be long corners, but also sections of track where you have a lot of transitions to make e.g. flip flop stuff (technical term).

These are the places that are going to gain you the most time, so ask yourself if you’re getting somewhere close to maximising them.

If you’re not (most aren’t) then those are the areas where you should concentrate your efforts first.

Naturally you will look to go a bit faster everywhere, it’s just what you do, but when looking to gain the most speed in the shortest time, your main focus should be on the areas we’ve covered here.

Good luck!