How to Tackle Hairpin Corners on the Track

As I spoke about in my video on why slow corners are difficult, they aren’t the favoured type of corners for many riders for all the reasons I mentioned.

However, in certain corners, like hairpins, they can be the source of a fair bit of time if you approach them in the right way.

In this article I wanted to touch on how we get speed from hairpins, as well as how we should be approaching them to get the most from them.

Key to Speed in Hairpins

Many learning riders will believe that in order to go faster they simply need to carry more speed through the corners and the lap times will come tumbling down.

Now, that is true to some degree, but as a blanket plan across all situations they’ll come a point where that plan becomes flawed, and hairpins will be one of the first places that becomes true.

Because you spend so little time in the middle of hairpins, the key to speed is actually in getting into them quickly, and exiting them quickly.

If you try to be too greedy with speed in the middle of the corner by trying to run more and more speed in, you’re likely going to end up hurting overall speed through that whole section.

Really your focus should be on how do you get TO the middle of the corner as quickly as possible, and how to you get AWAY from that point quickly too.

So how is that achieved?

Lines & Bike Control

This is a common and effective line through hairpins that are preceded and followed by straights.

Because we have a straight after it, acceleration out of these corners is important, and this line means you can stand the bike up at an ideal time without sacrificing a lot of speed at corner entry.

This line also relies on a shallower approach, which will let you begin to utilise trail braking into the corner. Less trail braking means you’ll take a slightly more looped line in (blue line above), more trail braking and you’ll approach closer to the inside kerb.

As you introduce more trail braking, your approach line will tend to become more shallow.

With an early entry point and slower steering rate (which creates the shallow red line), you’re giving yourself more opportunity to use the brakes as you enter the corner, ultimately meaning you can brake later and carry more speed toward the corner.

In my personal opinion you shouldn’t be looking to flick the bike over very quickly in corners like this, because this approach will mean you need to steer too wide and late, which will cost you time going into the corner.

Throttle Timing

This is an area where I see a lot of riders making mistakes, particularly in corners that come right back on themselves like hairpins do.

Many riders are simply too eager to get back on the throttle in the middle of the corner before the line is properly set for the apex/exit.

If you do get back to the throttle too soon, you’ll have a tough time getting the bike back to the inside to hit your apex.

Instead, you need to learn to be patient, staying off the throttle to let the bike continue to slow down and hook around onto your desired line. Only when you’re sure you’re on the line you want can you then crack the throttle and start your usual throttle routine for mid-corner/exit.

You’ll be amazed as just how much more consistently you can hit apexes when you learn this lesson for yourself.

How Does Vision Change

You can’t see your apex on the approach, so you must judge your line to the inside kerb.

With tight hairpins you won’t typically want to meet the inside of the track going in (though it can be seen in racing situations, or if the hairpin has a large enough radius). Because of this it means you can’t actually see your clipping point (apex) until you’re well into the corner, so you must focus on the area where you want to put the bike and judge your line relative to the inside of the track.

Once you get deeper into the corner and you can see the apex, focus on it until you’re sure you’re going to hit it (this will help your throttle timing!) and then switch your vision to your exit in the normal way.

How Does Body Position Change

There aren’t really any changes to the technique you’re trying to use through hairpins, but there are changes in terms of how things feel. As I discussed in my video, getting into a typical hang-off position does feel more difficult in slower corners, so you must be wary of your grip on the bars through tight and slow corners like this.

If you feel the grip on the bars is excessive, consider using a slightly more modest body position so that you can do a better job fundamentally from a body position point of view. Don’t be surprised if your position is a little worse in these corners because of those reasons.

Consider the Space You Have

Like I said, when these corners are tight the key is to get into them and out of them quickly. However, things begin to change when you are presented with more space.

The inside kerb might be tight, but more space means you can make corner speed a higher priority.

The kerb on the inside may be tight, but if there’s more space on the entry and exit of the corner then the radius of the curve you can carry through the corner gets larger, meaning higher achievable corner speeds.

Now, this doesn’t mean making corner speed the priority, it simply means that corner speed becomes a bigger factor and something you can take advantage of.

In truth, I wouldn’t normally tell riders to focus too much on hairpins when looking for speed around the track because there are typically other easier ways to find speed.

However, as you get more experience and you begin to tap into the potential of the bike in different ways, they can become a good source of speed to find relative to other riders.

These notes here should hopefully help you do just that.