“How do I drive harder out of corners” is one of the most asked questions from track riders looking to improve their skills. It’s also one of the most difficult to improve too, being that it’s a skill where reaching a higher level means going closer to the limits of traction.
This creates resistance as well as frustration as riders begin feeling stuck.
What I want to offer you here is an avenue for corner exit improvement that’s a little easier to tackle, and one that for many of you could mean significant improvement, possibly without going any closer to traction limits.
Sound too good to be true? Stick with me.
When it comes to improving corner exit drive the default course of action for most riders is to think “how can I grow bigger cojones and drive harder??”.
On the face of it, it makes sense. If you drive harder and earlier than you did before you’ll make up time, right?
Well… yes, but this approach comes with its own set of drawbacks.
The trouble with this course of action is that A LOT of the time, the rider’s line won’t lend itself to simply being braver with the throttle.
Many riders will be steering into corners too early, leaving them stuck at high lean angle way past the apex as they work to get the bike pointed up the track, meaning they’re also stuck on the throttle.
They’re stuck because subconsciously they can see that the bike isn’t correctly pointed in the direction they want to go, and if they were to increase throttle and/or stand the bike up (to begin exit drive) they would find themselves running too wide, or in some cases testing traction limits a little too much.
However, that doesn’t stop them trying!
In an effort to improve in this area and thinking that they just need to “grow a pair”, they begin increasing throttle input earlier and earlier, sometimes before they’ve even been able to begin standing the bike up.
But lean angle and throttle application are indirectly correlated. You cannot significantly increase throttle application until you reduce lean angle.
So not only is the riding plan going to cause unwanted line changes and possibly cost more time, it can be pretty dangerous too!
Like I said, oftentimes riders will be using a line that restricts their exit.
This being the case, just by altering their entry line (which has the biggest impact on exit line) they can begin to open up the exit. With the exit opened up, the rider can now pick the bike up earlier which then allows them to drive harder.
When learning riders are looking to improve at corner exit, the first question shouldn’t be…
“How can I be braver and accelerate harder at higher lean angles?”
Instead you should ask…
“How can I open up the exit so that I can pick the bike up earlier?”
Do you see the difference? One option is causing you to go much closer to the limits of traction to gain time, the other is simply changing your approach to make better use of your existing skill.
That second option is not only safer, but it’s likely going gain you more time than trying to begin exit drive one bike length earlier while still on the side of the tyre.
Now, I fully appreciate that there ARE still times when you have to put trust in the bike and push into an unknown area as you work to use more of the rear tyres potential during exit acceleration.
For instance, novice riders will often wait for the bike to be completely upright before significantly increasing throttle application, and a better line into and out of the corner isn’t likely to make as big a difference for a rider like that.
Also toward the other end of the scale, once riders learns good lines then once again you will have to start using more of the available rear end traction if you want to see improvements – meaning pushing into the unknown.
That said, across a large section of any track day paddock and through all three groups you’ll find riders that could benefit from better lines at corner exit.
During my early track riding years I rode a 2004 Yamaha R6.
Getting past the first handful of track days I eventually developed to a point where I was able to use significant power around the middle of my leaning range (half way between my maximum lean and completely upright).
However, it wasn’t until I learned how to better open up the exit that I saw sizeable gains compared to those around me.
And this wasn’t exclusive to my time in the novice or intermediate groups. Even through the time I rode that bike in the fast group I could see that I made time up on a large portion of the group, even the bigger bikes, simply by using better lines. And that progress came without any huge improvement to my “braveness” with the throttle over that time.
This showed me that putting myself in a position to stand the bike up earlier was the key. The first 5-10% of exit throttle at high lean angle doesn’t make the difference at that level. Being able to get the bike off the side of the tyre so you can use the remaining 90%+ does.
For a healthy majority of corners, you should be able to start picking the bike up from around the apex.
If you’re feeling like you’re stuck on the throttle too far past the apex and you’re losing time to those around you, first consider a change in entry line to open up the exit.
What this typically means is simply steering later into the corner. A later entry point will alter your line of attack to the apex, meaning the bike will be pointing up the track earlier than it is with a shallow entry line, and this allows for an earlier bike pick-up (which facilitates exit drive).
That change is naturally going to affect corner entry, possibly in a negative way depending on what you do, but getting into the permutations for each approach and corner is a little out of the scope of the message here.
The main message is that if you’re a rider who’s still learning the ropes and corner exit is an area you want to improve, look at your current corner entry plan, not for the existence of a brave pill (I’ve looked, they don’t exist).
Changing your approach could very likely have you making pleasant, and sometimes even easy, progress.
Photo by David Rosen