The four-time world champion and great karting veteran reveals all his driving secrets for taking chicanes, performing throttle-offs and braking, as well as everything it takes to be a true racing driver
The basic concept is that every bend consists of an entry point, an apex, and an exit point. When it comes to driving, these three phases have to be sequenced so they interplay perfectly. The key aspect, especially if the turn leads onto a straightaway, is coming out the best way possible, with good speed and good rpm’s. Of course, your exit speed depends on the pace you kept going through and how clean of a line you managed to hold. It all ties together: even if you make a phenomenal entry, if you get “stuck” in the center or don’t come out smoothly… you’re going to waste time.
Always talking generally, the key is finding the right point that in each bend allows you to give gas earlier, while still coming out smoothly. It’s something you understand lap after lap. The next thing you want to figure out is your braking limit. Generally, between apex and exit, you should already be full throttle: if you wait too much, you won’t have enough speed coming out. Figuring out when you can ease off the brake is also something you discover a little at a time: if you are new to a track, you obviously can’t tackle bends as if you knew them well. So keep calm and try to ease off the brake a little earlier every time.
Evidently, exists a lot of bends type. Talking about hairpins, for example, they require a greater steering angle. The general rule is to avoid going in too tight, or you’ll have a drop in rpm’s as you come out that will hold you back. Once you figure out the brake-point, keep wide going in, and then try to keep close to the curb at mid-bend to ensure a smooth exit. Of course, if you have to face a sequence of hairpins like in Lonato, you can’t come out wide, because you don’t have enough time to set up your line for the next one. However, if the curve leads to a nice straightaway, you want to go in wide, keep close to the curb at the apex, and keep wide on the way out so your engine will rev up sufficiently to face the straight patch.
In this type of bends, the main thing is to keep your wheels from locking up and maintaining your rpm’s and your speed on the high end. Ease onto the brake and take some speed right into the bend; keep a clean line and steer as little as possible – ideally just once, as you enter the curve.
If the curve has a long radius, you have to set-up well going in, keeping nice and wide. If the radius is short, you can enter at mid track to cover less ground. The golden rule pertains to the exit: let the kart slide smoothly, don’t force it, and keep up your rpm’s. Usually, even when looking at telemetric data, the exit is the first section to be analyzed: the key thing on the way out is being quick on acceleration. In case you’re not as fast as you need to be going in, try to find the right brake point.
Chicanes are never easy to interpret. Most people think they should take an aggressive approach, in order to come out as quickly as possible. Yet, it’s good to evaluate the right approach based on the exit: that’s where you need speed. The exit is always the element you should focus on, when you try to figure out how to interpret a bend. If the chicane is not too narrow, go in with speed and try to cut across as much as you can in order to step on the gas as early as possible, so long as you can jump on the curb. If course, you need to take into account how the chicane is designed, how close together and how high the curbs are… Compared to hairpins, chicanes are, for sure, faster and in some cases you can really go through full throttle.
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