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Professional Motorsport Data Analysis: Braking Markers

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Braking Markers

08.35

00:00 - It's not exactly rocket science but just in case you've made it this far without picking this up, one of the most important aspects of high performance braking is the application of braking force at the correct point on track.
00:13 For non professional drivers it can be difficult to build up the confidence to go deeper and deeper into a corner as our natural fear response tends to take over.
00:22 Experiencing what almost any car is truely capable of during braking is an impressive thing to witness for an amateur driver.
00:30 Seeing and feeling it for ourselves from the passenger seat is also worthwhile if possible but the great thing about the data is that we can measure it and directly compare ourselves to it.
00:40 There's a methodology to steadily building confidence in the braking capability of our car that is both effective and safe and it's always surprised me how infrequently I've seen it applied.
00:52 We all understand the theory.
00:53 In order to maximise the braking capacity of the equipment we must brake at the absolute limit but putting it into practice requires more than just understanding.
01:02 This limit refers to both a suitable point on track and the force we apply to the brake pedal.
01:07 The situation will determine whether we're limited by the grip of the tyre, the chassis, or the braking system itself.
01:14 Which of these limiting factors are responsible will often change for a given car as we move through different parts of the circuit.
01:21 Regardless of what's limiting the car though, we need to aim to be as close to the limit as possible in each braking zone.
01:28 The natural fear and built in response is to brake too early.
01:31 Which is something we can all relate to.
01:34 The first step is to actively concentrate on using braking markers as reference points.
01:38 These reference points can be anything that isn't going to move.
01:42 A painted section of a wall, line or mark on the track, a tree, a curb, anything that we'll be able to pick up visually at speed.
01:51 At first this will need active in that we'll have to look for them and note them down.
01:56 Once we're used to them though, they'll become passive and we'll use them just with our peripheral vision.
02:02 Doing a track walk is a great way to process and look for reference points and using on board video is also really helpful here.
02:10 When we go through the track walk and use the video, we want to pause and spend time thinking about what we are or what we will be doing with the brakes at these markers.
02:20 If possible, it's worth having the onboard video with you on your phone, tablet or laptop on the track walk to help cross reference what you see in the car.
02:29 The whole philosophy behind how to build up to more and more aggressive brake markers, is that we should start conservative and leave ourselves plenty of safety margin.
02:38 It's about building confidence steadily with an objective, planned method, not being a hero and ending up in the kitty litter on lap one.
02:47 So when choosing our initial brake markers they need to be conservative.
02:51 Give yourself plenty of safety buffer for each braking zone.
02:55 There are two things we need to be strict on when we head out on track that are critical for this method to work.
03:01 First, we need to stick to our chosen initial markers.
03:04 And second, we need to commit to maximising the braking force available.
03:09 We're using these initial markers for our safety while we find the limits of what the car is capable of and what we're comfortable with.
03:18 So if we don't concentrate on maximising the braking force while we're using these conservative markers, we're wasting time and money.
03:26 I can't emphasise this enough, you must get comfortable exploiting all the braking capability of your car and tyre will give you, regardless of how conservative your initial braking points are.
03:38 The limit for maximum braking forces will either be a locked wheel, the force we're capable of applying to the brake pedal, the friction available from your brakes or the limits of the ABS system.
03:50 In the case of a car fitted with an OEM ABS system, it's unlikely we'd be able to maximise the braking capability with the ABS enabled.
04:00 This is because, generally at least, the calibration and tuning of the factory ABS isn't optimised for performance and there'll be a lot of pedal feedback from the ABS pump too early in the stop.
04:11 All OEM ABS systems are different and some are far better than others.
04:17 In some cases the factory ABS system will need to be disabled when you go on track.
04:22 If you do go down this route, tread very carefully on your first few laps and make sure the car is predictable and safe to drive on the limit.
04:30 The last thing you want is to disable the ABS and find the braking performance is worse.
04:36 If the ABS system we're using is intended for motorsport use on the other hand, then this is a very different story and if tuned correctly, it can be a great help for an amateur.
04:47 If our initial conservative braking markers can be hit while maximising our braking forces correctly, and it will take practice, we'll inevitably find that we arrive at each turn far too slowly and we'll have to bleed off the brake pressure later in the stop to not continue overslowing the car.
05:04 This is exactly what we want to happen as now we have a reference for both the amount of pedal force we can use in this section of track and what our choice of braking marker was like.
05:15 With our new found references, we can now begin moving our markers further and further along the track.
05:22 Judgement must be used when it comes to how far we move our markers based on how much we overslow the car when we arrive at each turn.
05:29 I suggest moving your markers between 5 to 10 metres each time in most cases when you're starting out.
05:37 Even if you know that will still mean you'll be overslowed, the point of working in this way is that it builds your confidence in small steps and gives us practice in using references.
05:47 When we aren't used to exploiting everything the car has got, we need to take it gradually because there's a lot going on and it can be quite overwhelming at first.
05:56 If you're starting out with this type of technique or have a car set up, tyres or circuit that you're unfamiliar with, I would tend to keep the runs short, around two flying laps max and review the data and video after every run.
06:12 Improving on your braking is hard so don't be disheartened when it becomes difficult.
06:16 Breaking your runs up like this and taking a cool down lap afterwards also gives your mind plenty of time to process the previous run subconsciously which will also improve your learning.
06:28 If you can concentrate on using this method, it will likely be one of your single biggest improvements in lap time.
06:35 Now let's take a look at some braking data, comparing two drivers with quite a different skill level in the same car.
06:42 Here I've got Cosworth's PI toolbox open and I'm just going to do a really basic data comparison looking at the braking markers.
06:50 So if we just come across to my laptop screen here, if we start early in the lap and we just use Z for zoom, what I've got here in the data traces are at the top line, the speed trace and the middle line I've got the throttle trace and in the bottom here I've got the brake pressure trace.
07:06 So every data analysis system is a little bit different how they manage this.
07:09 In Cosworth's PI Toolbox they use R for reference to find the difference in either time or distance between two points.
07:17 So you'll notice here, along the bottom scale, I've got this set to distance which is really important for this analysis to work properly.
07:26 Now if I just click, I want to compare the two different points of when the brakes are applied here, if I just click on the first brake trace, press R for reference and then go to the point where the brake is applied by the other driver.
07:39 You'll see in the bottom right here we have 40.2 metres so that's saying between these two points of the cursor, there's roughly 40 metres difference in that brake application point.
07:51 So we can press R to remove that again and zoom out.
07:56 If we go somewhere else in the lap, zoom back in, we'll do another one.
08:00 Just click on this point, R for reference.
08:04 Clicking again and it's showing us in the bottom right, there's about 23 metres differenence between those two points.
08:11 So regardless of which data you're comparing or what sort of data you're comparing on track, the method for using the reference in either time or distance is exactly the same.