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How To Trail Brake In Sim Racing (5 Step Guide)

Trail braking is an excellent method of maintaining speed throughout a corner and it allows the racer to brake far later, shaving a good bit of time off your best lap times. But beginners may wonder how to trail brake in sim racing.

5 steps to trail braking in sim racing are:

  1. Brake with full force and in a straight line
  2. Ease off the brakes near the turn-in-point
  3. Start turning into the corner
  4. Lower braking force as you increase the steering angle 
  5. Release the brakes and accelerate 

It sounds easy enough, but it can be a difficult and unnatural feeling maneuver to pull off. Below, we’ll discuss these steps in greater detail, as well as some other important information you should consider, so make sure to read on below.

What Is Trail Braking?

Trail braking is a technique where the brakes are applied throughout a turn while cornering and are gradually released towards the exit of the turn. Manipulating the speed at which you release the brakes and the steering angle of your wheel allows you to give your front tires more grip. 

This technique is useful as it allows a driver to take corners more aggressively and allows for later braking and a tighter turn radius when cornering. Trail braking is useful in real-world motorsports as well as sim racing and is an excellent way to cut a few tenths (or more) off your lap times. 

Once you learn the fundamentals of sim racing and decide to give trail braking a shot, you will begin to notice a significant gap forming between you and any opponent that isn’t also utilizing trail braking. Controlled braking is simply slower than trail braking in most cases. But you won’t necessarily be trail braking into every single corner.

When Should You Not Trail Brake?

In general, if it’s a very fast corner, you don’t want to trail brake, as it won’t reward you with nearly as much of an advantage when compared to trail braking on slower, tighter corners. The more aggressive the change in direction is, the more benefit you will get from trail braking.

Do You Need To Learn Trail Braking As A Sim Racer?

You don’t need to learn trail braking as a sim racer, but trail braking is a technique that can easily improve your lap times and make you a better racer. Therefore, there is no reason not to learn how to trail brake as a sim racer, as it will only give you more control when cornering.

Trail braking may be less useful in arcade racing games depending on how well their car physics are simulated. However, serious racing simulators such as iRacing have great driving physics, and you will benefit significantly from trail braking when taking corners in these sims, because these games better reflect how trail braking works in the real world.

Learn The Fundamentals First

If you are just starting sim racing, it may be best to first learn the fundamental before learning somewhat advanced techniques such as trail braking. I would recommend that beginners simply approach corners slow enough by braking a good distance away from the apex before committing to the turn. 

Once you have mastered taking turns this way and have gotten used to the amount of braking pressure needed and, most importantly, the distance at which you can begin to brake before a turn, then you can start to practice trail braking

This way, you will also see a more significant improvement in lap times when you start to utilize trail braking, and you will have a better understanding of how it can help you.

In general, taking tight corners without trail braking is an incredibly inefficient way to take a corner as you aren’t able to utilize 100% of your tires’ available grip force. If you want to get better lap times, beat your friends in a race, or simply become a better racer, trail braking is an immensely valuable skill to have, and there is no reason not to learn and develop it early on.

KEY POINTS

• While you don’t need to learn how to trail brake, it will prove very useful for sim racing

• It allows you to have more control over your speed when cornering

• It’s best to learn to trail brake once you’re comfortable with the fundamentals of sim racing

5 Steps To Trail Brake In Sim Racing

1. Brake With Full Force And In A Straight Line

As you approach the corner, apply the brakes with maximum force without locking the tires. You must brake in a straight line with absolutely no turning of the wheel whatsoever, as this will often cause you to spin out. Going hard on the brakes at just the right distance away from the corner is something you will learn with time the more you practice this maneuver.

Braking too late will mean you approach the turn at a speed far too great, and you will understeer as a result. Braking too soon will mean you don’t maintain enough speed to shift the weight of your car to the front tires at the point of turning. 

In this scenario, trail braking won’t give you an advantage while turning, and you will have lost too much speed for it to make a positive impact on your lap times. Finding the right distance at which you can apply the brakes is important, and you’ll learn this by simply practicing different types of corners on a variety of tracks, using a range of different vehicles.

2. Ease Off The Brakes Near The Turn-In-Point

The most important part of this step is that you must release the brakes slowly and smoothly. If you suddenly release the brakes completely at this point in time, the weight will suddenly transfer to the rear tires, and the front tires will have no grip. 

If this happens, you will understeer, and you will miss the turn. By maintaining a steady release of the brakes, the front tires should have enough grip throughout the rest of the turn.

3. Start Turning Into The Corner

As you turn into the apex, you should still be applying the brakes. Make sure you don’t suddenly release the brakes fully at this stage as it will immediately result in understeer. 

You must also be careful not to turn the steering wheel too sharply as a steering angle that is too tight for the tires to cope with will also result in understeer or even you spinning out depending on your speed. At this point, you’re still gradually easing off the brakes

4. Lower Braking Force As You Increase The Steering Angle

Trail braking is like a balancing act between your steering angle and your braking force, and developing the skill to consistently coordinate your feet and hands to balance braking force with your steering angle takes time, so don’t be disheartened if you find this difficult in the beginning

The tighter your steering angle becomes, the more important it is that the weight of the car is constantly thrown towards the front so that the front tires maintain grip throughout the turn. Releasing the brakes fully will result in the front tires not getting any grip, and understeer will happen. Continuous reduction of the braking force allows you to still maintain grip without understeering

A general rule of thumb here is that the tighter the steering angle becomes, the less braking force should be applied.

5. Release The Brakes And Accelerate

As you go past the apex of the turn and approach the turn exit, you can release the brakes and accelerate out of the corner. Congratulations, you have successfully utilized trail braking! The most important thing to remember is to make the whole process as smooth as possible, which means no sudden jolts of the steering wheel, no sudden release of the brakes, and no extreme pulses of the throttle.

3 Common Trail Braking Mistakes 

1. Jumping Off The Brakes

The key to trail braking successfully is to ease off the brake pedal as smoothly as possible. A common mistake that many people make while attempting to trail brake is suddenly releasing their foot off the brake mid corner. 

The reason you should gradually release the brakes instead of suddenly releasing them is that when you suddenly release the brakes completely, the weight of the car is rapidly transferred to the back tires. This lifts the front of the car up slightly and makes the front tires lose grip, leading to understeer.

To avoid understeer, you need to gradually release the brakes but never let go completely until you are ready to accelerate out of the corner. Luckily, the more you practice, the less likely you are to run into such issues.

2. Too Much Brake Pressure And Speed

Too much brake pressure into the turn is another common mistake that can cause the rear tires to feel light and slip out from under you. While trail braking, you want to commit to fully braking in a straight line before the turn. If you mistime the distance between you and the turn, you may not have enough time to slow the car down, even with the extra grip from all four tires braking on the straight. 

What happens then is that in order to make the turn at such high speeds, you apply too much brake pressure while turning and cannot release the brake pedal gradually or as smooth as necessary, otherwise, you will fly off the track. 

What can happen here is either understeer, caused by your front tires not being able to work against the forward momentum, or possibly even the rear of the car spinning out as all the weight is on the front tires and the rear tires can’t get any grip. This situation can be avoided by braking earlier and releasing the brakes gradually and smoothly while turning

3. Trail Braking When You Shouldn’t

Not every corner requires trail braking, and doing it on certain corners can actually cause you to lose time in a race. It’s important you know the difference between a corner in which you should trail brake and one you shouldn’t. Fast and wide corners generally don’t require trail braking. Every corner should be approached with the mindset of taking and exiting the corner as fast as possible. 

If it is a long and wide turn, you should try and take that turn with as little braking as possible to maintain your speed. Sometimes all you need is to ease up on the throttle slightly, and you can make the turn just fine. You want minimal weight transfer when cornering at high speeds, as this can unsettle the car. 

Final Thoughts

Trail braking is an extremely useful technique that can improve lap times and allow you to enter and exit tight corners far faster. It can be tricky to get the hang of, but once mastered, it will be one of your most useful and frequently used sim racing techniques.