Traction control is a system that has been designed to keep you safe on the roads. The system controls the amount of power that is sent to the driving wheels of the car, therefore allowing them to maintain traction. Many drivers turn off their traction control when racing, but a lot of drivers are not sure why they should.
Turning off traction control when racing gives you more control over your car’s behavior. Traction control is designed to keep you safe on the roads. However, when it comes to being as fast as possible around a track, it is a hindrance to your performance, and limits how quickly you can accelerate.
But turning off traction control comes with risks, as you are basically taking away a safety feature of the car. If you don’t have good enough car control, it could lead to a serious accident. Below, we discuss the benefits of turning off traction control in more detail.
What Is Traction Control?
Traction control is a computer system that is installed in cars to prevent the loss of traction on the driven wheels, whether that’s on the front, rear, or both. Traction control activates when you push down on the throttle and one of the wheels starts to lose grip.
Once the wheel starts to slip, the traction control system will cut the power to that wheel or apply the brakes to that specific wheel in order to slow it down and allow it to regain its grip to the road.
Note: The specifics of how the wheel is slowed down depends on the type of traction control system in your car.
This is why it is difficult to drift or to do burnouts with traction control activated. Turning traction control off will allow you to fully control the amount of power that is sent to the driven wheels through your throttle application. So, if you go full throttle, the wheels will spin up and the result will be a burnout with a cloud of smoke behind you!
However, with traction control activated, applying full throttle will force the car to accelerate at the fastest rate allowed by the computer system that is controlling the wheelspin. This is not always the fastest possible acceleration, but it does prevent excessive wheelspin and potentially dangerous situations in everyday driving.
How Does Driving Without Traction Control Make You Faster?
Traction control is designed to allow the car to accelerate in a slower, more controlled manner. The system limits the power output to the wheels to prevent them from spinning up. This subtle lack of power to the wheels is what slows you down on the racetrack.
When you turn your traction control off, you are essentially allowing yourself to fully control the power output of the car. This of course is much more difficult to do, but that’s what makes the best drivers so skilful. They are able to put down as much power as the driving wheels allow them to without spinning them up – something that’s very hard to do without practice.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Car
Being precise with your right foot allows you to maximize the amount of grip on the circuit and get the fastest possible acceleration out of the corner. It requires a lot more skill and concentration, but if you can get it right, it will make you much faster. This is similar to why many racers won’t use ABS, as this system limits how much control they have over their braking, rather than their acceleration.
Turning the traction control off can also help you to counteract understeer in slower corners, which could help you to shave a few more tenths off your lap times. However, this is also a technique which requires some skill and practice.
KEY POINTS• Traction control is designed to make your car safer to drive
• However, it can limit your acceleration
• It takes a lot of skill and practice to drive fast without traction control on
How Do I Learn To Drive Without Traction Control?
A good place to start is in a low horsepower car. This will limit how fast you can go of course, but it will also be much more forgiving in terms of wheelspin, and it’s safer overall. Using low powered cars will allow you to get a feel for wheelspin and how much power you can put down without the risk of flying off the track.
Use A Simulator
Another good way to learn more about how traction control affects your car is through sim racing. You will notice that if you have the traction control turned on (often referred to as ‘TC’), you can just instantly go onto the power and the car will accelerate.
However, turn it off and try the same tactic, and you will most likely find yourself spinning out as soon as you go onto the power! The more you practice with your traction control off in a simulator, the more you will learn how to feel when the car is sliding or spinning the wheels.
Watch Onboard Footage
Another great way to learn is by watching others. When you watch onboard track videos online, try to find some that also include live telemetry and pay attention to how the driver uses the throttle. They will gradually apply the throttle and keep the tires on the limits of their grip as they accelerate.
This is a skill that takes time and focus to practice, but once you get the hang of it and develop more sensitivity in your right foot, it will become second nature. From there, you just need to adjust to different cars based on the amount of power they offer.
Play Around With The Settings
Some modern cars also offer various different traction control settings. For example, some cars allow you to use full traction control, or use a medium or low setting. In this case, you can adjust the settings based on your skill and experience level. Try to sense how much the traction control is interfering while you are accelerating.
If the traction control is working hard to keep the wheels from slipping, then you still need to work on your technique and practice some more. You can identify this by the traction control light flashing on the dashboard of your car. If it does flash, pay attention to how much throttle you used in that corner and try to understand why the wheels were slipping at that time.
On the other hand, if you find that the traction control is not doing much, and you can only see a small amount of power being taken away, then you can move down a traction control level and take it from there. This takes time to master, and a large part of it comes down to feel. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at understanding how traction control is affecting your car’s behavior.
The Dangers Of Not Using Traction Control
Being a safety measure, there are some risks involved in turning traction control off. These risks increase in severity the faster you go and the more power you have. The system is designed to keep the car under control when it comes to beginner drivers, and if you are new to track driving, I would definitely recommend starting with traction control on.
This is because driving a car on track is completely different to driving it at normal road speeds. You need to be able to control your vehicle, and you need to know where the grip is on circuit. It’s great to look for a new challenge, but it’s always important to do so safely, and make sure that you are confident in your abilities.
IMPORTANT: Learn to properly control your car and also learn the track layout before attempting to drive without traction control on.
Why Do You Want To Turn It Off?
Many people turn off their traction control simply because they’ve someone do it on TV or YouTube. Others think that they will simply have more fun in their car without traction control.
However, the truth is that cars are entirely capable of being driven both at speed and with enjoyment while traction control is on. They might be slightly slower, but you will still have an incredible racetrack experience regardless. Traction control will be there to catch any mistakes that you might make, and if you’re a total beginner, the gains of turning TC off may be minor anyway.
Some racing series such as Formula 1 have banned the use of traction control. This is because the cars are designed to be more difficult to drive in order to show how skilful the drivers really are. Being able to drive a car on the limit with the traction control off is extremely difficult, especially in an F1 car.
When You Should Never Disable Traction Control
Traction control should never be disabled on public roads, especially in bad weather or in slippery conditions. These are where the system helps you the most, and where it could even save your life. Under these conditions, accidents are much more likely to happen as the car will be much more difficult to control, so you should always leave TC on in these cases.
KEY POINTS• It takes time and practice to learn how to drive fast without traction control on
• It’s best to start slow, and try to learn from others if you can
• You should never disable traction control on public roads
Turning off the traction control on your car while racing can definitely help you to drive faster and bring your lap times down. However, it does require a lot of skill in order to keep your car on the track! Traction control is a safety feature at the end of the day, so while you might want to learn how to drive with it off when you’re on the track, you should never disable it on public roads.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.