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 keep traction. Many drivers turn off their traction control when racing, but a lot of drivers are not sure why they should.
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.
However, turning off traction control comes with risks, as you are taking away a safety net. If your car control is not up to standard, it could lead to a serious accident. Many professional racing series have banned traction control in order to make the cars more difficult to drive.
What Is Traction Control?
Traction control is a computer system which is installed in cars to prevent the loss of traction on the driven wheels (front wheel drive or rear wheel drive). Traction control activates when you push down on the throttle and one of the wheels starts to lose grip or slip.
Once the wheel starts to slip, the traction control system will cut the power to that wheel or in some more extreme cases apply the brakes to that specific wheel in order to slow it down and regain its grip to the road.
This is why it is difficult to drift or to do burnouts with traction control activated. Turning the traction control off will allow you to 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 wheel spin. This is not always the fastest possible acceleration.
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 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 skillful. They are able to put down as much power as the driving wheels allow them to without spinning them up.
Being precise with your right foot allows you to maximise the use of 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.
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. This is also a technique which requires some skill and practice though.
How Do I Learn To Drive Without Traction Control?
A good place to start is in a low horsepower and low grip car. This will significantly reduce the speed at which you are going of course, but it will also be much more forgiving on wheel spin. Using low powered cars will allow you to get a feel for wheel spin and how much power you can put down without the risk of flying off the track.
Another good way to learn more about how traction control affects your car is any kind of simulator or relatively realistic console game. You will notice that if you have the TC turned on, you can just instantly go onto the power and the car will accelerate (although not at full power).
However, turn it off and try the same tactic, and you will most likely find yourself spinning or drifting as soon as you go onto the power. The more you practice with your traction control off on a simulator, the more you will learn how to feel when the car is sliding or spinning the wheels.
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 tyres 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 to you. From there you just need to adjust to different cars based on the amount of power.
Some modern cars also allow different settings in traction control. For example, some cars allow full traction control settings, as well as medium and low. 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 when the traction control light flashes 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.
If you are unsure of how much wheelspin you are getting under acceleration and you can’t tell if the traction control is kicking in or not, then you need to spend some more time trying get a feel for your car and understanding its balance.
The Dangers Of Not Having Traction Control
Being a safety measure, there are some risks involved in turning the traction control off. These risks increase in severity with higher horsepower cars. The system is designed to keep the car under control when it comes to beginner drivers.
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 on the roads. You need to be able to control your vehicle, and you need to know where the grip is on circuit.
If it’s your first time on track, why would you risk your own car for which you are financially responsible just to try and be faster? Furthermore, why would you risk serious injury or even your life to try and be fast on your first track day?
It’s great to look for a new challenge, but it is always important to do so safely, and make sure that you are confident in your abilities. First learn to control the car and learn the circuit before attempting to drive without traction control.
Many people turn off their traction control simply because they’ve seen it done by TV journalists who do car reviews. Others think that they will simply have more fun in their car without traction control.
The truth is that cars are entirely capable of being on a racetrack with traction control 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.
Some racing series such as Formula 1 have banned the use of traction control. This is because they are trying to make the cars more difficult to drive in order to show how skilful these drivers actually are. Being able to drive a car at its limit with the traction control off is extremely difficult.
Traction control should never be disabled on public roads, 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.
Turning off the traction control on your car while racing can definitely help you to drive faster and bring you lap times down by a considerable amount. However, it does require a large amount of skill in order to keep your car on the track.
There are dangers to disabling it on your car though. Traction control is a safety net and allows drivers to make mistakes. However, as soon as you take that safety net away, it makes the driving much more challenging and riskier.
Ideally, you will want to have practiced driving without traction control previously in a car with less power or on a simulator, which is much more forgiving on your mistakes. The learning curve can be quite steep as it requires you to have a sensitive feel for the car and a reactive right foot.
It can be really satisfying when you are able to complete a lap at full pace without traction control, but it is important to start off slow and learn how to control your car, and how your car reacts to your throttle inputs before trying to set the fastest lap.