Cornering is probably the single hardest element of driving in terms of vehicle control. It’s also the reason why drivers lose control. It’s what racing drivers take years to master; driving on the absolute limit on a corner, finding the quickest line, and keeping the car as stable as possible.
In road driving, taking the car to its limit isn’t really relevant and certainly not safe. But there are some elements we can take from racing in respect of cornering, such as keeping the vehicle as stable as possible and adopting the right line. In racing, there are a number of lines, the classic racing line, the late turn in, late apex (squaring off) line etc. In road driving, you need to adopt the safest line, but also where you can see it to be clear, you too can also adopt more of a racing line with the objective of keeping the vehicle as stable as possible.
A vehicle is most stable when its weight is evenly distributed, it’s in a straight line, and the engine is pulling it at a constant speed. The moment you enter a bend, the vehicle slows and starts to lose stability.
If you want to really experience high-speed cornering you should go to a track. It’s safer for the following reasons:
1 – Traffic is travelling in the same direction
2 – There are no road speed limits to obey
3 – It’s safer if you make a mistake
4 – You have room to experiment
5 – Everyone on track knows everyone else will be driving quickly
The main point you need to understand is that with road driving, you should always be travelling from point to point on the road with the most control possible and the best visibility. There are three main points to a corner, which tend to be more spoken about in track driving but also have relevance for road driving.
Turn in – This is the point you initiate a turn into a corner. This is when the vehicle becomes less stable and where you need to make sure that you’re in the right position, at the right speed, and in the correct gear (if relevant). If making a left turn, position yourself to the right for a better view if safe to do so. Sacrifice this if needed, for example, if an oncoming vehicle is too close to the centreline. For a right bend position, yourself left for visibility if it’s safe to do so.
Apex – This is the part of a corner where you are no longer entering it but getting ready to exit it. On a track, this can be hitting the far left side of a left corner (from entry position far right) or the far right side of a right corner (from entry position far left). Obviously, this would be lethal to do on the road with oncoming traffic. However, there is still an apex you will be driving on road, albeit not as pronounced as on a track. The benefits of knowing the apex on the road will make you more aware of your overall positioning. Assuming you’re not on a quiet road where you can clearly see through the corner and everything around you, the best apex will be one, which allows the best view of a corner and keeps the vehicle most stable, which is why when driving on the road a late apex is usually safer.
Exit – This is the point when you leave the corner. On a track, accelerating as soon as possible is key. If you’ve gone into a corner too fast, you will be spending time trying to get the car back under control, which will mean you will be late on getting on the power. Regarding road driving, if you’ve gone too fast into a corner, you will also be late on the power, but there are other more important issues to be aware of, such as an increased chance of a collision through loss of control. Exiting a corner on the road should be precise and well-controlled. Enjoy cornering on the road but put a large margin in for safety.