When you first start driving on track, you’ll probably feel a bit overwhelmed. There’s always a lot going on — from the other cars in front and behind you to working the pedals smoothly and knowing where to aim the car.

HPDE instructors know a track day can be overwhelming, which is why you’ll focus on first things first, which always includes learning about how to drive the perfect line.

The “line” is the ideal path around the track through all the corners. It’s one of the first skills you’ll work on in HPDE, but also one you’ll still be perfecting after many successful events.

In this blog, we cover the basics about driving the line on track, with pointers for honing your skills and perfecting the line you drive as you develop.

What Is the Line?

The “line” (sometimes called the “racing line”) is the path driven to minimize the time it takes to complete a whole lap around the track. It’s a path that is intended to be quicker, more efficient and more secure than other paths you could take around the same track in the same car.

The line is most important when it comes to corners. A line often “straightens out” corners, teaching you how to use the full width of the track to your advantage.

Corner References

Every line has the same few basic parts that are key to navigating through corners with maximum efficiency. They’re typically referred to as the “corner references” and include the:

Braking point

The braking point is the point in the line before a corner where you begin to apply the brakes.

Ideally you want to keep some speed through the corner without sacrificing excess traction. This means the amount of braking and the point approaching the turn at which you brake are important decisions.

Braking points are usually on a straight part of the track before you begin to turn.

Turn-in point

The turn-in point is where you initiate the turn into a corner.

This point dictates much of what happens through the rest of the corner, which is why getting it right is so important.

Missing the ideal turn-in point will add time to your lap. Turning too late will require extra braking to stay on track (because the radius is tighter as a result), while turning too early makes it hard to get back up to speed.

Corner apex

The corner apex is the innermost part of a turn. You can think of it as the point where you are no longer entering the corner but transitioning to exit it. The apex is also sometimes called the “clipping point” where the car clips the most inside point of the corner.

The apex is an important reference point you’ll move your eyes to before beginning your turn-in. It’s also typically the point at which you can begin to introduce more throttle.

Apexes can be right in the middle of a turn, or they can be early or late, depending on the geometry of a specific corner.

Exit point or track-out point

The exit or track-out is the point where the car comes out to the edge of the track at the end of the turn.

Both the turn-in and the exit typically begin near the outside edge of the track, while the apex takes the car closest to the inner curb of the track.

By the time you reach the exit point, you usually want to have unwound the steering and be at full the throttle, so that you’re ready for the next straightaway.

Note that the line you drive may not be exactly the same as another driver in another kind of car. There are many variables that can impact what the ideal line is under a particular set of circumstances. As you master control of your car and even upgrade its capabilities, your perfect line may even change.

Geometry of the Line

The line for any turn has a certain ideal geometry to it. It’s useful to understand this geometry even if you may choose to drive a different line for performance reasons.

For instance, imagine if you drew a perfect curve through each turn on your track map. Every line through every corner would look pretty similar geometrically. The turn-in and exit points would be right along the outside shoulder of the track and the apex would be along the inner curb centered in the middle of the turn.

A geometric line like this may seem like it’s always the perfect line to drive at first. But a geometric line may not always be the best. In terms of the speed you’re able to carry and the lap time you’ll be able to achieve, a less geometrically perfect line, with an earlier or later turn-in and apex, may make more sense.

You will find that the perfect line takes all the corners and straights ahead into account, not just the one you’re on. Individual corners may have quicker lines that don’t help you tackle the next turn or straightaway efficiently. So the ideal line is a compromise to get you the most efficient lap (which also tends to be the lowest lap time).

Working with Instructors

The line can be confusing when you’re new to motorsports. Your instructor may give you directions to drive a line that, at first glance, doesn’t seem ideal. But just listen and give it a try. Experienced instructors will show you tricks that will quickly get you driving a faster lap with a more effective line.

If you’re not sure why your instructor suggests a particular line, ask questions when you’re back in the paddock or the classroom. Remember that HPDE is not only about fun and speed, safety and learning are also important.

Try to resist the urge to go too fast before you’re ready. Too much speed with the wrong line can cause you to run off track or worse. Let your instructor guide your progress and add speed when you’re ready.

Over time, you’ll get better at determining the right corner references yourself and choosing a line to drive that helps propel you down straightaways and shave more and more seconds off your laps.

Protecting Your Car

HPDE is an incredibly safe activity, where you progress little by little as you’re ready. But accidents do still happen. If you misjudge a line and your car leaves the track, it could get damaged.

Most standard auto insurance policies don’t cover HPDE activities, which means that if you have an accident, you could be stuck with the repair bill.

Luckily, HPDE Insurance from Lockton Motorsports is available to protect your car while it is on the track. Online signup is fast and easy, so you can get coverage and then get back to learning how to drive the perfect line. Visit Lockton Motorsports to learn more.