Other Braking Techniques
Trail braking in its pure form is a performance driving technique for the track. It allows you to brake later by extending the final phase of braking into the initial part of the corner itself. Limit braking wipes off most of the speed in a straight line, then you ease the pressure as you start turning the steering wheel. You have to reduce brake pressure to compensate for the tyres juggling two jobs at once, otherwise you lose the ability to steer, brake, or both!
For everyday driving, the benefit of overlapping a hint of braking as you turn into a corner is the weight stays put and you flow into the corner. It feels natural as long as you don’t overdo it.
Certain racing cars with extreme set-ups require you to left-foot brake, such as NASCAR, where the off-centre axle has to be kept under constant acceleration to stop it driving in the wrong direction. You continue to accelerate with your right foot while braking with your left to keep it stable. This specialized kind of oval racing is the only environment where I left-foot brake. Everywhere else, I always stick to the right foot.
On the race track, some drivers use left-foot braking with no discernible performance advantage. At Le Mans, a car full of left-foot brakers would lose. The combined braking and accelerating burns a lot more fuel and chews up brake pads, so they would have to make extra fuel stops and replace the pads more often.
Three-time British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal races a front-wheel-drive car for a living and says: ‘It’s gimmicky. You hear people overdoing it and the brake temps go insane, but really the benefits are neither here nor there. I’d never use it on the road.’
Even in rallying, the role of left-foot braking has changed since the turbo era, when drivers used it to keep the revs up and work around problems in the suspension. These days it’s more used for fine-tuning the weight around the apex.
Left-foot braking on the road is as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle, and don’t let anybody tell you different. If you want to train your left foot usefully, use the clutch as smoothly as possible. Transferring it to the brake will only mean a clumsy push followed by a gum full of steering wheel.