The Circuit Approach vs. The Rally Approach

On the touge, you will notice that there are two main categories that you can put the drivers you encounter under. Someone who comes from the circuit, and someone who comes from driving rally stages. Identifying each type of style is useful for many reasons. One being that you can choose which style you identify with, and another being that you can learn the strengths and weaknesses of both styles to use to your advantage. Let’s start by discussing the circuit driver’s approach.

Circuit drivers often have lots of experience with their car. They know how to control it on the limit, and they have a well-developed internal clock and sense of pace when they are time attacking and racing. These traits, however, are not what separate the circuit driver from the others. The nature of circuit racing requires the driver to extract all possible grip from their tires, achieved by abusing slip-angle and gripping hard without ever breaking traction. Circuit drivers will apply fundamental techniques, like out-in-out racing lines, threshold braking, trailbraking, and full-grip. This kind of driving when applied to the touge creates a smooth, consistent driver that will make very little mistakes. They sacrifice entry speed for exit speed, which is another fundamental racing discipline. Another thing to consider, however, is driving a road for the first time. Using the circuit-style while going 30-50% will be safe, but if someone attempts to use the circuit style at the car’s limits on a road they don’t know, catastrophic understeer is inevitable. A beginner racing the touge will be blown out of the water by an experienced circuit driver; their consistency and overall pace will be far from the circuit driver, and the circuit driver will slowly pull away. Applying circuit techniques to touge is a very solid route to take. Let’s talk about rally drivers now.

Rally drivers, like circuit drivers, know their car and its limits very intimately, and have strong internal clocks and senses of pace. Rally drivers use fundamental racing disciplines, like threshold braking, trailbraking, and out-in-out racing lines. What makes them so different than circuit drivers? Most circuit races take place in good conditions. Sunny and warm weather, with a dry road free of debris or obstacles, and a predictable course. Rally drivers drive on rally stages. Rally stages are often composed of gravel, dirt, mud, snow/ice, (sometimes all of them), and asphalt. They are also much longer than most circuits, ranging from 4km on the short side to 11km on the long side. Because rally drivers have to operate quickly on loose surfaces, they cannot grip like a circuit driver does. A circuit driver brakes hard before the turn, letting of the brakes slowly as they turn in, achieving the most possible grip. A rally driver takes corners by braking, but using the brakes not only to slow down in a straight line, but to shift weight to the front of the vehicle and off of the rear. This allows them to literally throw the car into a turn sideways, achieving lots of entry speed, and when done correctly, as much exit speed as they would have if they were fully gripping. Using the brakes for weight transfer is not the only way rally drivers slide, though. They can pull the handbrake to momentarily lock up the rear wheels, and they can perform a move referred to as the “Scandinavian Flick”. A Scandinavian Flick is done by briefly turning the car away from the direction you intend to turn, then using the inertia to whip the car back around, upsetting the car’s balance and allowing it to swing around a turn. Because sliding is so prevalent in rally driving, it is faster all-out gripping on loose surfaces. As mentioned above, trying to drive a car on its limits on a road that you are unfamiliar with will have consequences. With the rally style, a driver can attack a road at 100% of their concentration and the car’s limits. This is because a touge is very tight with often unexpectedly tight turns; the circuit style would cause deadly understeer. On the touge, understeer is absolutely unsafe, and oversteer is welcome. Oversteering into every turn on an unfamiliar road is much safer than risking full grip into the turns when you are unaware of their radius. When this style is applied to touge, it is slower at first. The driver will scrub lots of speed on the entry, mid corner by countersteering, and in the exit by failing to regain grip in time. As a driver becomes more proficient, they will learn to use sliding to make them quicker. If an experienced rally driver were to take on the touge, they would be using the sliding for a faster entry into the corner, but keeping the angle of the slide low to ensure quick cornering speed and maximum grip in the exit. When put to the limits, the rally driver’s approach will be faster than the circuit driver’s approach 9/10 times.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Each Style

Circuit Pro’s

  • Easy for beginners
  • Safer style for following slower cars
  • Easy to correct mistakes
  • Lower risk of error
  • Lower wear on tires
  • More consistent overall speed

Circuit Con’s

  • Slow entry speed
  • Early braking
  • NOT safe for learning an unfamiliar road on the car’s limit

Rally Pro’s

  • Very fast entry speed
  • Safest style for learning new roads on the car’s limit
  • Flashy appearance
  • Very fast mid-corner speed

Rally Con’s

  • Higher risk of losing control
  • Higher risk of a slower exit
  • Higher risk of hitting the leading driver
  • Difficult for beginners
  • Increased tire wear

VIDEOS:

See 1:47 for an example of the rally style being applied. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2HoaG6sByg

See entire video, starting from 1:50 for an example of the circuit style being applied. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQyEIRUyEvQ