Eli5: Why do race cars go high on straightaways and low on turns

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Eli5: Why do race cars go high on straightaways and low on turns

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It’s called an apex. Every turn has a “perfect” line. The apex is the line in which the least amount of speed is lost through the turn. Going high on a straightaway sets you up for the apex of the turn. Essentially it keeps you from having to turn the quite as much and keeps your line as straight as possible so you don’t lose speed through the turn.

The most efficient way to travel as fast as possible around a track can be called a “line”. These lines include going from high to low into a turn, then accelerating as quickly as possible and allowing centripetal force to “sling” you out of the turn, allowing you to accelerate from low in the turn, to high when coming out of it.

I know this isn’t a super technical description, but taking turns as fast as possible, while keeping as much traction as you can, requires you to start from a high point before the turn. Once in the turn, you accelerate as much as possible while keeping that traction. Allowing yourself to come out of a turn and shooting for a high position allows that balance of acceleration and traction to happen as efficiently as possible.

I’m sure someone else can explain it better, but I hope it helps.

Are you talking about their position on the racetrack?

If you are, then what they are doing is taking the best possible route through a corner.

They start on what would be the “outside” of the upcoming corner, turn in and go to the lowest or “inside” part of the corner, and then go back to the “outside” of the next straight.

Outside -> Inside -> Outside

This is called the racing line. It is the theoretical fastest way through a corner. It opens up the radius of the corner to be as straight as possible so the cars can carry as much speed as possible. Cars can go faster when straighter than they can when turning.

When a car travels fast it has momentum which makes it resistant to changes in velocity. When a car wants to turn it has to slow down to decrease its momentum or else it won’t be able to make the turn. If cars could turn as tightly as they wanted to without sacrificing any speed the fastest way around the track would be to stay on the inside the whole time because it’s a shorter distance. So what’s the best balance between keeping your speed high and also going a shorter distance around the track? It’s high in, low out. You want to exit the turn from as low of a point as possible to cut the travel distance, but when you approach the turn from a high position you’ve essentially widened the whole turn radius making it so you can maintain as high of a speed as possible throughout the turn.

The other answers are correct that it’s s physics equation but there was a video the other day which a guy went straightish and rode the high wall to ruin his car on the last lap but take like 8 spots and qualified for a playoff spot because of it.

There’s less control going high and they only go high on the straight to go low. It’s like turning too quick, you can’t go fast.

A track with banked high low turns is engineered for speed.