Brake Better to Go Faster

This article came across my news feed today.

http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a32702/why-youll-never-learn-to-be-fast-until-you-get-rid-of-your-fast-car/

It was well timed as I have been thinking on this subject for some time. First things first.
Driving a fast car is usually super fun.
Driving a “slow” car is usually super fun.
Winning is always super fun.

The important take away from the Road and Track article is that driving a slower car means that your entry speeds are lower and thus it is easier to get to the ideal cornering speeds. This is even more important in the low traction environment of stage rallying. Think of all the things that happens under braking on gravel. Weight transfer, tires skidding, back end gets wiggly, etc. This is all multiplied as you increase the speed with which you enter corners and becomes so much easier to mess it up.
I want to expand their thesis. I’m not going to say drive a slow car. I say, drive a simple and cheap car and leave it nearly stock. I love the E36 BMW for this reason. The 2.5 or 2.8 I6 engines have plenty of power and are cheap and reliable when left pretty much near stock. I know this because I have been demonstrating it for the last four years. I park the car, when it’s time to race, I check the fluids, air pressure, load it on the trailer and go race. Occasionally a might break a few things, control arms and the like but I mostly get to focus on trying to get the car to it’s limits. The major upgrade on the car in 2016 was elimination of the brake booster and installation of a dual master pedal kit, available on our website. This was a huge change and allowed me to fine tune the brake bias to my driving style and always have a reliable pedal. In the events I did in 2015 and 2016 I was about 3 seconds per mile faster in 2016 with just that major change. When you consider that I am currently only 2 seconds per mile behind the fastest two cars, a S54 swapped BMW and a turbocharged Integra, both with nearly double the horsepower it really is amazing that brakes mean that much.
I have been known to say, “project cars suck.” Project cars are almost always projects with a goal of making more power. LS engine swaps, turbo swaps into GC cars, etc. Plenty of people taken away from driving for months or even years on end chasing a little more power. There is nothing wrong with this but remember, driving is usually super fun.
I have one friend in Canada that said to me once, “After I crashed my first rally car and I had started building my second one I had an epiphany. I enjoy the project much more than the end result. I like building the cars way more than I enjoy driving them in competition.” He went and got a job at a top motorsports shop and is now one of the top rally technicians in the north building wicked cars and getting paid to do it.
I have another friend that does an event or sometimes two every year or two. He loves his Subaru but it is a stock 2.2L and super slow. He is swapping in a turbo engine. More power to him! Honestly if I were only doing an event or two per year I’d make it worth it and build a faster car. But with more power comes more expense, more tires, more issues, and ultimately that leads to less seat time. This is an anecdotal statement but it is without doubt the absolute truth. A competitive open class rally car (turbo AWD ~300 hp) will go through twice the fuel, twice the brake consumables and two or three times the amount of tires as an open light car (NA 2.5L ~180-200hp).
Let’s go back and remember what we said earlier.
Driving a fast car is usually super fun.
Driving a “slow” car is usually super fun.
Winning is always super fun.

There was a video once of Travis Pastrana riding along with Dave Mirra during a testing/practice session. The only thing Travis was critical of was his braking. There is a reason Motocross riders often successfully transfer to four wheel motorsports and it is brake control. The closer you are to the limit, the easier it is to be at the limit. In most motorsport the important limit is not your top speed in the straight sections but your top speed in the corners.
Lastly a quote from seasoned rally veteran Mad Mike Halley, “The apparent fascination with the idea that more horsepower immediately translates into better stage times continues to mystify me.”