Corner prioritization refers to assigning relative importance to corners on the circuit.
The necessity to prioritize corners stems from limited mental bandwidth that any driver has available. One can only work on, concentrate or analyze so many things at once. Without consciously evaluating importance of each corner you risk either getting inconsequential corners right and important corners wrong, or being too distracted to improve anywhere altogether.
How corners are prioritized depends on what you are doing at the event.
New HPDE Driver Or HPDE Driver On New Track
If you are in an HPDE setting and are learning a new track, you typically want to start by treating all corners with a similar attention level. This is a "meta-learning" step of sorts; you need to examine each corner to see how important it is for the entire lap.
HPDE Driver Looking To Improve Lap Time
If you are in an HPDE setting and are working on reducing your lap time, presumably you already know what the correct line through a standalone turn is. The next step is looking at multiple turns together - if two turns are so close to each other that it is impossible to drive the ideal line through each of the turns, what line should be taken through them?
The usual benchmark in HPDE is lap time, which permits the question to be reformulated as follows: driving the ideal line in which corner will yield the lowest overall lap time? Then, what is the best possible line through the remaining corners with the constraint that the line through important corners does not change?
Typically, the corners are then arranged as follows:
- Corners leading to straights, longer straights first.
- Corners at the end of straights, longer straights first.
- Transition corners.
You would concentrate on different aspects of driving in the different categories of corners:
- Exit speed in corners leading to straights.
- Late braking in corners following straights.
- Consistency in transition corners, to avoid screwing up the following corner that typically leads to a straight.
Time Trial Driver
Competition brings a defensive aspect to driving. While an HPDE driver would typically not worry about being slow, being slow at the wrong moment in competition can lead to losing.
Accordingly, drivers would consider corners where it is possible to give up a lot of time due to a mistake. Usually these are corners leading to straights which have another complication, such as a heavy braking zone or unusual geometry. The goal in these corners becomes being reasonably quick and not making mistakes rather than outright speed or time.
Racing adds passing to the mix. Passing has offensive and defensive components, and how corners are classified for passing purposes depends on the car being driven and other cars in the field.
For example, a car with higher power than the rest of the field but worse brakes is likely to be passed in braking zones but not at corner exits. Therefore, in corner exits the driver would only need to avoid making glaring mistakes, whereas in braking zones and in corner entries the driver would need to be paying attention to traffic and carefully selecting a defensive line.
You should know, before each session, which corners you are going to work on in that session, and what aspect of each corner you are going to work on (braking, line, throttle application, etc.). The corners should be arranged in a priority list. As you are getting better in your top priority corners, move on to the next corners on the list. After each session reflect on your achievements and revise the list of corners for the next session.