Also I always try to visualize each corner relative to a similar corner on another track, so you can sort of get your bearings and approach down quicker.
I always take a few laps of my first session at 50% pace just to get a feel for the flow of the track, then slowly dial it up, focusing on nailing one section at a time. So I’ll say to myself, “okay I’m going to try braking really deep this time into turn 1, maybe there’s time to be found there yet…” and once I’ve sorted that section, I’ll move onto the next one… “maybe if I jump this kerb I can set up better for the corner after it…” and just working my way around the track until I’ve got each section down.
Once you’ve built up a knowledge base of corners and combinations of corners, you’ll find it’s much much easier to learn a new track, as you have a bunch of internal data on entry, apex, and exit points to compare off of. I’ve also found that figuring out the braking point and turn-in point for any corner almost automatically sorts out the throttle application point, the apex, and the exit. So I try to figure out my turn-in first.
When we go to SuperNats, the layout changes almost every year. The best guys are on the pace from about lap 5 of the first session on. The less experienced drivers can take all day to figure the track out. I remember watching Nicastro go ballistic fast the first session one year, like several tenths clear of everyone else in the class. He has so much experience and he’s so good, that he was able to come out of the gate and say “oh this corner is like this other corner on track X, this braking zone is the same as the approach to turn 3 at track Y…”