Should I trail brake?

I’m a KA driver considering a switch to LO206 this summer. My coach who I pay for lessons at my local track coaches me to threshold brake in a straight line, release the brake and hear the revs rise, and then roll through the corner. He coaches me not to trail brake. He says that trailing the brake into the apex binds up the chassis and doesn’t allow it to flex and lift the inside rear wheel. He also coaches me to push hard against the chassis with my hands on the steering wheel (elbows locked, arms straight) while braking.

I watch videos of Norberg advising trail braking and I watch Peter Windsor talking about the importance of trail braking in short corner driving in F1.

Should I be trail braking in KA? What about in LO206?

If you want me to pick a specific corner, then lets consider turns 1-2 at Orlando Kart Center (right handers at the end of the main straight if you’re running the track in normal clockwise direction).

I appreciate your advice and I’m excited to practice improving my braking, as I see this as the biggest delta between myself and faster drivers I’m competing against.

Your coach is correct, most likely. Depends on how advanced you are, really. There are times where trail makes sense but it’s kind of rare in karts and requires a pretty advanced level of braking to begin with, to execute properly.

The likelihood is that you’d just be extending your braking zones for no good reason and being down on revs/late throttle to boot.

I don’t race lo206 but I’d be super surprised if any of them on here would advise trail. Tiny mistakes have huge down the track consequences and braking is de-minimis to begin with.

I’ve only driven OKC a few times but I don’t think that’s a Trail corner from what I recall/can imagine in my mind.

Trail is different in cars… it is super common and can let you carry greater speed into long radius, round curves, by keeping back end planted. 1-2% can keep the power down on edge of maintenance throttle. I may get yelled at for saying this but it’s different in karts.

In KA and anything with horsepower, almost all the fast guys are trailbraking for the tighter corners. In fact, most of them are trailbraking most corners. I just watched back my SuperNats footage and I trailbraked every corner on the track. At Dousman I do the same. In 206, there’s almost no braking so it’s less important. You might find yourself trailbraking a bit for tighter corners and bigger braking events, but the brake zones are so short in 206 anyway. Trailbraking can help put the kart on the nose and transfer more weight, but it also risks over-flexing the kart at max load if you make a mistake or if the kart setup isn’t quite perfect.

Trailbraking is more advanced of a technique, so it takes more skill and practice to master it. If you do it wrong, it will hurt your apex and exit speed badly. So generally for less experienced drivers, it’s easier and more consistent to straight-line brake a bit more.

Pushing yourself back into the seat for braking is totally valid. Puts more weight to the rear, stabilizes the floppy sack of meat in the seat, and helps the kart start planted under hard braking. Again, less important in 206 where you probably won’t be chirping the rear tires and your braking will be pretty controlled. In something with more power you can hang the back out a bit more and brake more aggressively.


@tjkoyen since the term ‘trailbraking’ is a bit vague, I’m curious how far you actually brake into the turns (recognizing that it probably varies based on the turn/kart). The sort of ‘classic’ car version of trail braking tends to be most of the way, or all of the way to the apex, but I suspect maybe trail braking is not carried that far in karts… at least not for anything other than for very tight turns that require very hard braking?

In a formula ford, I trailbraked everywhere, but it was usually just a very brief moment of trailing off the brakes during the initial direction change input, and never a long drawn-out process… unless it was being used to manage a big underlying handling issue.

It’s called a braking technique, but I really think of it more as a tire load management technique than a ‘braking’ technique.


I don’t brake all the way to apex, because I want to be on throttle before apex in almost every instance.

Obviously depends on the corner but here is my SuperNats video for reference:

Not my best work but you can see my brake foot pretty easily in this one so it’s pretty good for slowing down and watching where I release the pedal.

This is me and @Matt_Geist every single time we talk about driving:

Me: Should I be trail braking insert any corner here?
Him: Yes


Thank you for posting this. I’m having a hard time seeing where you get off the brakes in this video. I can easily notice the big movement of your toes and your thigh when you start applying heavy brake pressure, but as you trail off, I can’t tell if you’re completely off the brakes or still applying 20% pressure.

Use the YouTube speed control to drop the playback speed to 25% speed (0.25), then, if you are still having trouble telling what’s happening with the brakes based on TJ’s foot, watch the brake master cylinder arm instead.

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That helps, thanks! It seems like he brakes about 70% of the way from the beginning of the braking zone to the apex. @tjkoyen and others, what is the most efficient way to improve braking technique during practice days?

  1. Pick one heavy braking zone, set up a cone, practice braking later and later and keep moving the cone forwards until I lock up/miss the apex?

  2. Same as above but don’t move the cone and focus instead on consistency and faster corner exit (completing rotation and getting on throttle earlier) instead of braking later?

  3. Follow someone faster and try to brake where he brakes?

  4. Just drive hot laps as fast as I can?

  5. Another method that you recommend?

This is the exact drill I use when coaching. It’s how I learned where the limit was and how to get comfortable being at the limit.


Follow TJ’s advice above, but I would recommend doing that with just straight-line braking at first.

Once you are really comfortable/confident braking at the limit, then you could try introducing some trail-braking into your practice routine. However, remember that trail braking extends the braking zone, so you probably will have to move the start of your braking zone just a little closer to the turn in order to arrive at the apex with the same speed/energy.

Also, as you are getting comfortable with trail braking, consider that when you turn into a corner with the brakes on, in addition to continuing to reduce the kart’s speed, the brakes also almost take on the function of a rudder on a plane; that is, it can have a small to a huge influence on how the kart rotates into the apex depending on speed, brake pressure/release, turn-in technique, etc.

There are no separate events or adjustments; everything is interconnected through cause / effect and/or influencer / influenced by relationships.

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I can’t wait to try this again. My coach made me do it once. I was way harder than I expected and definitely showed me how much more I can improve.

@speedcraft thank you. I am now skimming this thread and I’ve downloaded the free chapter on braking from Terrence’s book that was linked in the thread:

The pedal cam video of the IAME driver in that thread makes it very easy to see trail braking inputs.

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I did a video on braking that might also be worth a watch.


Yep, def gonna watch that as well.

I blue my rotors at Whiteland. :joy:

From the way back memory machine, on a single speed kart you don’t use trail braking to brake later - you will almost always outbreak yourself and mess up the corner. What you gain in distance you’ll lose on speed, and the lower powered the kart the more it hurts you. Trail braking is used more to help “rotate” the kart on corner entry, get yourself aimed more where you want to go. It would let you setup your kart for a little more “push” turning in to get a better run exiting. The trail brake can counter act the turn in push if done correctly.

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I trail brake, alot… but I also have my chassis setup to do so. There are corners I normally wont though and usually its corners I am really backing up for exit speed. However, I will also use this as a place people think they are safe and I will slide job them and steal the exit speed when they hit my rear bumper because I had to sacrafice corner exit speed by trail braking it in.

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By what mechanism does trail braking increase rotation? Is it because of weight transfer to front tires giving more front end grip?

Also, how do you set up a kart for understeer/push that you will then counteract by trail braking? What chassis adjustments do you make?

A little bit of a few things. Weight transfer to the front increases front grip and implies weight transfer off of the rear for less rear grip. You also have to look at the limited ability of a tire to do two things at once - you are asking the rears to both slow the kart longitudinally and stabilize the kart laterally. This will mean there is less grip for lateral (sideways) stability on the rears, so it can step out easier. At a very simplified level, a tire that can exert 2G when asked to do only one thing will only be able to exert 1.4G when asked to do two simultaneous things (brake and steer). This is why you are lifting off the brake as you get more into the turn so the rears are available for handling lateral Gs of the turn better as you ask less of them for braking.


I always trail brake in higher performance classes (X30, TAG), KA on tighter corners.

I can’t imagine it necessary in LO206 class though with limited HP and entry speed.