How to take a square corner

DirtFish's lead instructor tells us how best to tackle a 90-degree bend

square corner

Most roads are designed to follow terrain, water, boundary lines or some other object difficult to change. If a driver truly wants to delve deep, a road’s design can often show its age. Prior to the advent of the automobile, roads followed the general shape of the terrain to allow easy passage on foot or animal-drawn cart.

The road had a basic ‘flow’ to it as it wound its way through the paths of least resistance and, once paved, led to our first several generations of roadways. A driver’s approach to these roads mimics the flow of the road, following the same rhythm as its design. However sharp, corners are typically well-trodden into a smooth arch by many years of line perfection.

That is, until two roads meet. Inevitably roads meet, and usually they are at odd, angular intersections that defy the natural state of rhythm. Think of a dam jutting into a river: well, that doesn’t fit well does it? So the approach to a junction (or intersection, whatever they’re called in your pocket of the world), must be different to match the interrupted rhythm they present.

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Photo: David Cosseboom

Because of the softer radius of a 90-degree corner on a regular road, a driver is able to carry more momentum through the corner compared to a corner of the same degree in a junction, just from the general shape of how the roads intersect.

The other entertaining difference is they often contain obstacles meant to reduce traffic’s natural tendency to soften the edges of the road, and these are often quite debilitating if met with a speeding rally car. Anything from curbs to signs to rock monuments, whatever the design, the object and its placement are often in a less than ideal location for carrying speed.

Because of this, the main approach when presented with a junction is simply to slow down (unfortunate but true). Having sufficiently slowed, the driver must keep a tidy line through the duration, since curbing, signposts, and ditches are all quite unforgiving and inevitably on the ideal line.

Don’t forget the spectator effect that often disrupts an ordinarily excellent performance Nate Tennis

While the line through a regular corner may follow a smooth arch to match the natural shape, a line through an intersection often matches the shape of the road itself, and is therefore sharper and away from the edges of the road.

Because of the lower speed and square nature of the road, junctions are often a paradise for fans of the handbrake. Lower entry speed and lack of room reduces momentum to turn the car, so the handbrake is an excellent tool for quick rotation with minimal risk.

Don’t forget the spectator effect that often disrupts an ordinarily excellent performance. Whatever the level, generally there is an inherent desire for a driver to show anyone within eyeshot just how fantastic they are (not pointing fingers, I am absolutely guilty).

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Photo: McKlein Image Database

Along with that, lots of new techniques are employed to highlight this prowess and often have never been tried or tested prior to entering the corner. Too fast. With the tires locked. And far too much angle in the wrong direction.

Personally, some of my favorite after-hours’ entertainment is enjoying the aftermath of these scenarios on YouTube, which are fantastic examples of exactly how not to do it. Brilliant!

Like every well laid plan, it’s all easy and straightforward, until we’re on stage. And there are people watching! So forget the speccies lining the road, reduce the speed for a clean entry, maintain a sharper angle than usual, and stay away from solid objects. Easy enough, right…?

Photography:M-Sport, David Cosseboom, McKlein Image Database

Words:Nate Tennis