Left foot braking ....... How and Why
Why you should be left foot braking and how to get started.
You may think Left foot braking is a technique reserved for the elite racers. If you've ever attempted it, you'll also be of the opinion that you require superhuman control and dexterity in your left leg, as you no doubt nearly head-butted the steering wheel after a rather hefty press on the pedal. We're going to go through a few of the reasons why you might choose to L.F.B and some ways in which you can safely get started.
As a Drivetribe reader, there's a fair chance you will have driven a go kart at some point in your life. If so, you're well ahead of the pack. In most arrive and drive karts, you will sit with the steering column between your legs and you are forced to operate the throttle with your right foot and the brake with your left. These machines are a great introduction to the world of L.F.B because of their fairly hard pedal feel. This is because the braking effort is either cable or hydraulically operated directly onto the brake drum/disc. Swap to almost any modern road car and the braking effort is made much easier due to power assisted braking through a servo or brake pressure booster.
Why should I use my left foot to brake?
By operating the brake pedal with the left foot, you leave the right foot free to focus solely (pun intended) on throttle control. There are a number of reasons why you might choose to do this.
You speed up the transition from full throttle to applying the brakes. Where as the traditional method requires you to lift your right foot off the throttle - move across the pedal box - then depress the brake pedal, you are instead able to seamlessly transition from full throttle to full braking effort with next to no delay. Useful for braking harder and deeper into a braking zone.
With both feet in use, you are able to control the car in ways not possible with single foot operation.
Left foot braking also allows you to alter the pitch or attitude of the car. Trail braking into a corner can help you to scrub off unwanted speed carried into the apex, balancing and playing the brake and throttle off against each other mid corner allows you to adjust the angle and turn in characteristics. This can help with controlling understeer/oversteer.
You are also able to induce oversteer or special handling characteristics mid corner, should you be someone who enjoys getting your car at all sorts of weird and wonderful angles.
Bill's Tips - How can I get started?
The Emphassis here is on practice. Practice, practice, practice. As with all driving, there is an inherent risk when learning a new skill, so please do so in a safe and controlled manner.
However, when practiced in a safe environment, you can quickly build confidence and a feel in your left foot that will have you braking like a pro in no time.
Get yourself comfortable in the car. Seating position, no loose objects, radio off. Find yourself an empty car park or long quite back road, somewhere you can easily cruise around at 20-30mph in 2nd gear.
To begin with, you want to get used to the feeling of your left foot pivoting at the ankle in a way that you can control the brake pedal. Until now, it's either been used to depress a much heavier clutch or in an automatic, you've probably not used it at all. It's going to seem strange, very strange. Don't be surprised if your first few minutes are very jumpy and the car is pitching around. This is the reason you need to be in a wide open space to practice, without the distraction of kerbs, people or obstacles.
Begin by building your speed up, get yourself mid way up through the rev range. Next, come off the throttle with the right foot aim to decrease the vehicle speed down a few thousand rpm with your left foot on the brake. For now we are staying in the same gear, so don't slow too much.
Continue with the above technique until you are able to consistently control the brakes so the the car doesn't pitch wildly nose forwards. Once you have this covered. you can look to make the transition seamless, peeling off of the throttle and applying the brakes in a flowing movement.
When you feel comfortable with controlling the brakes vs the throttle, aim to take this onto the open road. Again, in a safe environment with no other traffic around, slowly introduce light brake pressure to see how your car responds. As mentioned, it can be a great technique to bring the nose of the car into an apex or when trail braking.
Here is a clip from racing my Caterham Supersport. My L.F.B technique still needs some refining, however in a racing situation, the track and traffic conditions are always changing, hence the rather erratic foot movements as I try to work out what the next control input needs to be.
Find a wide open space to practice.
Get comfortable in the car.
Start off light and simple.
It'll be a bit bumpy to start, but stick with it.
If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments and I'll get back to you.