Note: Replay and Setup can be downloaded at the end of the post.
I’ve never been a fan of Kyalami. It’s one of those tracks which require ultra-smooth style, perfect precision for your braking and entry points, and punishes any unnecessary correction with either the throttle, brake or steering wheel. This is definitely against my preferred rally-like style, so the conscious effort required to adapt here has always been greater. Despite that, I’ve always seemed to have good results at this track and also some great races, with prolonged battles and many passes.
A Look at the Track
The track is a typical old layout, with wide sweeping bends and long straights, taking full advantage of the natural terrain. Despite having a chicane built-in near the end of the lap, it doesn’t break the rhythm of the lap and is in fact a very nice addition to the feeling you get from driving around the circuit.
As mentioned already, Kyalami demands a calm and calculated approach, with well-timed steering and gradual throttle application. The wide nature of the road gives you some buffer in case of overshooting a braking point or losing the car a bit inside a corner, but the loss of time can be quite significant. A single error or a delay in acceleration means at least a tenth or two lost down the following straight, and a few such errors add up very quickly over a lap.
At the same time, to achieve a really fast lap, you need to really get close to the limit on corner entry and carry in as much speed as possible, but without sacrifcing your exit. Late braking, despite being a minor factor most of the time, can earn you some tenths in a couple of places, but it’s important not to keep braking too deep into some corners and use the throttle to control the deceleration and acceleration of the car. This is the case in the ’65 cars anyway, and especially in underpowered ones like my BT7.
The earlier you prepare the car for acceleration by letting it drift and turn around its own axis, and point it towards the apex, the higher you exit speed is going to be. Because of the amount of track width available to play with, it’s very easy to have a false feeling of being on the limit, but you can easily spot where you’ve not maximized any available space on your replay.
I’ve tried some new things with my setup for this practice run. Stiffer front wheel rates, softer rear anti-roll bar and negative (!) rear toe-in are just some of the main differences compared to what I normally use. The aim was to get a car which could turn easily under throttle, but at the same time have a stable frontend which can be controlled without too much steering movement. This would allow me to drift the car at bigger angles under both braking and throttle, without actually sliding and losing speed in corrections.
Of course, the demands of being smooth with the control inputs still remained, but the car was overall very responsive, predictable and stable. I would imagine a car with more power wouldn’t quite work well with such setup, but the BT7’s lack of power demanded these tweaks because you cannot really turn it much around with the throttle.
One Lap Around Kyalami in Details
Here’s a track map you can use as a reference while reading my guide:
T1 Crowthorne Corner – It’s important to stay on the very edge on the left side of the track before braking for this corner. While it’s possible to take a diagonal line going into the braking zone and move gradually to the left, this requires additional turning to the right on corner entry.
Use the armco on the right side as your braking point in the 65 cars. In the BT7 you can brake just as you line-up with the start of the armco (you have to imagine it somewhat, after the armco edge goes out of sight) and in the faster 65 cars you have to do it slightly earlier, just before it.
Stay hard on the brakes, in fact, almost completely onto the pedal and don’t worry about locking up in the first few meters, it can never happen as long as you apply the same force on all 4 wheels. This of course depends on your brake bias and whether or not you use throttle under braking. Change gears as the car decelerates, keeping the revs inside the optimal torque range, as that helps to feel the car better and correct it easier with the throttle in case it wobbles. As for those who use a H-shifter and drop directly into the gear for the corner, suit yourselves – I have no experience with such technique! 😀
You will notice the track goes up over a slight crest in the first part of the corner. This is where you need to trail brake all the way up that crest, in 3rd gear for the BT7 and all 6speed gearbox cars, and 2nd gear for 5speed gearbox cars. You don’t have to be hard on the brakes though. In fact, due to the way 65 cars handle, you can even get off the brakes much earlier and let the car decelerate with just a bit of throttle applied. Of course, you would have to adjust the amount of throttle all the time, but smoothly, with very little movement over the pedal, to avoid disrupting the car balance.
One thing you should never do here (and just about in all other corners of the track) is completely lift up off the throttle. Even with more conservative coast-side differential settings, this is unwanted as it would only set the car loose at the rear and send you further away from the ideal line.
The point where you have to apply more throttle and begin to accelerate is just when you go over the crown of the crest. Use a more sudden throttle application (at least initially) to turn the car towards the apex or a gradual application if it’s already pointing in the right direction. The apex is a late one and happens to be just after the track begins to go slightly downhill. Hit it (but avoid riding the curb as I did on the video) and use full throttle to drift all the way to the outside curb.
You can safely ride some of that exit curb, but don’t overdo it. Keep in mind that whenever you ride the curb, your revs are going to go up, but you should not change up a gear because that’s just a bit of wheelspin happening. Wait until the car lands properly onto the tarmac, drop the revs, go completely straight and only then change up once the revs reach the limit. It’s a tip that’s valid for any such condition, but it tends to happen particularly often at this track due to the curbing. It can certainly gain you some hundreds over a lap, or even some tenths with a slow car like the BT7. Maximizing the revs is key for a good Qualifying lap and I see many people ignoring that fact!
T2 Barbeque Bend – Finally we arrive to T2! 🙂 This one requires a lot of attention as well, just like most corners on a track like this where you have just a handful of turns making up the lap and they need to be perfected if you’re to gain any time.
The braking point for T2 is a tricky one. There are no distinctive objects on the side of the track, so what I use is the track groove itself. With the default groove, the braking point in the BT7 happens to be about 3-4 tenths after the car enters the darker line. I can’t really say more than that, but with practice you just get a feeling for the braking point and don’t even have to think about it. One thing is for certain though – if there’s a place you don’t want to brake too late, it’s here! If you do, it’s with 90% certainty that you’re going to have an off and in my experience, and off here ends up with either a spin or a collision with the wall in 50% of the time. You’ve been warned!
There’s not much braking to be done here and it’s absolutely crucial you don’t stay on the brakes once you turn into the corner. Brake, change down a gear and flick the steering to the right, all 3 actions done at the same time, and then just focus on the throttle, keeping your eyes on the apex of the corner. The apex is a blind spot initially because of how the track goes downhill, but you would know where to look after getting it right a few times.
Try to line your right front wheel and the apex with your eyes, decelerating by keeping a moderate amount of throttle and lifting up the pedal gradually all the way into the corner. Don’t be afraid to let the car drift around, for as long as you’ve slowed down enough, it’s not going to spin. Even if you enter too fast, a touch of counter-steering for a moment can settle the car, but make sure to get back into normal operation ASAP, otherwise you risk a sling-shot into the wall on the left.
Once you’re almost at the end of the inside curb, just as your car lines up with the curb’s edge, step hard onto the throttle and never lift up anymore. Use only the steering to correct any instability and if you happen to step onto the grass on the exit, be extra careful as you guide the car back onto the road. The slight camber crown of the surface there would try to either grab the car to the left or send it violently to the right across the track. Even if that happens, just lift up somewhat and counter with the steering, but never lift up too much or brake, for you’re going to have a spin.
T3 Jukskei Sweep – Quite an easy bend in the 65s, but still demanding proper attention. Not to avoid going off but to avoid losing too much speed in excessive and unnecessary movements.
Line up the car to the right before the corner as early as possible, even stepping slightly onto the dirt edge. This helps maximize the track width and also turn the car better as you steer to the left. The moment you do that is just before the beginning of that dirt banking on the right, beyond the edge of the track. Try to turn just once and then keep your steering fixed, with only slight adjustments as you step over the inside curb.
Depending on your spring and shock absorber settings, that curb may feel like it’s almost nothing or it may unsettle the car a bit, but you should still go over it regardless. While it works well to put half the car over it in 67s, it’s unwanted in 65s and not necessary either. Just a slight ride over it with the FL wheel is enough to straighten the corner and exit on the edge of the track on top of the hill. Use some of the dirt on the exit to avoid extra steering movement and to put pressure on the drivers behind during the race. 😉 Don’t overdo it though, as it has similar properties to the previous corner exit and can send the car across to the left all of a sudden.
T4 Sunset Bend – The corner with the ballsy entry! You can really test your nerves here by braking as late as you dare, because the penalty for overshooting the corner is an armco in a very bad mood, ready and waiting to rip your wheels off!
A good braking point for this corner is the row of fans behind the armco on the left. Brake just before where that row begins (and hope they don’t move around for the next lap!). The way to brake and turn into the corner is similar in how you do it for T2 – A short but hard dab on the brakes, changing down a gear and turning the steering wheel at the same time is all it takes to set the line on entry.
As with all those long constant-radius corners, it’s important to set up the car in such a way that it points into the right direction early on. This means turning the car at an angle slightly greater than the direction of the corner, but carrying speed at the same time so it drifts around the ideal line. This would allow you to step onto the throttle much earlier and have higher speed on the corner exit.
As for which gear to take the corner in, it depends. Dropping the revs just slightly under the optimal torque range seems to work fairly well, as it makes it easier to apply the power without doing too much throttle control, but it’s still necessary to be smooth with your foot at the initial moment you apply pressure on the pedal.
Once you’ve reached the apex it should be full throttle all the way to the exit. Don’t be frightened if the car seems to be going too wide – as long as you keep the front wheels turned enough it would prevent the car from accelerating optimaly and that way you can control where it arrives at the end of the corner. Try to avoid riding the outside curb, but if you have no choice, it’s OK to do it slightly. Be careful as you get off it though, as it usually sends the car to right a bit forcefully.
T5 Clubhouse Bend – Another corner with a vague braking point, but at least it’s possible to do something in case you overshoot the entry and go wide. Even if you go off, the speed is already low so you can get away with it.
Anyway, in the BT7 I brake just after the dark groove begins, staying on the right side of the track and going down through the gears in a straight line. While still onto the brakes, turn left so the car can rotate around itself gradually and prepare for a drift into the corner. If you do that, you can carry more speed up to the apex and point the frontend in a direction that allows earlier acceleration with less steering input.
This is the only place where you need to be extra careful with applying the throttle, so make sure you do that smoothly and avoid any abrupt pedal inputs if something goes wrong, relying only on your steering wheel for correcting the car direction. Short slight throttle applications are OK though and you can see myself doing that on a couple of ocassions during the whole lap.
You can use the grass on the exit, but again – don’t overdo it.
T6 Esses – This left-right section can provide great satisfaction when you get it right. The combination of altitude drop and direction change makes it unique in the way the handling changes its characteristics all the time, and you can gain a lot of time by rising up to the challenge.
Brake just before the begining of the inside curb before the corner and turn verly early into it while changing down a gear. It’s important not to slow down too much, so the car drifts around, but at the same time decelerate heavily by almost lifting up the throttle completely. The apex of the first left lies very deep into the corner, in fact – almost near the exit. Accelerate hard once you point towards the apex, aiming for a middle line before the right-hander which is still out of sight at that moment.
As the rear steps out a bit while you accelerate, lift up just after the top of the crest, turn right into the downhill drop, dab the brake just a bit and continue to decelerate, controlling the car only with the throttle. There is a definite moment where the road stops going downhill and starts to go up again; it is there when you should have the car positioned as much to the inside as possible and step gradually onto the throttle up to full acceleration, sending the car all the way to the left on the exit. Try not to go onto the curb there as it can lose you some speed, but if you have no choice, it’s not a risky thing to do. Keep that in mind for the race in case you go wide, instead of trying to stay on the road at all cost.
T7 Leeukop Bend – A very important corner because it leads onto the flat out and longest sequence of straights of the track. Brake hard and change down gears just as you reach the start of the inside curbing on the right before the corner, using the all the track width.
The early line is a middle one and it follows the grooved line almost exactly, so use that as a measure where you position the frontend. Focus on your front right wheel and use it as your reference point on positioning the car. It’s important to stay in the middle and not go too wide, nor go too much to the inside, because you need to cut across the track for a straighter line on the exit.
Again, as with all long corners, focus on very early and gradual acceleration, aiming of the very late apex which happens to be just in line with that big lonely tree on the inside. Throttle control is of essence here, for you can either go too wide too soon or set the rear loose if you don’t do it right. Any little misjudgement should be corrected with the steering though, with minor movement over the gas pedal.
Aim to exit towards the end of the curbing on the inside – it’s pointing upwards just where the corner ends, so you can see it easily. Try not to ride it though, but just pass by it and step a bit onto the grass. Overdoing the latter can really unsettle the car due to some camber change in the surface, so be ready to react if that happens.
T8 The Kink – Although a bit of a challenge in 67 cars, it feels like nothing in 65s. Even so, it’s very important that you minimize excessive steering by taking as much straight line as possible through it, just like you do in T3. Aim for the inside curb and just clip it slightly, immediately straightening the steering somewhat after that to avoid turning too much. This is necessary due to the compression of the frontend as it hits the uphill slope and gains some grip.
The timing of you change into top gear is also important here. If possible do it only after you’ve resumed traveling in a straight line, to avoid the scrubing of the tires (no matter how minor) to affect your acceleration. It is enough that you suffer some penalty already because of the road going uphill.
Replay and Setup Downloads
This time I’ve saved and included my whole Qualifying run that produced the lap in the video. I thought you may benefit by seeing how the limit is being reached gradually with each lap as the tires warm up and I increase my focus. The run itself was 1 warm up lap and 3 flying laps, with the 3rd one being the one from the video. Of course, the setup is also included and apart from making 6th gear a bit longer for the race, I’m not going to touch anything else.