When you're a youngster just learning how to drive a car, you might be inclined to initiate a bit of vehicular shenanigans. The handbrake is a good place to start for such antics.
Little did you know that the building blocks for rally racing were forming in your brain. The handbrake is a powerful tool that can be used to help a rally car zip around a corner. Wyatt Knox from Team O'Neil Rally School is here to explain how to pull off the perfect handbrake turn.
This is a driving technique best suited for slow to medium-speed corners. In a higher speed situation, you'll want to avoid pulling on the handbrake. When you're lifting up on that lever what you're doing is actuating the rear brakes, and only the rear brakes. Pull hard enough and you'll lock those rear wheels completely. Why would you want to do such a thing? This can help you force the car into an oversteer situation and get your nose pointing around a corner quicker than you could simply using the brake pedal.
As Wyatt explains, you can go about this in one of two ways. First, you can start your turn by turning the steering wheel. Once you've got the initial angle you need, you can then start to pull up on the handbrake. As you apply more pressure, the rear end will begin to come around. Ease off the handbrake, keep your eyes peeled where you want to go, and throttle on out to the corner exit. This creates an arcing, sliding turn and is useful on wide corners.
The second method involves pulling the handbrake before you turn the wheel. The car will start sliding straight, but it will maintain its current course, so this is a move better suited to narrow sections of the stage. Once you're sliding with the brake applied, you can then begin to turn, and the car will move into an oversteer situation. From here, you then release the handbrake and exit the corner in the same manner as the other version of a the handbrake turn.
If you pull this off in a front-wheel-drive car, you don't have to worry about the clutch and the gearbox. The drive wheels are unaffected by the action of pulling that handbrake. In a rear- or all-wheel-drive car, however, you're creating drag on the parts that are taking orders from the engine and driveshaft. You'll need to clutch in for the duration of the time you have the handbrake engaged. This is equally true of both drift cars and rally cars.
If you can add the handbrake turn to your arsenal of driving skills, you'll become a more confident and faster rally driver. Then you can start mastering even more.