Car control with Catie: the art of the handbrake | Top Gear
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Monday 4th December
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Car control with Catie: the art of the handbrake

Extreme E driver, TV presenter and British rallying star Catie Munnings shares some driving wisdom

Catie Munnings
  • Being modern ruins the fun


    In modern cars the one thing I hate is the lack of a manual handbrake. If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve reached down to grab a lever in a moment when I really needed it, I’d be rich... I’ve now learned to check before going full send. In rallying, it’s actually a safety blanket too, by giving it a tiny yank in high-speed corners you can kick the rear out and get an extra bit of rotation if you’re coming in hot with a few too many mph.

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  • Speed is your friend

    Sandy desert buggy

    The number one mistake I’ve noticed when teaching people to handbrake turn is they’re afraid of carrying enough speed. Try to carry a bit more momentum into a corner than you would if you weren’t planning to use the handbrake. Keep a steady speed on the approach, then either lift off the gas or brake, which throws the forces of the car to the front, releasing the pressure from the rear tyres – ta-da! Half the work is done if you can get that right...

  • Put your back into it!

    Mini sideways

    Start to turn in with the wheel – if you’ve got the weight transfer right you’ll only need to turn the wheel 90° for a 180° rotation. Now give the handbrake a yank, and be patient. The pressure or length of pull depends on the weight of the car, the handbrake itself and the surface. Don’t panic and release it too early. Wait to feel the rotation and get a slide going before you let go. Remember with RWD cars you’ll also need to dip the clutch to avoid stalling.

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  • Don’t overdo it now!

    Handbrake turn

    With some practice, anyone can get the car sliding with the handbrake, but it’s how you drive out of it that matters. Patience is key – your instinct will be to pile on opposite lock – the danger is not keeping track of where your steering wheel is. Even if you panic and overcorrect, lift your eyes to the direction you want to travel, and try to keep the wheel as close to centre at all times. The perfect technique is 90° rotation on, 90° rotation off.

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