Warning: I haven’t had much personal experience with this. This article is based on my time in FD.
Left foot braking seems to be a new thing in recent years (in pro drifting). I personally haven’t seen it until about 3 years ago and didn’t think much of it. The idea is simple, with the right foot on the gas, press the brake with the left foot. The answer to “why” is simply that the car is going too fast. As far as I can tell, with proper modulation of the brake and gas, your line isn’t affected.
(Image from http://www.formula1-dictionary.net)
- Be drifting
- Press on gas pedal
- Press the brakes with the left foot
- Modulate gas and brake pedals
The technique itself isn’t too difficult to understand but the implementation will take some learning. The vehicle should have enough power to prevent the rear tires from slowing too much or stopping entirely. Braking too hard can cause the trailing front tire to lock or the rear to stop drifting all together. In some cases, the car could stall.
If the left foot hasn’t been trained for braking, it tends to want to press too hard. To fix this, go kart racing or simply driving around in a daily but using the left foot can help train away this lack of sensitivity.
Here’s Mike Essa at Wall NJ with some great foot well lighting showing this:
Most of the time, this technique in FD is used on banks. The speed required to drift a bank requires simple and quick modulations and left foot braking allows for this. Subsequently, a quick e-brake grab is the accepted next best technique frequently used. The down side to an e-brake grab is that there is a visual “bobble” that is judged harsher than left foot braking.
What’s Going On and Why
Braking naturally slows down the vehicle. With the throttle still applied, the amount of angle can be maintained or even added. As a result, speed can be reduced without the sacrifice of angle/smoke.
The front wheels slow down (sometimes even locked) to make the front end want to suck behind the rear. This gives the vehicle angle despite the reduction in speed. The rear wheels are now free to either speed up or slow down to modulate angle all while line is maintained. This is unlike regular braking drift modulations.
This technique is simplest with vacuum assisted brakes. When the throttle is applied, there is no vacuum to the brakes. This means that the brake pedal can be pressed quite hard with little effect to the application of the brakes to the wheels. This is good because it allows for a finer degree of modulation. This can be bad if for any reason, the throttle is lifted. This will cause the vacuum to kick in and the brakes to suddenly be applied very strongly.
This means that LFB will be more difficult in hydroboosted or manual brake setups (made to feel factory). If anyone has video of this, I would love to see it.
Here is Forrest Wang at Irwindale CA pressing pretty forcefully on his brake pedal:
Beginner Level Usage
I do not recommend this for beginners.
Intermediate Level Usage
Pro/Am level drivers will likely start experimenting with this on faster tracks. Perhaps using this on a low line on a bank after some mild practice LFBing on regular streets during regular driving. For competitions, this will be most useful on banks but also on any course where a hand brake/clutch kick combo is normally used. Use the technique to smooth out otherwise uneven runs. IE too many “bobbles” during a single drift.
Higher Level Usage
The pro level appears to be deducting points for excessive use of this technique. The car will fill the outer zone of a bank but slow excessively for successive corners. Therefore, this technique should be used as an aid but not as a crutch.