I still vividly remember being reprimanded for using my left foot on the brake pedal while I was learning how to drive. It was made clear this was Not To Be Done, and I stopped thinking about it. At least I did until I saw how rally drivers use this mysterious trick. As it turns out, it’s not all that strange or scary, and you should know how to do it after all.
Rally drivers use their left foot for braking for a couple of reasons:
If you brake with your right foot, you lose precious fractions of a second moving your right foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal. Left-foot braking solves this.
If you brake with your right foot, you can’t work the brake and the gas at the same time. Left-foot braking solves this as well.
It might seem like it would never make sense to use the brake and the gas at the same time. Brakes slow the car down, gas speeds it up. You would think that together the two jobs would work against each other.
But in the above video, Team O’Neil Rally School’s Wyatt Knox ( a friend of Jalopnik and a two-wheel drive national rally champion here in America) explains that there’s a second job that the brakes can do, and that is to move weight onto the front of the car. If you’ve ever slammed on the brakes and felt the nose of the car dive down, this is exactly what’s getting talked about here. Using the brakes, in this way, gives you more weight over the front wheels. This gets you more grip at the front, and is a trick for keeping the nose of the car pointed into the corner.
By the same token, putting weight on the front of the car takes weight off of the back of the car. This is why you see left-foot braking used not only in rallying but also in drifting, as it helps a car to rotate.
Right-foot braking will still give you this weight transfer, as you can see in the video, but left-foot braking lets you keep the car more controlled and composed, “micromanaging” your speed and attitude, as Wyatt points out. Left-foot braking, for instance, lets him stay full throttle through some slight turns since the car is less abruptly agitated or upset.
So left-foot braking becomes a useful tool for making sure your car is doing what you want it to do, and this is particularly evident on slippery roads of gravel dirt and ice, and in corners where you come across changing levels of grip through the turn.
Over a short forest rally stage, Wyatt ended up a second faster when he allowed himself to brake with his left foot. Practice the trick yourself and you’ll see why it’s something you should know how to do.