For the average driver on public roads, leaving traction control switched on will make you faster. Traction control helps to reduce wheel-slip when moving off from a stationary position (particularly noticeable on wet / slippery roads) and is also beneficial when taking corners at speed. Here, traction control helps reduce wheel-slip due to excessive throttle use and as such, enables the driver to corner at faster speeds.
Essentially, traction control takes control where the driver exhibits a lack of control that would otherwise slow the vehicle down. So by helping to correct driver errors, traction control can make you faster.
But Does Traction Control Make All Drivers Faster?
However, for highly skilled race drivers, the opposite may apply and turning off traction control can make for faster driving. Professional race drivers tend to prefer complete control of the car and not to have systems such as traction control overriding their use of the accelerator pedal.
Being able to have total control of the throttle can enable some drivers to ‘drift’ around corners. Extreme forms of drifting typically slow lap times down as this style of driving is purely for show, but when lap times are paramount, a small amount of drifting can improve speed.
Drifting isn’t possible with traction control and whether or not drifting helps to improve lap times is dependent on many factors such as:
- Driving style
- Type of vehicle tyres
- Type of vehicle
- Ambient temperature
A professional driver would be able to enter a corner at high speed, carry greater momentum and maintain speed around the corner with slight, but controlled wheel-slip. Traction control would slow the vehicle by applying the brakes and depending on the type of system, it may also cut engine power to the drive wheels.