A professional race car driver counts on the vehicle's brakes functioning properly -- in fact, their life depends on it.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Performance Brake Pads

You may think acceleration is the most critical factor for high performance cars, but most professional drivers will tell you that the brakes are equally important. After all, you can't win a race if you go crashing through a wall. Remember, in all cars (but performance cars especially), brakes aren't just about stopping. They also aid the car's handling through turns. So even though performance cars may look like they're going all-out during a race, the brakes are also getting a pretty good workout, too. High performance brake pads and other brake parts have to be able to keep up.

One of the most important components of high-performance brake pads is their ability to dissipate heat. If the brake pads get too hot, the brakes will fade -- often boiling the hydraulic brake fluid in the process. Brake fade occurs when braking components get too hot, resulting in a loss of stopping power. 

Because brake fade is such a concern in racing, most high-performance brakes are ceramic; however, some very high-end race cars are beginning to use materials like carbon fiber. Both ceramic and carbon fiber brake pads are lightweight (another concern for performance drivers) and dissipate heat well so they stay strong throughout the race. The major downside is their expense. As we've already mentioned, ceramic (and carbon fiber) brake pads are very expensive. 

Don't stop now. To read more about braking, brake pads and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.