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Passing & Defending

Nathan McDougal



Every racing movie ever made shows the hero blow past his competitor in the final laps of a race. An amazing pass that usually seems like the driver is willing his car to be faster than his rival by pushing the pedal a little harder or shifting in some dramatic fashion. Unfortunately, in real racing or sim racing there is no such thing as being able to “will” your way past
someone. To pass, you must be faster. As the passing driver, it is your responsibility to make sure that the pass is completed safely and without incident. You are the one who is bringing on the action, so you are responsible for doing so properly.

Sadly, a lot of drivers believe that out-braking your opponent into a hard corner is the best way to pass, but it isn’t. There are several types of passes you can use to get past the car in front. Diving down the inside in a braking zone is the one that causes the most accidents, so you’ll want to avoid it if you can.

If you are truly faster than the car in front, then you need to figure out why and where on the track you are faster. Let’s say you are quicker through turns 2 and 3, then you can set him up and get a run on him through these corners. This will allow you to use your faster corner exit to catch and pass the car in front without a dramatic confrontation before turn 4. At the very least you’ll be able to get alongside him to set your spot for the next corner. Using the exit speed out of the corner is much easier than trying to pass in a braking zone and is more likely to be a clean pass.

If you are racing oval this still applies. Combined with using the draft/slipstream you can get driver ahead before you approach the next turn. Using the draft or slipstream down the longest stretch is another way to get past the other car. If you’re faster, then you will be their reach. Stay close and set yourself up for a run down the longest straight. Give yourself a little room so that you can gain speed and make your move without running into the back their car.

And yes, lastly you can try to take them in the braking zone. This is a good way to pass if both drivers are respectful of each other. The whole debate of “I was alongside by this much” comes into play here though, and that can get really messy. We could write a whole book on the rules and regulations of various motor sports about what is considered “alongside”. For this section we will simply say that you need to establish position before the corner. This means you are truly up beside the other car before attempting the move. Diving into a gap that opens, while tempting, often leads to accidents because you’ve given the other driver no time to respond or react. He is simply going to turn into you, especially if you are unknowingly in their blind spot. Instead wait until you can establish your position and take the corner away. The inability of the car being passed to reach the apex will slow their car allowing you to finish the pass on corner exit.

Whatever type of pass you choose to make remember, it’s on you to do so cleanly.

This is a tricky subject because there are a lot of drivers who are better at qualifying than they are at racing. Race pace is much different than being able to put down a fast lap. Many drivers qualify up front, but then find themselves defending because they aren’t truly faster than the cars behind. While you have the position, you need to ask yourself “am I faster than this car that’s all over me?”. If you’re not, then you should let him go most of the time. If he’s faster than you then maybe you can get behind him and gain some speed by copying what he’s doing. This can be a tricky subject though because letting somebody pass you is a lot different on lap 2 than it is on the last lap. If you are late in the race then it’s a lot more understandable for you to defend your position, but make sure you’re doing so properly.

Driving in your mirrors and blocking constantly is not good driving at all. You are going to be even slower while driving this way and you’re more likely to end up in an accident. Most types of racing dictate that the lead driver should make one blocking move and then hold his line. Weaving back and forth on a long straight to block is just bad sportsmanship. To defend cleanly, you need to do so early and often. Let the driver behind know that you are taking the inside away long before you reach the corner. Position your car properly in and out of every turn to defend. If he still gets alongside you then he’s just too fast and you need to let him go. Defending to the point of wrecking your car is a horrible way to end a race and it’s just not good racing at all.

In the end, we all want to be the one passing and not the one getting passed, but even the fastest drivers have their bad days. If you are smart and remain disciplined, then you will finish the race cleanly and that is what’s most important


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