The Art of Racecraft

Older good article found on IRacing - Originally published July 12 2012

Do a search through the forums and you’ll see all sorts of comments, typically along the lines of “he dive-bombed me,”  “he blocked me,” “he wrecked me intentionally” or even “why didn’t he let me past, I was 2s a lap quicker.”


When you dig deeper, it’s usually clear one, or both, drivers are lacking in either race craft or driving etiquette. Also people are often scared about hurting their Safety Rating when fighting hard but, as long as it’s done right and with good awareness, the incidence of 4Xs is minimal. There WILL be some some fender bending occasionally (usually 0x), but actual out and out crashes are rare.


Sebastian Penrose on the forums summed-up why I enjoy racing hard. He said “I think Kat is one of my favorite racers around here, certainly a racer that gives you your money’s worth when you consider this a racing simulation.


“If you stick to a line with keeping in mind another car needs to fit on to the track you will never get into trouble, as she always leaves enough room for another car.


“You will need to get very creative if you want to come out ahead, which imho makes for the best racing.”


So you’ve decided you actually want to force the other driver to ‘get very creative?’ Well the first thing you should understand is a bit of etiquette.


For this I always turn to this well-respected web page from the days of GPL.  (About the only comment not relevant to iRacing is the use of Arcade view but with the increase in wide-screen monitors and triple monitor setups, the reason the webpage recommends it is much reduced and of course it is not available in iRacing.)


The most important concepts to understand are addressed in the dive-bomb and blindspot sections.  Both are a vital component of race-craft.


“You will need to get very creative if you want to come out ahead, which imho makes for the best racing.” — Sebastian Penrose


Firstly a lot of drivers seem to forget we are in a motor race. We are and, if a faster driver is behind, then he’s there for one simple reason: the faster driver did something wrong. Either he didn’t qualify (not technically ‘wrong’ but his fault) or he’s had a spin. You’re ahead because you either qualified or haven’t spun.


So you’ve decided to race the driver glued to your gearbox.  How do you force the driver to “get very creative if [he] wants to come out ahead.”


Number one in your box of tricks is defensive lines: exiting a corner if you feel the driver behind might be about to get a run on you, move mid-track or even slightly past mid-track.  As long as you choose this line promptly coming off the corner, it isn’t blocking, it’s legitimate defensive driving.  If the faster driver also goes to the same line and finds he has to lift, that’s not blocking.  Rather it’s his bad choice.  It IS blocking, however, if you make the move later and force the other driver to make an emergency brake application or worst case, cause him to crash.


If the other driver either doesn’t get a run on you or has to check-up then you have freedom to change lines again. The same goes if the driver then moves to overtake on the outside: there is nothing wrong with you reducing his room. AS LONG as you don’t impede him by crossing into his path, you can squeeze him all you want.


So you’ve prevented a pass on the straight.  If you got it right you’ve not so far lost any lap time and are now approaching the braking zone. If the driver behind has decided, despite you being defensive, to try to come up the inside then let him. He’ll usually overshoot – especially if you push your own braking to the limit – and you’ll be able keep the place on exit. If that doesn’t work, then kudos to the overtaking driver: he made a bold move and pulled it off.  End of story.


On the other hand, if the faster driver is on the outside approaching the corner, you should assume he’ll either try to cut inside you OR go round the outside. Fortunately your technique for the corner should be the same, regardless of his tactics.  Ensure you hit the apex and try to rotate round it, concentrate on not overshooting and getting a good exit. By doing that you prevent a move where the other driver tries to cut inside and give him room if he’s trying two wide. If you get a good exit you’ll usually keep the place; worst case is usually a two abreast drag race to the next corner.


This is where things can get FUN!  Unless you can see the other driver in your mirrors, assume he is alongside of you.  Take the next corner giving around 1.5 car widths at the apex (or on the outside depending which side the other driver chooses). You may still loose-out, but in doing so you’ve given the other car a fair hard fight and after the race you’ll both have something fun to talk about.


The next area where race-craft really comes into its own is related to situational awareness, namely working through traffic. Firstly, always try to understand the situation as either a leader comes to lap you or you come to lap traffic. Are you alone? Are the other cars battling for position.


The following video is worth a thousand words in terms of dealing with traffic:


Firstly, I have to back out of a run on the car ahead because the Solstice moves onto my line – the Solstice didn’t do anything wrong, however. He stuck to the racing line and gave us a clear path to come through. Good awareness and racecraft.


Here is another video showing a rather different situation:


Same race, later on, we’ve caught a pair of battling Solstices. Now things are very different. First thing to remember is the blue flag is ADVISORY. The lapped cars can’t go defensive but, by the same token, they are not required have to lift or even try to be co-operative beyond being predictable. As you see, we work through the traffic and… bonus… the lead car makes a mistake and I take the chance and use traffic to make the pass.


Being patient and reading the situation are at the core of good race-craft. The latter is the most important thing with race-craft:  Read the situation. Is the other driver slow in one section? Or might they be slow due to traffic?  Can you get a run on a car and slip past when they are pre-occupied? All these things fall into race-craft, and situational awareness is a fundamental element of setting-up a pass.


While sim-racing, I am able to pull-off some of the moves described above by applying a simple set of rules:


1)    SPOTTER ON!! I always have the spotter on, I don’t rely on him entirely but he gives useful situational awareness. For example in a corner it might call an overlap (car left/right) I wasn’t aware of and this informs me to give room on that side.


2)    If a following driver is not in your mirrors, he has an overlap. Now of course the other driver might be dive-bombing and you haven’t a chance to adjust. Otherwise, if you can’t see a car (you should know which side they’re on) give them around 1.5 car widths on that side.


3)    Follow on to (2), be prepared to adjust.  If the other car out-braked you then turn in a touch later with the aim of getting a good drive out of the corner, repassing the car as it overshoots.


As you can see race-craft is very much an art form, but an art form which when done right brings out some highly memorable – and enjoyable — racing for all involved.

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