The Art Of Passing – Story By Tim Sharp

Proficiency in passing is a skill that reveals a driver’s true greatness. Glven a clear track and enough time in a quality race car, almost any solid driver can turn in a quick qualifying lap. The far more difficult task is to maintain momentum in traffic.

The Straightaway Pass

The most simple pass, by far, is the “draft and pass” on a straight. lf you are fortunate enough to have superior power, this pass is easy: You simply come off the corner cleanly, push hard on the right pedal draft for a few seconds and then cruise on by.

If you have a more evenly matched race car, this pass is a bit tougher. First, you need to lay back slightly as you enter the corner, then accelerate and run up on the car in front as you exit the turn. Next, you must draft a little longer on the straight, then pull out and pass when you have enough momentum to get by cleanly.

Here is an important footnote: 

If you have someone pursuing from behind as you are attempting to set up this pass, it complicates matters. On most tracks, you can take a defensive line as you enter the corner just before the straight (or two corners prior in the case of a series of “S” turns). Brake a tad early and close the door cleanly on the car behind you, then accelerate off the corner to achieve more exit speed than the car in front as you exit the car near going onto the straight.

A rookie mistake is to run up prematurely on the slower car in front before the exit of the corner. If you are being pursued by a smart driver, he will

gladly let you kill your momentum and box yourself in. He will then take the layoff space you gave him and use it for superior exit speed. Zip by and be gone!

Late-brake Pass

While you may be able to draft and pass slightly slower cars on the straightaway with relative ease, again, things become more complicated when you are running against an evenlymatched race car. Sometimes you just cannot draft and pass completely on the straightaway. There are times when only a late-brake pass will do.

Before attempting a late-brake pass, there are several things you should consider. First, in practice you should have already set your front-to-rear brake bias to be able to execute a late-brake pass. Be sure the rear brakes will not lock up and spin you. Also, pick late-brake reference points as well as normal brake points in practice.

Second, you should have already tried a couple of off line and insidelate-brake passes in practice (preferably on drivers whom you knew would give way in this situation). Unless track conditions have deteriorated substantially, you should be able to pull off a similar late-brake pass during the race.

Next, you should know the braking capabilities of both your car and the car your about to pass.

The Drafting Pass

uses the lowered wind resistance of other car’s air wake. Ovartaking driver then “pops out” and uses extra speed to get past your pass attempt with your braking.

Do not let the BMW take you into the corner any deeper than you can handle.

In addition, try to keep your nose clearly alongside the BMW. The driver of a lightweight BMW will think twice about slamming the door on a huge Camaro. Your ace in the hole here is that the BMW driver probably knows the laws of physics as well as you do.

Passing in the Rain

If you practiced in the dry and you are now racing in the rain, all bets are off. As you know, rain lines are different from dry lines. The classic line will probably be too greasy and too tight in the rain. Your best bet is to brake smoother and take a gentle, sweeping radius through the corners. Also, break off your draft earlier when passing and be sure you are clearly

inside of the car you are over taking.

Close drafting is dangerous on a wet track. If the driver in front brakes early, you may collide !!!

If the driver in front of you is overtly blocking:

Step A shake your fist visibly in the air, then point at the offending car as you stare at the flagmen in the very next corner. If this does not produce a blue and yellow passing flag really soon, it is time to move on to Step B.

Step B is to pressure the blocking driver into late-braking situations at every possible chance especially in tight corners. Let him think you will attempt a late-brake pass at any moment. Make him early apex every corner to protect his line. When he is convinced that this is your plan, set him up for a corner leading onto a long straight.

Just before this corner, use a “head and hand fake” to the inside, forcing the blocking driver to move to protect his line and apex early. If you are entering a right turn, hold the steering wheel by its left spoke with your left hand, making sure the car stays on a straight braking path. Quickly tilt your head to the right and slide your right hand over the wheel to the right. Of course, your right hand is really not turning the car to the right, but any self-respecting mirror driver will move his car to thwart your late-brake pass. (Note: This technique works better on closed-wheel cars than formula cars. Formula car drivers are not likely to fall for this ploy as they key off the directional change of the front wheels not hand or head movement).

Next, move slightly to the outside and take the blocker deep under braking into the corner. If he bites, which he probably will, he will glide across your bow and you can pass behind him as he tries to save his car from leaving the track. If he checks up, realizing that he has been had, he has in essence relinquished the fast line to you. You are obliged to take it immediately. You cannot hesitate, or someone is going to get hurt. Final note: As with all passing situations, this one is not 100 percent foolproof. Before trying it, you must know the radius of the corner, the track surface, the track exit width and your own ability to react.

Brake and Park Pass

Step C is the what I would call the “brake and park pass.” You have played by the rules; however, let’s assume you have given the corner workers an opportunity to give the blocker a passing flag and that you have already used various psychological techniques to get by the blocking driver, with no results. Time to move on the blocker.

Blockers are snivelers. After the race, they will say that they changed their line to an early apex (ie: blocking line) because “my car got loose” or “I just made a few driver errors.” Well, if they can make a mistake, so can you. The “brake and park pass” is just one of those unfortunate late-braking mistakes you, too, might have to make.

Even the best mirror driver cannot convince race officials that he needs all of the track, all of the time. Moreover, he has to leave some space on the inside, or you will go around him on the outside. Sometimes you have to take that meager piece of asphalt inside and use it. Even if the line looks horrible, it will look better as you get closer to the corner apex especially if you miss your brake point and go in too deep. (Oops!)

The “brake and park pass” requires good car control skills, since the back end of the car will probably step out (oversteer) on you as you enter the corner under extreme late braking. If you do not have these skills, do not attempt this pass.

Incidentally, I am making a strong distinction between “slamming” and “parking” here. Parking usually means you simply made an aggressive late-brake pass, taking the best line and much of the corner exit away from the blocker. Slamming means you laid so much metal on him that you launched him into an Armco barrier. The purpose of the “brake and park” is to pass and move on, not to destroy a competitor’s race car.

Correct Drafting Pass Setup

Overtaking driver leaves some space between himself and exiting the corner after which the drafting pass will take place. This gives over taking driver better exit speed and also protects his line from other guy who wants to win as well.

Defensive Driving Techniques

It may seem incongruous that I am discussing defensive driving techniques just after I assailed drivers who drive with their mirrors. While the difference between a blocking driver and a defensive driver may seem imperceptible, I assure you there is a substantial difference between the two types of drivers. Moreover, defensive driving is as important a part of racing as passing. It is the other side of the same coin.

Here is how I make the distinction between “blockers” and “defensive drivers:”

A blocker is generally in consistent, slow through the corners, has weak technique and hurts your lap times substantially when you encounter him. You know that once you get by him, you will leave him in the dust. He deserves little respect.

Defensive Driving in Close Contests

There are situations in which you and the car behind you are locked in serious combat. Your cars and your driving skills are so closely matched that you know you can not let the other driver pass. This is a classic offensive/defensive driving battle.

First, remember that you are in front and you have the better track position. Next, do not obsess over the driver behind you. Yes, you can use a slightly earlier brake point or take a slightly earlier apex on occasion to disrupt the rhythm of the driver behind you. However, do not lose sight of the fact that it was fast, consistent laps that put you ahead of your nemesis in the first place.

Next, try subtle tactics to determine your rival’s talent and experience (unless you already know he has no weaknesses then just drive fast and smooth).

In a car with brake lights, you can use left-foot braking to determine whether your challenger is driving his own line or keying off yours. By using left-foot braking and a slight brake check in the brake zone before the corner (just enough pressure to trigger the brake lights), you can find out if the driver behind you is a hawk or a vulture.

Left foot brake lightly and early as you continue to accelerate with your right foot as you move toward the corner. If the driver behind you brakes heavily and keys off your brake lights, he will drop back way before the corner. He has shown himself to be a vulture. He is scavenging off your line and brake points. This guy can be had.

The Art of Passing

A professional race driver who says he does not have a mental book on passing or defensive driving techniques is stroking you. Some drivers are great at blocking. Others are good at sucking unsuspecting rookies too deep into a corner and showing them the gravel pit. Some are experts at running a competitor out of tires before they pick him off. A few use their late-braking talent and reputation as a wild man to intimidate other drivers off the line.

When it comes to passing strategies, there are an infinite number of combinations and permutations. No single driver can know them all. What makes the art of passing so intriguing is that certain techniques only work on certain drivers.