Randy Pobst is a professional racer and a really nice guy in person. Not only does he drive really fast cars in important races and do car tests for magazines, he also shows up at amateur endurance races and hangs out with casual racers, like me. I was fortunate to find him at a Lucky Dog Racing League race at Thunderhill and cajole him into taking a stint in my Yaris.
One of the things Randy is known for is his description of the “Vortex of Danger”. You can find him talking about this on YouTube videos and before endurance races he attends. The Vortex has even been added to the SCCA rule book. Here’s what it says.
“The Entry Vortex of Danger is a triangle inscribed by the turn-in point of the lead car, the apex, and the inside edge of the road. When overtaking, keep out of the Vortex of Danger. It’s too late to pass. The hole you see is closing rapidly, you are in a blind spot, there will likely be contact, and it will be your fault.”
“The Exit Vortex of Danger is a triangle inscribed by the apex, the track-out point of the lead car, and the outside edge of the road. When attempting a pass on the outside, be aware of the Exit Vortex of Danger, and back out of it if not in the lead car’s vision. It’s too late to safely pass. The hole you see on the outside is closing rapidly, you are in a blind spot, there will likely be contact, and it will be your fault.”
Got hit anyway? It was your fault
In the description of the Vortex of Danger, all of the emphasis is on the red car attempting to overtake the yellow car. But here’s the thing, the yellow car gets hit by the red car in every race. No, the red car isn’t supposed to hit the yellow car, but there are idiot drivers out there who go into the Vortex of Danger all the time. If you get hit by a car entering your Vortex of Danger, you have to realize one critical fact: you create your own Vortex of Danger.
If you take the typical racing line, you set up on the outside of the corner, clip the apex, and then track out to the exit. By starting on the outside, you end up creating a really large Vortex of Danger. You’re effectively inviting idiots to hit you.
However, if you start closer to the inside edge of the track, you create a smaller Vortex of Danger. Not only is it harder for idiots to hit you, but if they do, it will be on the rear of your vehicle, which is a lot sturdier than your wheel.
Every time you enter a corner, you choose how large your Vortex is. If you got hit because you let someone into your Vortex, that was your fault for trusting the idiot behind you. It’s really about trust. If you trust the driver behind you, then take the racing line. If not, don’t give them a chance to ruin your race. What about the exit Vortex? You also create your exit Vortex. The more you track out, the greater its size.
Personally, I don’t trust anyone on a race track. If I’m faster than the drivers behind me and they are far enough back that they can’t hit me, I’ll take a racing line. If not, I’ll close down the entry and ruin the corner for the sake of safety. The entry and exit vortices are really different. On the entry, we’re braking, and people often misjudge braking. On the exit, it’s throttle, and that happens a lot slower, so there’s more time to react to situations. In other words, I concern myself with the entry much more than the exit.