At the last Lucky Dog race at Thunderhill, the following incident was caught on video. This turned into a big debate on the Facebook page Lucky Dog Racers with armchair analysts laying fault to one, the other, or both sides.
I thought I would give the official YSAR opinion of the incident. By official, I mean armchair-official.
- Turn 10. At the start of the clip, you can see that the POV Miata is cornering faster than the BMW ahead. It’s clear from the driving of the BMW in T10, that the BMW driver is not an advanced driver. That’s okay! This is Lucky Dog Racing League, and all levels are welcome. So how do I know he’s not an advanced driver?
- At the entrance to turn 10, the driver has left a half car width on the right. There’s no reason not to take a larger radius. Even if you were sandbagging so as not to pass the Super Dog time, you would still take the largest radius to save on consumables.
- The driver chose a late apex line, but given how short the following straight is, there is no reason for this. Experienced drivers at Thunderhill know that T10 is an early apex corner.
- The driver tracks out to the middle of the track and then steers out to the exit. That’s a low-intermediate level interpretation of the racing line.
- Turn 11. The car is way over-slowed at the entry of turn 11. You can see this by how much the Miata catches up in the braking zone. At this point, the Miata driver has some idea about the driver ahead and should be thinking “welcome to LDRL racing, let me give you some room so you can have great race”.
- Back straight. The race down the back straight shows that the Miata isn’t only faster in the corners, but also down the straights. It’s a faster car with a faster driver. By the time they enter the braking zone, the Miata has overtaken the BMW and is probably 1 car length ahead. The pass is now complete. At this point, the race for this corner is over. It’s time for both drivers to get through the final pair of corners together as fast as they can, to the benefit of everyone. By everyone I mean the drivers, their teammates waiting for their turn to drive, the car owners who don’t want to repair perfectly good race cars, the drivers’ loved ones who want them to return uninjured, every other team on track who doesn’t want the race shut down for a yellow flag, the organizers who want to deliver a fun yet safe event, the people at Walmart who don’t want to deal with angry customers, etc.
- Turn 14. The BMW driver re-passes the Miata in the braking zone. At this point, the BMW becomes the car attempting to make a pass. It is now the responsibility of the BMW to make a safe pass.
- The Miata driver already knew the BMW driver was inferior and now had knowledge the he is also aggressive and dangerous. It’s time to give that car a lot of room and avoid it as much as possible. I have no idea why the Miata driver continued to race for this corner. He endangered the success of the team by endangering the car. This is the first stint of a 14-ish hour endurance race. What the hell are you thinking?
- The minor contact between the cars is silly and both drivers are at fault for driving so close to each other.
- The BMW has entered the corner way too fast. There is no way for the driver to navigate this corner without either braking or going off track. Dive bombing followed by braking mid-corner is no way to make a safe pass. It’s reckless and irresponsible.
Some of the discussion on FB turned to “why didn’t anyone ask if the drivers were okay?” I have to admit that I didn’t. I’m ashamed of that. I should have thought of the drivers first. From the POV of the Miata, it didn’t look like the BMW got hit particularly hard, but apparently the car ended up on its side and the driver was shaken up. After watching the video again, I could see how the BMW might end up in the K-wall at 60 mph. That would suck. So yes, if you’re the BMW driver, you have every reason to ask “how come you weren’t concerned with my well being?” I hope you also understand that by fighting for a corner you had already lost, you endangered yourself, another car, and reduced the race time for every other team on track. We have a right to ask “what the hell were you thinking driving like that?” Where is your apology for driving like a jackass? We all need to own our faults. I’m sorry I didn’t think of your well being. Now it’s your turn to apologize.
I saw a couple comments that said “why wasn’t the Miata farther out on the left?” I’ll tell you why. Setting up on the typical school line in a race with people of suspect skill and intentions is a great way to get punted. Want someone to hit you in the rear tire and break your suspension? Set up on the outside and cross the whole track to the apex. Rather than positioning farther to the left, I would have made the pass and positioned myself in front of the BMW. That would close down the inside line and make the cars go through the corner in a line rather than side-by-side. Yes, that would have ruined the speed through the next corner, but since the Miata was faster, it wouldn’t have mattered.