Handicapped Pro Racing?

I just got this advertisement in my email, which describes Handicapped Pro Racing. What makes this “Pro”? Um, cash prize for winning?

The rules are interesting. Is it a time trial, road race, or bracket race? Well, it’s a little of each. You’re supposed to practice throughout the day to figure out your dial-in time. Once you decide on that, you never want to beat it in the race because you’ll be disqualified. So there’s the bracket aspect. For the event, slow cars start ahead of fast cars and the winner is first car over the finish line after 10 laps. In order to win, fast cars must pass slow cars and slow cars must prevent that. So there’s the race aspect. What’s the time trial part? The minimal safety requirements.

While this sounds like a fun format with all of the cars competing for final positions near the finish line, is this really a good idea without roll cages, neck protection, and fire systems?

Regardless of safety, the math doesn’t work out. Fast cars at Thunderhill lap at around 2:00. Slow cars are around 2:25. After 10 laps, that 25 second differential is 4:10. That’s a couple laps. Put another way, after about 17 minutes, the 2:25 car has completed 7 laps. But after 17 minutes, the 2:00 car has completed 8.5 laps. Meaning, that even if you release the fast cars at the last possible moment, they still lap the slow cars somewhere in lap 7. There are a couple ways around this problem.

• Make the race shorter so that the slow and fast cars are expected to finish around the same time
• Limit the lap times of the cars (floor, ceiling, or both)
• Release the fast cars after the slow cars have completed a lap and change (I got an email response from them, and apparently this is what they will do)

Even if you can make the math work out, do you really want a bunch of street cars with HPDE drivers all vying for position on the final lap with cash on the line? This is the kind of dumb shit that’s fine until it isn’t. I have to admit, it sounds like a really fun format if the “racers” respect each others’ space.

Criminal injustice

Video #1

When you’re on a race track, you don’t always know who else is sharing the space. They might be total ass-idiots. In this first clip, our POV driver isn’t doing anything wrong. He’s just driving the typical racing line, when out of nowhere, wham.

This driver was able to keep moving, but a hit like that could require a tow and lengthy repairs. Let’s be clear, the POV driver isn’t at fault. The other driver was a total fucktard. But when sharing space with fucktards, you have to take some precautions. That starts with NOT DRIVING THE RACING LINE when there are fucktards behind you. When the POV driver set up on the outside right of the track, he allowed the fucktard to think “I can make a pass on the inside”. The way to stay safe is to communicate to the fucktards that they can’t have the inside line. How? By driving on the inside line.

Video #2

Different drivers, different track, same fucking story.

Video #3

In this video, there’s a nice rear view inlay. You can see a faster car approaching from the rear. The POV driver sets up on the outside and takes the typical racing line. Can you guess what happens next?

From a rules perspective, the POV driver is ahead when he turns in. So he gets to choose the racing line. I think most people would say the fault lies with the rear car because he punts the POV car. However, the POV car also has some responsibility to give racing room to other drivers. When he turned in hard, was he not aware of the other car? That would certainly put some fault with him. Alternatively, he may have been sending a message to the other driver that he has right of way, and you had better back off. That’s being aggressive not unaware. Which is worse? I’m not sure. Can you tell an aggressive driver to back off? Can you tell an unaware driver to pay more attention? In both cases, the drivers are so focused on what they’re doing inside the car that they aren’t imagining what other drivers might do. Neither “I didn’t see” nor “I didn’t expect” are acceptable on the race track. To keep yourself safe, you have to dial it back a little so you can spare some attention for the ass-idiots around you.

Video #4

Different idiots, different venue, same goddam story. Watch the wing mirror on the right.

Summary

It’s really not about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about which cars are lapping and which ones are in the pits. In every case here, the POV driver could have done something to prevent the accident. Yes, they were victims of ass-idiot fucktards who violated the rules. Criminals exist. Don’t let yourself become a victim.

Pointing fingers

This incident happened at the AER race last weekend at Watkins Glen.

The Facebook thread about this is long and entertaining with people taking both sides. Some think that the POV car did nothing wrong: it stayed on line and got punted by the Miata. Others says that the POV car turned in on the slower car. Who is at fault? Let’s take a look at the AER passing rules to see if they shed some light on the situation. Red text is me making editorial comments.

• 9. Passing
• 9.1. Every competitor has the right to racing room, which is defined as sufficient space on the paved racing surface that under race conditions a driver can maintain control of his car in close quarters. There was plenty of track on both sides of both cars. Neither car was forced into this situation.
• 9.2. The car entirely in front has the right to choose any position on track, so long as it is not considered to be blocking. Blocking is defined when a driver makes two or more line changes in an attempt to prevent the trailing car from passing. The slower car was not blocking. One key word here is entirely. The only car that was entirely in front at any point was the slower car.
• 9.3. A driver who does not use his mirrors or appears to be blocking another car attempting to pass may be black flagged, and may be penalized. The slower driver certainly didn’t appear to be using his mirrors. If he had, he might have signaled a pass or moved over a bit when the POV car went outside.
• 9.4. Ultimately, the decision to make a pass and do so safely solely rests with the overtaking car. The car being overtaken should be situationally aware of the fact that they are being overtaken, and not make any sudden or unpredictable moves or blocks to impede the ability of the overtaking driver to pass. The slower car didn’t make any sudden or unpredictable moves to impede the other driver. He drove a very predictable line. The responsibility to make a safe pass rests very much on the POV car.
• 9.5. When possible and when it becomes apparent that a pass is going to occur, it is a courtesy and strongly suggested that the car being passed to indicate to the passing car on which side they would like to be passed on. Sadly, never happened.
• 9.6. Cars who are not racing in the same class are strongly encouraged to work with each other to effectuate a prompt and safe pass. Drivers should be aware that they may come upon a situation where two other cars are in a heated battle in their respective class and should try to accommodate any passing required without holding up that battle. It should be noted that this applies to classes faster and slower than you. There was no attempt on either cars part to work with the other.

Rules shmules. You know what matters more? That two cars ended up crashing, creating a waste of time and money for themselves and all their competitors. If you get tangled up with a much slower/faster car because you can’t figure out how to give each other enough racing room, it’s your fucking fault. If you hit a patch of oil, dude that’s on you. If the other guy hits a patch of oil and smashes into you, sorry, but it’s still your fault.

If lightning strikes the car while you’re in the car it’s your fault. — Doc Bundy

In a race with large speed differentials and driver experience, everyone has to be extra careful. AER cars have huge speed differentials. These two cars in question were lapping 20 seconds apart! AER doesn’t require that much experience to race with them. Some drivers may be professionals, others may be relatively new to the sport. The POV driver is a very experienced racer. But apparently he’s not used to dealing with large differences in speed and ability. As he drove up to the inner loop and saw the slowpoke Miata take a very cautious line, he should have been thinking “this dude is way off pace and may do something unexpected. I had better leave him a lot of room.” Instead, he drove inches away, even though there was a huge amount of track on either side.

In life, sometimes you go looking for trouble. Other times trouble comes looking for you. When that happens, you’ve got a split second to choose your role: hero, villain, or innocent bystander. Being a hero isn’t easy. Making other peoples’ safety part of your responsibility is a pain. It would be a lot easier to take out Doctor Octopus without having to protect Aunt May at the same time. But that’s what heroes do. Villains would try to use Aunt May to improve their chance of winning (which makes most racers villains). And innocent bystanders? Oh, screw them. Anyone not part of the solution is part of the problem.

OK, I’ve gone off track. Here’s the tl;dr. Slow, insecure driver appeared to be unaware of fast driver. Fast driver should have seen those signs and driven accordingly. I lay fault at 40/60 slow/fast.

With great power comes great responsibility — Peter Parker

Passing Thoughts: Part 2 (Rules)

Every racing organization has its own set of rules about passing. Let’s take a look at some of them in order from brief to verbose. Next week we’ll talk about how the rules are actually used and some best practices as a result.

Lucky Dog

Lucky Dog prides itself on its brief rulebook and the passing rules are no exception.

• 12. h. Passing. The passing vehicle is 100% responsible for the careful and safe preparation, planning and execution of the pass…period. If you are about to be passed, it’s most helpful to give the passing car hand signals as to which side you will allow them to pass on. But most importantly, you need to hold your line and remember that the other car is responsible for safely getting around you.

Lemons

Lemons is tongue-in-cheek as usual. They don’t specifically define passing rules. The arbitrary nature of the rules and penalties turns off some drivers.

• 6.0: Penalties: Black-flag penalties are assessed for dangerous behaviors and/or being a douche. These behaviors include, but are not limited to, contact for any reason; wheel(s) leaving the pavement; speeding in the pits; missing/ignoring a safety flag; racing to the yellow or red flag; overly aggressive driving; hitting a wall, cone, tree, safety vehicle, the track restaurant, etc; lack of car control; thinking the line has a deed and you own it; unsportsmanlike conduct; annoying the hell out of us; annoying the hell out of everyone else; etc.
• 6.1: It’s Always Your Fault: Lemons is an all-fault environment. You are 100% responsible for what happens while you’re at the wheel. Think you’re the hittee, not the hitter? We don’t care. Think you’ve been wrongly accused? See the part where it says “we don’t care.” Your job is to stay out of trouble. If trouble finds you, take responsibility like a grownup and figure out how to avoid it the next time. This ain’t the damn SCCA.

SCCA

Despite being a rather large and complex entity, the SCCA rules are quite brief.

• 6.11.1 On Course Driver Conduct
• A. Drivers are responsible to avoid physical contact between cars on the race track.
• B. Each competitor has a right to racing room, which is generally defined as sufficient space on the marked racing surface that under racing conditions, a driver can maintain control of his car in close quarters.
• C. Drivers must respect the right of other competitors to racing room. Abrupt changes in direction that impede or affect the path of another car attempting to overtake or pass may be interpreted as an effort to deprive a fellow competitor of the right to racing room.
• D. The overtaking driver is responsible for the decision to pass another car and to accomplish it safely. The overtaken driver is responsible to be aware that he is being passed and not to impede or block the overtaking car. A driver who does not use his rear view mirror or who appears to be blocking another car attempting to pass may be black flagged and/or penalized, as specified in Section 7.

ChampCar (formerly ChumpCar)

The ChampCar rules are very similar in wording and spirit to the SCCA rules. But they add a few specifics about driving on the racing line and blocking. They also further define what a complete pass is.

• 7.2. ON-TRACK DRIVER CONDUCT
• 7.2.1. It is the responsibility of all drivers to avoid physical contact between cars on the race track. All competitors have a right to “racing room” on the marked racing surface. “Racing room” shall be generally defined as sufficient space on the marked racing surface to allow a competitor to maintain control of his/her car.
•  7.2.2. The responsibility for passing another car and accomplishing that pass safely rests with the overtaking driver. The driver that is about to be overtaken has the responsibility to be aware that he or she is about to be passed, give hand-signals and shall not impede the overtaking car.
• 7.2.2.1. The driver being overtaken should, at all times, remain on their racing line unless the car is impaired and is unable to maintain an adequate racing speed.
• 7.2.2.2. The driver being overtaken shall not block. Any driver who fails to make use of their rear view mirror, or who appears to be blocking another car seeking a pass, will be black flagged and/or penalized.
• 7.2.2.3. It is the responsibility of the overtaking car to prepare for, plan and execute a FULL and COMPLETE safe pass. The definition of a full and complete pass is when the overtaking car has extended a lead of approximately one car length ahead of the vehicle being passed.

World Racing League

WRL is similar to those above, but adds specific language about the order of precedence when defining fault. They also further define racing room.

• 2. Racing Rules:
• a. Contact: World Racing League is a non-contact racing club. To avoid contact, all drivers should maintain racing room at all times and in all situations. “Racing room” is defined as allowing all competitors room to maneuver their car on the racing surface, or more simply put, giving your competitor a lane to race in.
• b. Passing: Safe and drama-free passing requires that everyone adhere to the following rules. For the purpose of defining at-fault contact while passing, the passing rules are weighted in the following order:
• Making a pass: It is your responsibility to plan and execute a safe pass, maintain racing room at all times
• Being passed: It is your responsibility to check your mirrors, hold a consistent line, be predictable, use hand signals and to maintain racing room at all times
• Position: For the purpose of determining position, a car attempting a pass is considered to have established position once it’s front axle has pulled even with the rear axle of the car being passed.
• c. Safe pass: A safe pass is defined as a pass where no contact takes place and no car involved in the pass spins or leaves the racing surface, because all parties maintained racing room at all times. If a car is next to you and you deprive him of racing room by causing contact or “squeezing” him off the track, you have violated safe passing etiquette and will be Black Flagged

American Endurance Racing

AER rules are pretty similar to those above, but add that the slower car should indicate which side they want to be passed on that cars in different classes should not interfere with each other.

• 9. Passing
• 9.1. Every competitor has the right to racing room, which is defined as sufficient space on the paved racing surface that under race conditions a driver can maintain control of his car in close quarters.
• 9.2. The car entirely in front has the right to choose any position on track, so long as it is not considered to be blocking. Blocking is defined when a driver makes two or more line changes in an attempt to prevent the trailing car from passing.
• 9.3. A driver who does not use his mirrors or appears to be blocking another car attempting to pass may be black flagged, and may be penalized.
• 9.4. Ultimately, the decision to make a pass and do so safely solely rests with the overtaking car. The car being overtaken should be situationally aware of the fact that they are being overtaken, and not make any sudden or unpredictable moves or blocks to impede the ability of the overtaking driver to pass.
• 9.5. When possible and when it becomes apparent that a pass is going to occur, it is a courtesy and strongly suggested that the car being passed to indicate to the passing car on which side they would like to be passed on.
• 9.6. Cars who are not racing in the same class are strongly encouraged to work with each other to effectuate a prompt and safe pass. Drivers should be aware that they may come upon a situation where two other cars are in a heated battle in their respective class and should try to accommodate any passing required without holding up that battle. It should be noted that this applies to classes faster and slower than you.

NASA

NASA has the most detailed rules on passing as they have several examples and rulings in the appendix. It’s very useful to read this section even if you have no interest in racing with NASA.

• 25.4 Rules for Overtaking 25.4.1 Passing General
The responsibility for the decision to pass another car, and to do it safely, rests with the overtaking driver. The overtaken driver should be aware that he/she is being passed and must not impede the pass by blocking. A driver who does not watch his/her mirrors or who appears to be blocking another car seeking a pass may be black-flagged and/or penalized. The act of passing is initiated when the trailing car’s (Car A) front bumper overlaps with the lead car’s (Car B) rear bumper. The act of passing is complete when Car A’s rear bumper is ahead of Car B’s front bumper. “NO PASSING” means a pass cannot even be initiated. Any overlap in a NO PASSING area is considered illegal.
• 25.4.2 Punting / Passing in Corners
The term “punting” is defined as nose to tail (or side-of-the-nose to side-of-the-tail) contact, where the leading car is significantly knocked off of the racing line. Once the trailing car has its front wheel next to the driver of the other vehicle, it is considered that the trailing car has a right to be there. And, that the leading driver must leave the trailing driver enough “racing room.” In most cases, “racing room” is defined as “at least three quarters of one car width.” If adequate racing room is left for the trailing car, and there is incidental contact made between the cars, the contact will be considered “side-to-side.” In most cases, incidental side-to-side contact is considered to be “just a racing incident.” If, in the case of side-to-side contact, one of the two cars leaves the racing surface (involuntarily) then it may still be considered “a racing incident.”
• 25.4.3 Right to the Line
The driver in front has the right to choose any line, as long as they are not considered to be blocking. The driver in front loses the right to choose his or her line when the overtaking driver has their front wheel next to the driver. Note: This rule may be superseded by class specific rules. As an example, once the lead car loses the right to choose the line that driver cannot “squeeze” another vehicle off of a straight away claiming the “three- quarters of a car width.”
• 25.4.4 Blocking
A driver may choose to protect his or her line so long as it is not considered blocking. Blocking is defined as two (2) consecutive line changes to “protect his/her line,” and in doing so, impedes the vehicle that is trying to pass with each of the two (2) consecutive movements. Drivers are encouraged to check with the Race Director for a full explanation before the start of the race.

Bad driving tip #9: expect right-of-way

Do you know the rules for right-of-way? Most racing organizations have similar rules but each has its own specific standards. One good source is National Auto Sport Association. Here’s a link to their current rules. The rules for overtaking start on page 81. They are followed by 12 excellent examples (which not all racing organizations would agree on). Here’s an important excerpt from their rules.

The driver in front has the right to choose any line, as long as they are not considered to be blocking. The driver in front loses the right to choose his or her line when the overtaking driver has their front wheel next to the driver.

Given that statement, watch the following video and try to determine who is at fault.

The driver coming in from the pit is well ahead and turns into the corner well before the POV car. The POV car then punts the incoming car. Whose fault is this? You could blame the incoming driver because it’s not a good idea, and sometimes against the rules to cross the blend line. But this isn’t a universal rule. You could also blame the incoming driver for not leaving enough room for the trailing car. Alternatively, you could say the trailing car had no right to be there because the lead car had already turned in. My guess is that the POV driver had listened carefully at the driver’s meeting earlier in the day where the official said “don’t cross the blend line” and therefore believed he had right-of-way. Sorry, but rules don’t protect your car from damage, you do.

Let’s take a look at another clip. In this one, the POV car gets punted as it turns into T1. Watch the mirror.

Has the car attempting to pass on the inside established its position for a safe pass? Has the POV driver left the other car enough room? Did the POV driver even see the other car? He doesn’t appear to move his head up or right to check his mirrors. Does the driver behind expect he has priority because he’s established position? All of these questions require some interpretation. Fuck interpretation. Take care of your car and keep it out of danger.

If you see a car entering the track from the pits, expect its driver to cross the blend line. If you see a fast car approaching from behind while you’re setting up for a corner, drive a defensive line. That is, set up on the inside of the corner. Taking a large radius (either by taking a racing line or allowing lots of room on the inside) puts you in danger. If they lose control, you want them hitting your rear bumper, not the side of your car.

ToS: PVP & OHD

One of the most common sources of contact is the punt. This occurs when the trailing car hits the lead car and sends it off track. Often, the cause of the incident is a faster car trying to squeeze through a gap left by a slower car. Passing via punting (PVP) is pretty dishonorable stuff. In the clip below, note the one-handed driving (OHD).

In his defense, the driver of the faster car may say “he should have checked his mirrors”. Yes, that’s true. Nobody wants to get hit. But most of the time, the lead car has right of way, and it’s the responsibility of the trailing car not to hit the leading car. The faster car may also say “rubbing is racing” or “that’s racing”. No, cars aren’t supposed to hit each other.

What can you say about the lead car? Well, if he was trying to teach the trailing car a lesson about right of way, it’s a costly lesson. On the other hand, if the lead car had no idea he was about to be passed, it’s hard not to say “learn to drive”.

Here’s what the NASA rulebook says about punting.

25.4.2 Punting

The term “punting” is defined as nose to tail (or side-of-the-nose to side-of-the-tail) contact, where the leading car is significantly knocked off of the racing line. Once the trailing car has its front wheel next to the driver of the other vehicle, it is considered that the trailing car has a right to be there. And, that the leading driver must leave the trailing driver enough “racing room.” In most cases, “racing room” is defined as “at least three quarters of one car width.” If adequate racing room is left for the trailing car, and there is incidental contact made between the cars, the contact will be considered “side-to-side.” In most cases, incidental side-to-side contact is considered to be “just a racing incident.” If, in the case of side-to-side contact, one of the two cars leaves the racing surface (involuntarily) then it may still be considered “a racing incident.”

27.10 The Punt

Whenever a driver makes nose-to-tail (or side-of-the-nose to side-of-the tail) contact that causes the lead car to spin, or otherwise leave the course, it is considered that the trailing car “punted” the leading car. In almost all cases the trailing car is at fault and is usually disqualified. There may be some argument, in some cases, that the contact was only a light tap, and the leading driver did not have enough experience to control the slight deviation of the back end of his car. While this may be a valid argument, this is not a valid excuse. Drivers should be reminded that even the slightest tap on the bumper of a car driven by a rookie might result in a crash.

27.10.1 The Punt (exceptions)

There can be exceptions to the punt rule. If the offending driver can prove that he/she was hit and forced into the car in front, then this may be grounds for dismissal. If it can be proven that the leading car purposely or inadvertently used his/her brakes in an area that is not a normal braking zone, this may be grounds for dismissal. However, if a driver brakes a little early going into a braking zone and there is contact and a punt results, this is not grounds for dismissal. The trailing driver should be aware that following too closely when approaching a brake area might result in contact.

Overtaking/Underaking

The various racing organizations define rules for when one car overtakes another. There are subtleties in some situations where it takes a real expert to sort out fault. But in general, there are two important rules.

1. It is the responsibility of the overtaking driver to make a clean pass. If there is contact in the corner, all else being equal, it is the fault of the overtaking driver. A clean pass shouldn’t affect the other driver very much. A driver who darts in front of another car and slams on his brakes isn’t making a very clean pass.
2. To gain right of way in a corner, the overtaking driver must present their car alongside the other car. How much of the car and how far into the corner varies from ruleset to ruleset. But it’s safest being nose-to-nose in the braking zone before the corner. It’s tricky determining right of way in the middle of a corner, so it’s best if the cars sort themselves out before any cars turn in.

If there are rules for the overtaking driver, surely there should be rules for the driver being overtaken. Let’s call these the undertaking rules and let’s keep it simple with just 2 rules.

1. Drive predictably. Keep your pace and drive the typical racing line. Trying to be too accommodating may find you turning into a road block or going off course.
2. Leave 3/4 car width on all sides. Take the typical racing line, but leave enough room for a car to squeeze around you on either side. Leave room at the entry, apex, and track out. Don’t leave too much or you’ll be in violation of rule #1.

While overtaking rule #1 says it’s the overtaking driver’s responsibility to make a clean pass, this shouldn’t give slow drivers the impression they can drive however they want. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and if you’re off pace, you’re a hazard. Impeding faster cars annoys them and slows the pace of the race. It’s much better to let them by with as little fuss as possible and then follow them as long as possible. In return, you may find yourself setting your fastest lap.

Overtaking rule #1: the overtaking car didn’t make a clean pass. It apexes early and turns into a road block at the exit. Screeching tires in a pass is never a good sign.

Overtaking rule #2: the overtaking car must present itself alongside the other car before the corner. Not here.

Undertaking rule #1: the slower car must drive predictably but swerves here. Of course, the overtaking driver is responsible (as always) but this could have been incident free if the slower driver did their part by being predictable.

Undertaking rule #2: the slower driver should leave 3/4 car width. Again, responsibility for the incident rests with the overtaker, but the undertaker can prevent car damage by leaving a little room.

Whose line is it?

A corner shouldn’t be like Thunderdome where two cars enter and one car leaves.

The usual rule for passing is that you own the corner when you present over half of your car along side the other car before the corner. In the clip above, the faster car did no such presenting. He bullied his way into the corner without making any allowance for the slower car in front. That’s negligent and reckless driving. This accident was 100% avoidable. In such a situation, the driver needs to be taken off track. That’s not just my opinion, it’s spelled out in the rule books of the most popular budget racing series. Let’s take a look.

24 Hours of LeMons: You are 100% responsible for what happens while you’re at the wheel. Think you’re the hittee, not the hitter? We don’t care. Think you’ve been wrongly accused? See the part where it says “we don’t care.” Your job is to stay out of trouble. If trouble finds you, take responsibility like a grownup and figure out how to avoid it the next time.

American Endurance Racing: Avoidable contact caused by careless driving and disregard for fellow competitors will result in a black flag with delay that will be assessed to the irresponsible party.

ChumpCar: The Chief Steward is REQUIRED to issue a Black Flag for the following driver (on-track) incidents and/or infractions, regardless of whether the infraction is a first offense… unintentional contact resulting from negligence, carelessness, unsafe passing or lack of control.

World Racing League: Any intentional contact, repeated contact, contact resulting from reckless or careless driving, or any contact where a driver could have taken reasonable measures to prevent or avoid the contact incident. All parties involved will be Black Flagged

The Youtube clip’s owner writes: “to my defense, I had just made this same pass a few laps earlier. SORRY!” Bad defense, but the apology was a genuinely nice gesture and should be commended. Most drivers in this situation would never have posted the clip or said they were sorry. To the driver we say: you may suck at racing, but you’re a stand-up guy!