Sure, everybody knows how racing really looks like, right? A bunch of drivers sitting in their cars, driving in circles all day long and everyone tries to be the best.
Well, without the skills to actually overtake someone, you may just end up on the very same position you have started the race after the qualifying or even worse, lose a couple of places or become the winner of the hearts by getting lapped a couple of times by everyone and just continue the race because it was so expensive to attend anyways.
Overtaking and fighting for a position in racing is just as normal as it is in real life. There are rules you need to follow, but besides that, everything is allowed.
Therefore, you better understand the rules and after that, making sure that you can actually do it pretty fast, save and easy.
But let’s go step by step.
Respect the driver in front of you. He was there first, he owns the corner, so to speak. If you want to overtake this person, you can neither force them off track, nor crash into them or doing anything else like that.
The driver in front can decide which racing line he wants to take and you need to adapt otherwise, not the other way around. But, and this is very important to learn, he can defend his position only by making one move to either the left or the right, but no more than that.
What? I don’t get it! No problem.
You are the guy in front, getting more nervous as the car from behind gets closer and closer. After the next corner he is actually pretty close and starts to attempt overtaking you on the right. You see that in the mirror while the car is still behind you and are allowed to drive to right, leaving no space for your opponent to make his move. Well, you defended your position, congratulations! But the thing is of course, that this was your one defending move for the moment. Meaning, that now, he can move to the left and overtake you there effortlessly and you can’t do anything against that.
For sure, it is not as easy as it might sound, because generally speaking, the rules allow you to take any line you can possibly find between the two white lines that signal the end of the track width on both sides.
Therefore, you can already position yourself perfectly on the track and preventing the other driver from overtaking you from corner to corner with your one free move you have. But as always in life, everything comes with a disadvantage, right? The moment you take a more defending line, closing the inside of a corner, etc. you are actually losing time. Meaning that the guy in front of you might gain a lot of time, increasing the distance between him and your current position and the guys behind of you and your fighting opponent will actually join the party and start fighting for your position as well. But sure, in the end, you do not want to lose your position, right? Therefore you give everything you can and accept sacrificing some time for your mission.
Generally speaking, there is of course a no touching policy, which might get interpreted differently form racing series to racing series. But for sure, at the end of the day you need to respect the other drivers and give each other the necessary space in order to stay on the track all the time.
Ok, doesn’t sound that complicated, but how do I really overtake someone now?
Overtaking starts in your head. The physiology behind racing might just be the first part of the equation. You are getting closer to the guy in front? Why don’t you use your flashers a little bit, showing this guy in front that you are coming his way and actually want his position. To increase the pressure, you may also alternate your line a little bit, making yourself visible in his side mirrors.
This doesn’t just tell the other driver that you are there, but actually causes him to think about the situation. Distract your opponents from focusing on getting his lap times right, that is what you want to do.
Once the focus is somewhere else, the mistakes will happen.
Sure, if the car in front is just a back marker, or a car from a lower class, you don’t need to waste your time with these things and just drive by, but if this car in front is actually fighting in your class, you need to do anything that is necessary in order to distract this driver from having clean and fast laps. Sure, some drivers will get influenced by that more likely than others, but still, it has an effect, even if it is very little.
Well, after that you might think that the next step is just overtaking this dude, but actually, we are still needing our brain a little bit longer before making our move.
Every track has a perfect line, the so called racing line which we have already talked about in this series. Well, you know the track pretty damn good, but the thing is that this guy in front of you knows the track as well. He knows which side of the track is for which corner the best and where he wants to put you on the long run. Therefore, he will drive a defending line, closing the inside of a corner and allow you to take the other side, which in the end, will not get you into the position to finally make your move. Believe it or not, but if you are pretty much doing the same lap times, he can do that forever without giving you any opportunities to finally overtake him. He will just brake a little bit later than you are braking and giving you no chance at all to make your move without risking to lose the position after all by ending up in the gravel or even worse the wall behind.
Interesting, but there needs to be a way how to overtake this dude anyways, right?
Of course there is. You can basically do what he expects you to do, following his invitations and always take the wrong position for the next corner that is coming up, or you might just think about what he wants you to do and then do the complete opposite. Meaning, that instead of taking the position next to him when he leaves open the door, you might just stand behind him, sure, stopping to accelerate for a moment and maybe losing some time, but in his slipstream you can use the longest straight on the track and pretty much overtake him effortlessly which you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, if you do what he wants you to do. And for sure, doing something he wasn’t expecting you to do, also has the side effect, that the driver in front needs to think about the situation and what he is going to do now, which will not only increase the pressure he might feel, but also the distraction from having fast lap times.
If you already know what he is going to do with you, you can basically turn the situation upside down and let him do, what you want him to do.
Understand your opponent
This is pretty much the most efficient way how to finally do the overtaking maneuver. While getting closer and closer from lap to lap, you simply observe his driving behavior. Which line does he prefers in which corner? Where is he slower than you and where faster? Do you know who he is? Do you know his strength and weaknesses? Try to figure out how he needs his car and position on the track to be fast.
Well, after knowing that, you pretty much start to get on his nerves, attacking him there, where you are the strongest and he has his weaknesses.
In order to do that, you start annoying him by taking different lines, simulating overtaking maneuvers even though you do not actually want to take his position right now and make him prepare his own grave by alternating his line accordingly. And after that, you basically got him. In the moment you know that it is going to happen, he knows it as well. Therefore, just make the move and don’t fall back again, because otherwise he knows what you have been up to and will change his strategy accordingly.
Another thing we need to talk about is of course your reputation and what the other drivers think about you. There are stories in racing, especially in the rally world, where other drivers or co-drivers would come up to the opponent just before his next stage and tell them something nerve wracking, in order to destroy their concentration, or even their confidence all together. There are a lot of famous examples spread all over the internet and sure, sometimes this wasn’t really the intention of the opponent driver, but even that alone shows how efficient that is and what it does to you and your mind.
Walther Röhrl talked about that in an interview I listened to some years back in time, but there are also other example out there.
If the driver behind of you has an reputation to be very aggressive with his overtaking moves and is very likely to end up crashing into you all together, like Max Verstappen is known for at least from my point of view, than you start to fear the attack even though Max hasn’t even started to make anything. That this can be both, a advantage or a disadvantage is of course clear, but once you have your reputation, why don’t you use it accordingly? The moment the other driver thinks that something might happen and put a sudden end to this race, he again, will most likely loose his focus on the next braking point ahead and might start to make mistakes more frequently.
Sure, that the physiological impact is something we shouldn’t forget is pretty much clear after reading through this blog post already, but still, there is one more thing we need to add to the equation as well.
Last but not least we need to talk about your appearance.
If you are driving very precise, clear and efficient, know exactly where you need to carry out the speed of the corners and show no mercy when it comes to having constant lap times, this will alone prepare your opponents for their defeat. A driver knows where his limits are. The moment someone comes up from behind, he can pretty much tell you on the spot if you are much faster than he is, or if that is just the slipstream or a mistake he has done in the last corner.
If you are driving sovereign and leave no space for interpretations your opponents will start to worry about you. And the moment they do that, you pretty much already overtook them in their mind. Now, it is just a matter of time, until you will also overtake them on the track.
Ufff… that was a long one. But I guess, it was just necessary in order to try to implement more than just the general basics. Sure, there is a lot of stuff still missing but I need to end this thing somewhere, right?
Overtaking starts in your head, but in the end it comes up to your experience how good you really are with doing that. Therefore, get behind your racing simulator or your race car steering wheel and practice.
Know your car! Know your braking points! Know alternative lines on the track! Know the limits of your car! Know your own limits!
See you next time!
Engineer, Motorsport Enthusiast, becoming an Entrepreneur, Author and just different