Mandatory Riders’ Meeting, Part 6.
Last week’s mandatory riders’ meeting discussed the responsibilities of riders making passes and riders being passed during trackdays. The onus of safe passing is on the passing rider but the rider being passed must be predictable in terms of line, control inputs, and body position; please review if you missed it.
This week we finish the series with direct focus on the rider making the pass. As your trackday skills grow, your laps will be filled with more passes. Before we get into the heart of the matter, here are some guidelines:
Not every corner is a passing opportunity. Highly technical sections sometimes offer little room.
The best riders plan passes well before they arrive at the slower rider’s tailsection. This planning is what makes passing appear effortless.
The most common pass is on the inside before the slower rider turns in. This pass is made easy by getting a strong exit out of the previous corner. If you exit directly behind the rider you want to overtake, it becomes a simple drag race; give that rider room going into the corner so you can accelerate earlier and harder. Let them clear the apex well before you so you can accelerate unimpeded.
A pass is complete when the passing rider gets ahead of and into the vision of the slower rider. We don’t have mirrors, so passing riders can’t expect to be seen if they are only next to the slower rider. We must be slightly ahead to be seen, especially if our bike is quiet.
Our lap time is a distant second priority to safe passing. There is a place where lap times and finishing positions actually count, and that’s when you are racing! Don’t chase lap times during trackdays at the expense of unsafe passes.
If a pass looks sketchy, it probably is. Wait a lap or a few corners and make the pass politely.
Learn to quickly dangle a foot before you slow your pace when caught behind a slower rider. This move tells those behind you that you’re checking up to find a safer place to pass.
Don’t ruin your session getting stuck behind someone you can’t pass safely. Get a hand up and enter pit lane, cruise and relax for a few moments, and then rejoin the track in an open spot.
If a pass forces the slower rider to change lines, it’s bad. This is when riders get upset and want to go home…or fight. The passing rider should apologize with a wave, the slower rider should talk with the trackday organizers.
Have empathy for the slower rider by remembering when you started. Safe and polite passing by veteran riders is key to growing our sport. Let me put that another way: Unsafe and close passes will drive new riders from the trackdays and they will write things like, “Don’t go to a trackday, those guys will stand you up and take you out.” Our sport shrinks. A quick thumbs-up to a slower rider is easy and grows our sport.
Karma never takes a vacation. Riders who pass too closely gain a reputation and engender negative feedback in a variety of forms. If you pass too closely by mistake, give a wave.
The main and most important passing guideline is this: Pass riders when you are parallel to them or going away from them. That’s the main push of this article. This guideline clearly delineates passing zones because when we pass riders who are parallel to our path of travel or going away from our path of travel, passing is easy and safe. This approach to passing has no caveats or exceptions. It opens passing up to inside and outside, depending upon where on the track the passing is occurring. It makes this clear: A poor pass is if the rider is moving toward your line as you approach them.
Related: Racetrack Bike Placement, Part 3
The dotted line is the rider we have caught, a rider who studied last week’s article and is on-line, using the track well. This is not always the case, but faster riders must plan that the slower rider will use all the track at the entry, apex, and exit points. Faster riders must give slower riders “room to ride”; that means expecting them to use the track correctly and not placing our bike between the slower rider and the pinch points of turn-in point, apex, and exit point. That is the wrong side, delineated by the red zones, because the slower rider is coming toward us.
Now let’s look at the entry and exit of turn 1. The pass is safe and open until the slower rider begins to turn in. At that point, the outside pass becomes open because the slower rider is going to the left and the outside pass is to the right. If the faster rider tries to stuff their bike to the left of the turning-in rider, that pass can become extremely scary as the slower rider nears the apex. It’s the wrong side because the slower rider is turning in, coming toward the faster rider.
But that outside passing opportunity ends as the slower rider apexes and begins to stand their bike up on the exit. They are moving to the right, so the passing zone opens to their left. If the faster rider insists on continuing with the outside pass, it gets scary the further the slower rider accelerates off the corner. Safe outside passes must be done before the slower rider begins to accelerate off the corner; outside passes really only work on much slower riders because to be safe they must be done before the slower rider accelerates off the corner.
Main point: Faster riders must plan where and how the pass will happen. “I’ll catch this rider out of turn 6, so I will go inside as they stand their bike up.”
Let’s now look at the straight between turns 1 and 2 for a common passing error. The passing rider begins to pass the slower rider to the left on the exit of turn 1. That’s a good decision because the slower rider is tracking out of the corner to the right. But the pass doesn’t get done (the passing rider doesn’t get ahead of the slower rider) and the slower rider reaches their exit point and begins to move to the left to the turn-in point of turn 2. Now the pass is to the right. Insisting on staying on the left could put the slower rider into the front of your bike and into your front brake lever—or push you off the track. We must see this early and react to place our bike correctly, smoothly, and safely.
Passing a slower rider as they are coming toward you, whether it’s at turn-in or exit or corner setup, can be extremely scary to the slower rider. Interestingly, passing distance is less important than being parallel with or going away from. A close-ish pass while parallel with or going away from isn’t scary because no line change is needed by the slower rider; a close-ish pass while the slower rider is coming toward you often stimulates a steering input by the slower rider to avoid what they think will be a collision, or in fact would be a collision. This is what upsets the rider being passed.
“I was almost taken out.” Words that ruin trackdays for at least one rider, and eventually reduce trackday participation.
“I hate these passing rules, they make no sense.” I’ve heard this uttered by veteran riders after a trackday riders’ meeting, again leading to less enthusiasm and participation.
Passing while parallel with a slower rider or going away from a slower rider is the solution to safe passing. It keeps slower riders comfortable and faster riders smoothly circulating the track. Trackday participation grows.
More next Tuesday!