Tech Feat.: Race Passing Technique by Pete Olson

Passing is the ultimate strategizing art in motorsport, where a driver needs to analyze their opponent’s weakness, take advantage of their own strengths, and make a calculated, aggressive passing move, all while driving 200+kph trying to focus on putting in quick laps during the stressful excitement of a race.

The most important part of passing: setting up the pass properly the corner before the corner in which you will attempt to make the pass. How?

  1. As you are behind the opposing car, take note during the lap – where are his worst corners? i.e. is there a corner where he brakes early and/or has slow corner speed, or takes a bad line? Remember – following just behind your opponent actually makes it more difficult to pass him or her, as you will wind up letting their slower driving determine your own pace: you have to brake earlier than normal, take the corner slower because you can’t get on throttle as quick as you normally can, etc – all because you are avoiding slamming into the back of their car. What’s the solution?
  1. In simplest terms: find the corner[s] where they are slower, and on the next lap, when you get to the corner before the targeted overtaking corner [preferably one of his/her weak corners], get a run on them in order to gain superior speed coming out of that corner, then pass them into the following corner.

For example: say at Zhuhai Circuit, the driver in front of you is good in T1 (first corner), but slower than you in T14 (last corner); the next lap, you stay just behind them until you get to T14, then drop back to give yourself some space before you get to the corner. Then, as they go slower through T14, you come in at the fastest pace possible, right on the limit, and blast through T14. This way, instead of being stuck behind them through the corner [which again, would mean you will have no hope of passing them in T1 if they are braking late], you are coming out of T14 significantly faster than them, and get a run on them down the straight to T1. Coming out of T14, follow the opponent’s car to get a draft, and as you get close, pull out for the pass. The superior speed you had coming out of T14 will enable you to get up alongside them by the time you get to T1.

When you get to T1 to make the actual pass, brake at the normal point – many people make the mistake of braking earlier when passing. True, you are off the racing line, but, you shouldn’t be too far off the normal line as you should be reasonably close to your opponent [less than a car width] in order to be as close to the racing line as possible. You also are able to brake at the normal point because you are able to brake somewhat deeper into the corner, as when you pass, you have taken over the racing line by blocking them out.

Once into the corner, get back onto the proper racing line as soon as possible, and if needed, a single line change to block the opponent from making a repass on you is acceptable [and conversely, if someone is making a passing attempt on you, you are allowed a single move off your line, which you can use to disrupt their passing strategy].

  1. Remember, passing requires not only forethought but a good amount of aggressiveness. A further note on that is, when it comes to passing, practice like you will race. Many people are shy on making passes during practice, citing damage risk, etc. However, if you can’t make successful passes in practice, how can you expect to do it in the heat of battle during a race? Ideally, you should practice passing as much as possible on the track – not to be foolhardy, but to get used to using the strategy, and honing the aggressiveness, needed for passing.

    Drift Innovation/ChildFund driver Pete Olson

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