Hitting Apexes…. Sept 2014

Well, here we are in early August and we have just returned from our DE’s at Mosport with our friends from UCR and our famous Paul Miller Watkins Glen I event.
On July 18-20 we were at Mosport for our annual CAN/AM DE with our friends from UCR. Overall there were 145 attendees with 39 from NNJR (or at least registered via NNJR). The weather was great for 2 of the 3 days, but all-in-all a great event at one of the world’s most famous tracks. The facility and track just keeps getting better and better as it is clear the Canadian Tire organization is investing in improvements.
On August 1-3 we had our famous Paul Miller Watkins Glen event with 230 participants. This event filled up fast and was booked solid by approximately 3pm on the first day of registration. The weather was great on Friday and Saturday in spite of sporadic rain being forecasted. The weather was cloudy on Sunday morning and the rain held off until just after lunch. Nonetheless, 10 dry runs at Watkins is a win. The Dinosaur BBQ people did a great job and the food was excellent as usual. They were able to set up their smokers/cookers in the parking lot by the Media Center. We served left overs at lunch time on Sunday and everything went.
Paul Miller brought 8 vehicles and were fairly busy with test drives and prospective customers. Next up is our Watkins Glen event on September 15-16 for Advanced Drivers and Instructors, then off to NJMP (Lightning) on October 18-19 and then we finish off our season at the world famous (and newly paved) VIR DE on October 31 – November 2.
Starting with this article, I have decided to cover some Driver Education topics. Some articles will cover technique and others will cover things like PASSING.
At most DE’s there is often much discussion about passing. The usual point of discussion is about trains but sometimes it is about the actual technique used. For this month’s article I decided I would cover this topic in more detail in the hopes that it has some positive impact. I consulted other car clubs and combined the most interesting bits.
The first thing to remember, is that DE is not a race. The goal in DE is to improve and develop driving skills. It is your responsibility to know the rules pertinent to passing in your group and these are covered in all of our driver meetings. They are not complicated, but you must understand them.
Typically, Instructed Run Groups; Green, Yellow, Blue (and White as Blue/White typically run together) passing rules allow passing typically only on straights. All passes must start after the car being overtaken has clearly given a pass signal (sometimes referred to as a “point by”). This tells the passing driver where you expect them to pass. The “point by” is accomplished by pointing to the side you want to be passed on. As the driver being passed, part of your responsibility is to make the pass easy for the overtaking car. This means be predictable, stay on line, give a lift off the throttle and let them pass. Do not do anything erratic.
If for the last few turns a car has been following you, so as you enter the passing zone, you give the following driver a “point by”. Do not jerk the car off line and do not hit your brakes to help them get by. If your car has more or equal horsepower, do not use full throttle. Do not leave the passing car hung out into the braking zone as the safest passes are complete long before you get near the braking zone. Being smooth and predictable are the keys to safe passing.
It is the responsibility of the overtaking driver to complete a safe pass. Do not pressure someone in non-passing areas in order to encourage them to let you by. Keep a reasonable distance between you and the car you want to pass, until you enter the passing zone. You should be close enough to let them know you want by, without being intimidating.
Here is the scenario:
For the last few turns you have been following a car. As you enter the passing straight, move up closer to the car you wish to pass. This should put you squarely in their rear view mirror. I sometimes see drivers sitting off to the side of the car they would like to pass and wonder why they are not getting a pass signal. It is very likely that the driver cannot see you as you are sitting in their blind spot. Look for a point by from the driver and pass on the side they point to. If you do not get a point by, look for some recognition that they are aware of your presence, eye to eye contact in their mirror as an example. Because you receive a point by does not mean you are obligated to pass, it is simply a courtesy from the other driver. If you do not want to take the pass, wave it off.
Because of the differences in the capabilities of the cars and drivers, i.e. if you drive a powerful car, it is quite easy to keep less powerful cars behind you, since once you get to a straight, you blast away down the straight, but that lower powered car is all over you again 2 turns later. Let them go in the next passing zone. You might learn something by observing why the driver is so much faster than you through the corners.
If you do get held up by someone who will not let you by and/or there is a big knot of traffic in front of you, you can pull onto pit lane and slowly proceed down pit lane so you can get back on track with hopefully a nice open space on the track. You can also use pit lane this way if you notice several cars stacking up behind you.
The Blue flag (with yellow diagonal stripe) is the passing flag. It is given to let a slower car know a faster car is catching them. If you are given this flag, you should already be aware that a faster car is approaching. You should let the car (or cars!) by in the next passing zone.
The basic skills necessary to allow safe passing begins at your very first session on track and should be developed as you are promoted into higher run groups. First is the awareness of other cars on the track. Second is conditioning your reactions to allow or make a pass safely, by not doing anything erratic and by being predictable. Although it is the overtaking driver’s responsibility to make a safe pass, the driver being passed must be aware of cars around them, stay on line, and not to wait too long and give a pass signal late in the passing zone.
I know this may seem very basic and repetitive, it is amazing how often these simple rules are forgotten in the heat of the moment while on track (yes, even in the upper run groups).
Have fun, check you mirrors and be safe out there.
Tom Iervolino, NNJR – Track Chair