A nice guide about what is recommended to do and what not. From GPL times, by Phillip McNelley.
Stay out of the way of drivers who are on flying laps when you’re on an out lap, or any other non-useful qualifying lap for that matter. With a full field the track can get crowed. It can be hard to find the space to complete a clean flying lap sometimes. It’s all the worse if people who are on an out lap try to ‘race’ those who are trying to complete a clean flying lap. Be a sport. Let others complete their flying laps as cleanly as possible.
Also if you have spoiled the lap you’re on, (by spinning, a really bad section, whatever), then also consider staying out of the way of others for the remainder of your non-useful lap.
Exit the pits carefully. Many drivers announce their egress onto the circuit with a ‘PO’ (Pit Out) notice though the chat facility. This is recommended. However, such announcements alone are not a license to charge onto the track with gay abandonment. In addition, try to ease yourself onto the track so that you get a view in your mirrors of what’s coming up behind.
Some tracks are worse than others when it comes to a clean track entrance manoeuvre. I.e. You can leave the pits at Monza at full acceleration and drive adjacent to the main track for a few hundred yards before actually needing to move onto the track proper. This gives you lots of time to check your mirrors for approaching cars. On the other hand, the pit exit at Watkins Glen leads almost directly onto the racing line of a high speed sliding corner. There, for example, you need to be very careful not to interfere with someone on a flying lap.
Get off the track and out of the way ASAP if your car is non functional. If you crash, spin out, run out of fuel, whatever, so that you’re on the track but not moving or moving very slowly for where you are, then move off the track as quickly as you can. If in a Pro race where a Sift-R isn’t possible, retire ASAP if that’s the fastest way to clear the road in a particular circumstance. Treat this as a matter of urgency, as if every fraction of a second counts, (and it often does). Your race may be done but others are still trying to compete as best they can. Running into your stationary or slowly moving vehicle will not make their day. At the very least get away from the racing line, and do it with all haste.
Of course there may be some circumstance where a damaged car might still be capable of affording some benefit to its driver. E.g. Damage from a crash on the last corner on the last lap may still leave a car able to limp across the line for a beneficial result. An out of fuel car may still be able to roll a long way to cross the line. A damaged but still running car or engine may still be able to carry you to some points. Common sense has to prevail of course, and no one can expert you not to do everything reasonable to enhance your own result. But, if your current situation is not served by staying on the track, then please get off, and get off as fast as you can.
Show yourself in their mirrors. GPL has the biggest blind spots of many a racing sim, (see below). To state the obvious, if the driver in front of you can’t see you then don’t be surprised if they crash into you, or cut you off so you can’t avoid crashing into them. As much as you can, show yourself in the mirrors of the car in front.
Of course once you decide to overtake a car you have to drive into their blind spots. But even then, if they get a good view of what your movements are immediately prior to your disappearing, they’ll have a much better idea of your probable position and likely immediate actions, and what they need to do to try to avoid contact. This is not quite the same as real life perhaps, but real life enjoys a much better visual range.
Trying to stay away from an opponent’s mirrors may be a valid tactical ploy. E.g. Trying to rattle them into an error by making them guess where you are. But in GPL this is asking for trouble. In my opinion GPLs’ visual limitations requires us to play the gentleman here, if only for our own survival and enjoyment.
Never run into the back of someone in front of you. This is probably one of the silliest things one driver can do to another. There’s few excuses here. If you are behind then you have the responsibility to drive in a manner that will not lead to you running into a car ahead. It doesn’t matter if you’re faster, think you have the right to be let by, are more talented, or think that all slower drivers should not hold up faster drivers. If you’re behind someone then that’s your tough luck. You have to earn your pass the same as anyone. However frustrated you may be, or whatever, it is your responsibility not to run into the car in front of you. Even if their braking zones occur earlier than yours would normally, then tough luck. You have to anticipate these possibilities and drive accordingly.
If you’ve tried everything, braking, gearing down, changing line, etc., but can see you’re still going to collide with a car ahead, then you should drive your own car off the track, crashing yourself out of the race if necessary, if that’s what it takes to avoid such a contact.
The in-front driver must not do malicious braking of course. I.e. Deliberately slowing down inappropriately to rattle a following driver. They are required to drive with all haste and due propriety. But while doing so within their limits they are entitled not to have to worry about whether a following driver will run into them.
Being able to follow another driver without running into then is something you have to learn to do. It often takes keen judgment and many times is not easy. You want to be as close as possible, to snatch a pass if a chance comes along, but you need to be far enough away to respond to the ahead driver’s manoeuvres, evasively sometimes. It does take practice and it is a skill. But its an essential skill for successful enjoyable online racing. You can practice with friends, in non-serious races, or with the AI cars offline. Offline, pick a car that’s slower than you and try to just hang on their tail for 10 laps or so without passing. You may surprise yourself at how much your skill in this area needs to be improved.
Avoid close racing when its not necessary. Not only does very close driving give you very little time to react if the need arises, it also increases very much the likelihood of a internet-lag-time caused collision. In GPL online there is always a risk of registering a collision in close driving even without any perceivable contact – due to internet lag. The closer you are to another car the more likely this will happen. The general rule for the careful and respectful driver would be, not to unnecessarily drive too close to another, especially whenever there is no point. E.g. In situations where there is no possibility of passing anyway. You’re asking for trouble if you do, even if you don’t actually do anything wrong.
So how close is too close ?
A view like the left one from the cockpit equates to this close on the right. Probably a lot closer than you thought you were. Unfortunately GPL gives the impression you’re further away than you actually are. In this case, from the cockpit, you may think you’re about a car length behind, but in fact you’re only inches away.
This close is way too close. You’re begging for a lag collision if you drive like this – as in fact actually happened moments after this snapshot was taken.
A view like the left one from the cockpit equates to this close on the right. About a car length. As close as you need be for most circumstances. You might think you’re 2 or 3 car lengths away here, but in fact you’re only about 1 car length behind the leading car.
As a guide, drive so you can see some road between the top of your cowling and the bottom of the ahead driver’s tyres. This is a much safer position while waiting for a valid passing opportunity. You’re still close enough to make a move when and if an opportunity arises and there’s at least some time to react. A lag collision is also much less likely with this amount of gap.
As I think you can see here, its a general problem with the perception in GPL that you look further away from the car ahead than you actually are.
Use Clear Body Language. If someone is following you closely, looking for a place to pass, and you kind of drift along with ambiguous movements about the track, or you sort of close the door but still leave the inside line half open, then you just might unintentionally lure the following car to try a pass that’s only half on. Alternatively, if as soon as a following car gets anywhere near your rear quarter coming up to a corner, and while they are still in your mirrors, you make a firm and clear movement towards the inside line, and stick there, then they will know that your intentions are to close the door and drive the defensive inside line. Such a clear defensive move will leave them in no doubt about trying a risky inside pass.
This is just one case. There’s others of course. The thing is … Always try to convey a clear message by your driving style so that surrounding drivers get a very good idea about your intentions. Body language used well can be almost as clear as having indicators on your car.
Practice the Other Lines Before You Have to Use Them. If the first time you have ever tried driving around the outside of a certain corner is in a frantic race situation when you’re racing toe to toe with someone, then you’ll be in unfamiliar territory in the middle of a high stress precision driving situation. A bad place to be. Before a race comes up, just try doing a few laps of the circuit hugging the left-hand-side of the road all the way around and then do a few hugging the right-hand-side. At the very least do 1 or 2 laps against each side of the road. You’ll be surprised at how much less likely you are to crash while trying to hold road position if you are at least a little familiar with how the outer and inner lines feel.
The Non Contested Pass
A non contested pass is simply a pass where you’re happy, for whatever reason, to let an overtaking driver go past with the least hindrance to them and yourself as possible. Your reasons may be that, you don’t want to risk an incident due to an overtaking battle, the overtaking driver may be known to you as a notorious accident causer, or you may be being lapped – in which case race etiquette requires you to do what you can to expedite a clean quick safe pass for the lapping driver. Whatever the reason, there may be times when you want to let someone past uncontested.
To let someone past uncontested, drive against one side of the track and maintain that position until they’ve passed. You need to use clear body language here. Moving from side to side trying to be helpful by staying off the racing line, for the sake of the passing car, is the worse thing you can do. What’s important is not weather you’re on the racing line or not, but whether you’re driving a predictable line. Pick a side of the road to move to, usually the one you’re nearest to at the time, then religiously stay against that side until the car has passed. You might even try slowing a little to expedite the pass, as sometimes a quick pass can benefit you as much as it does the passer. But don’t slow down too abruptly of course.
In GPL during the race, if you’re being lapped by another car you’ll be shown blue flags by the marshals. These are advisory flags to let you know your about to be lapped and you’re expected to do the gentlemanly thing and move out of the way.
In GPL, you may not always see all the cars behind you in your mirrors at a particular time. There may be several unseen cars close by around your tail. You may only ever see whichever one happens to be in your mirror’s field of vision at the moment. This has special significance when you’re being passed – with or without blue flags being waved.
If you’re being lapped, perhaps with blue flags but whenever, be aware there could be any number of lapping cars right on your gearbox even though you don’t see them. What can happen is this… You see a car coming up in your mirrors, maybe you also see blue flags, you think ” there’s a car lapping me I’ll move over to let him pass”, you move to one side of the road and let him through, you then move back onto the racing line and BAM, you’ve hit someone. It turns out there was more than one car lapping you. When you moved over to let the first one through the others tried to go through too, as you’d expect. But while you were on the other side of the road, they were out of you mirrors, you simply never got to see them.
This can really take you by surprise, and them too. All you can do here is be as careful as possible, look around if you’re able too, try to shy a glimpse, listen for more engine sounds, toggle the arcade view for a moment. They can help by trying to show themselves in your mirrors before going through. Be aware that just because you see one car go past that may not be the end of them. Whether after a blue flag or whenever, as the same limitations always apply.
The drivers doing the lapping / passing should also bear in mind these limitations. You (passing drivers) be aware that the car you’re lapping may have absolutely no knowledge of your presence what-so-ever. Be careful. You should always try to show yourself in the mirrors of an ahead car before trying a pass.
The Contested Pass
The contested pass, or the pass done in anger, whatever you want to call it, is arguably one of the most difficult things to do cleanly without incident in GPL. Battling for position, passing and counter passing, wheel to wheel racing, is also the most fun thing to do so it’s very worthwhile to be adept at this skill.
The problem with close racing of any sort, contested passing included, is largely one of what each driver in the situation can see of the other. Most people I’ve raced with are fair and don’t mean to cause accidents. Most aren’t reckless. Its just that there’s a lot of guessing going on about exactly where and how close you are to another driver. The GPL range of vision is much less than real life. There are huge blind spots to contend with. In fact the restricted visual range in GPL is so much a factor in close racing situations it warrants a detailed discussion in itself. The contested pass then is all about what you can and can’t see.
If you watch the odd few GPL drivers in action you might think the rule for corner rights goes something like, “Whatever piece of ground I can barge my way into I have the right to”. Well, … not so. There is actually an etiquette for corner rights. It’s not just for GPL, or racing sims, but is basically the same for every level of real-world motor racing – from Formula Ford to Formula 1 and everything in between. “What !”, you say. “You mean I don’t have the right to throw my car into any gap I see?”. Actually no, you don’t – and if you raced in any real-world competition the way you may race in GPL, instead of being hailed as a motor racing genius you may find yourself banned from even the lowest levels of the sport. Some of the everyday things you see in GPL simply aren’t tolerated where real cars are damaged, real money is the cost of repair, and real lives are at risk.
In brief, the concept is, you must establish substantial overlap with the car ahead before a corner’s turn-in point to have the right for room to be left for you by the ahead driver. Substantial overlap means at least that the front of your car is up to say the driver’s position in the ahead car – and that’s at the very least. You probably should have more in many circumstances. The ahead driver has ever right to be fully committed to the racing line of his choice without any interference if there was no overlap before he turned in.
If sufficient overlap is established before the turn-in point, then the behind driver has the right to room. The ahead driver can still battle for the place of course but must do so from a wider-out position, leaving room for the behind driver.
You can see here why overlap established after the turn-in point isn’t really valid and therefore isn’t honored in car racing rules. Its actually false overlap that’s created by the turning movements of the cars. Its not due to one being faster than the other or one out-braking the other. In positions 1, 2, and 3, below, you can see that the Lotus has no overlap at all if you consider the straight ahead direction – shown by the blue lines. But if you take a perpendicular from the attitude of the cars, shown by the red lines, there is some overlap at position 2 and substantial overlap at position 3. This overlap is entirely false of course as the Lotus here hasn’t actually out-braked or out-sped the Eagle by any amount what-so-ever – as I hope you can see form this diagram. Unfortunately many drivers think that if they do this they are some kind of out-braking genius, when in fact they are not out-preforming the other driver at all. Its a geometric illusion that has nothing to do with a driver’s ability or performance. If they could really out-brake the other, they would have made some overlap before the turn-in point, not after it.
1 Before the turn-in point there’s no overlap – therefore the Lotus has no right to room or to interfere with the Eagle’s normal racing line in any way. 2 But, as often happens, the Lotus sees this empty zone along the inside and thinks they can zoom up into it, probably believing this to be the move of a talented racing genius. 3 Its possible to get apparent overlap after the turn-in point. The point is you shouldn’t. 4 The Lotus may actually achieve their objective, forcing the Eagle out wide, who may actually not press the issue for the sake of not crashing – if they can. 5 But, if the Eagle doesn’t back away, and holds their line, as they’re entitled to do, this is what happens as often as not.
The issue is that the Eagle has the right to be fully committed to the racing line. In this case, the entire inside area ought to have been a no-go zone for the Lotus, who should have tucked in behind and followed the Eagle around. Of course, late braking barge drivers often end up in the hay bails, hopefully without taking you with them.
You may wonder how this reconciles with the above regarding leaving room for cars that disappear up your inside from your mirrors. Well … If a behind car doesn’t have overlap before the turn-in point then they shouldn’t disappear up your inside line but stay tucked in behind you. If they want to disappear up your inside line then they should do so before you reach the turn-in point. If they disappear up your inside line after the turn-in point, then its really up to you how you play it. You may decide to enforce your rights and risk a contact, or your may be willing (reluctantly) to leave room because you don’t want to crash.
An exception to this is where an ahead driver has clearly made a sufficient error to warrant a passing move. Eg – they brake too late and wash out wide of the apex and have to reduce speed etc. This would be a valid passing opportunity regardless of whether there was pre-existing overlap. However, there is still substantial reasonability on the overtaking driver to take all necessary care.
Small errors by the ahead driver may not be sufficient to allow a safe passing move however. Just because the ahead drivers gets a bit out of shape at times it doesn’t give you an automatic right to room. You still have to judge if their error provides sufficient opportunity for a safe pass to take place.
As long as there is genuine overlap, in general , while going through a corner beside another car …
The car on the outside has the right to the outer half of the track all the way around – right up to the exit point. They should not be squeezed against the outside towards the exit point.
The car on the inside has the right to the inside half of the track all the way around – right up to the exit point. They should not be squeezed against the inside towards the apex area.
Having said all this, one would have to add that corner rights is not an exact science. There are some variables. Presented here is just the basic concept of the accepted etiquette. Even in real life, with full vision, full sensory feedback, infinite fps and resolution, its not uncommon for real drivers to come to grief with this – usually saying it was the other guy’s fault. With GPLs’ huge blind spots its even more hit and miss, often literally. (You can however simulate real life to the letter by saying it was the other guy’s fault).
Other General Sim Racing Rules
Here’s some race rules that have proved to be helpful in running sim racing competitions online.
Nothing much. Just a couple of points.
If in doubt, lift. If in a loss of control situation or a near loss of control one, lift your foot off the accelerator, usually with gentle haste. In nine out of ten situations this is the right thing to do anyway. The odd situation where you’d keep your foot planted requires such a fine skilled touch you probably wouldn’t be successful at it anyway. Lifting to get out of trouble is very often a safe bet. You’ll be surprised at how many ‘certain crash’ situations you can actually drive away from if you would only lift your foot off the accelerator. Some people are very reluctant to lift their foot off for any reason. They’re the ones up-side-down in the sand all too often.
Drive, then Race. Aircraft pilots at times have a number of matters happening simultaneously, competing for their attention. They have a saying to help them set their priorities. Aviate, navigate, communicate. The idea being that the first priority is to stay in control of the plane, i.e., fly the plane. The second is to know where you are in relation to the world. The third and last priority is to attend to radio communications.
In our racing perhaps just two priorities are required. Drive your car, then race it. Meaning, … The first priority is to stay in control of your car. Only after that is done do you worry about racing it with any near-by competitors. You often see people who left alone can drive well enough. But once they start racing they are going into corners so deep etc they have no chance. The obvious reality is – if you could only take a certain corner at say 80mph when alone, you can’t take it at 120mph just because you’re racing someone. Don’t let the sprit and thrill of the racing moment take your attention away from your number one priority. Drive your car, stay in control of it. Then worry about racing.
Survive. I used to race small 2-man sailing boats. These were great fun. The class I raced had mainsails, jibs, spinnakers, and 2 man crews.
The crew had the job, among other things, of hanging off the side of the boat, when required, via a thin wire secured to the upper mast. In a brisk breeze, say 30 knots, on a spinnaker reach the crew would be stretching at full extension, tip toes on the gunwale, while grasping the leeward spinnaker sheet to keep the spinnaker in trim. Only the last couple of feet of the aft hull would be touching the water as the small boat planned at considerable speed across the top of the water surface. Kind of like skipping stones across the top of water.
The whole boat would shake and vibrate at these times. The crew’s head was at maybe a few inches above the water surface, while spray, often rather cold, drenched them to the bone. The skipper would at these times try to keep the boat facing the optimum angle towards the next marker, as well as trying to catch and surf down waves if there were any as to do so would add a good deal to the boats overall speed – if you caught them right. The skipper also tried not to turn the boat too much or too suddenly so that wind would spill from the sails, upsetting the trapezessing crew’s counterbalancing which would capsize the boat and throw everyone into the water in a great splash.
I can’t write this without smiling – such fun I used to have at this. If I let my memories take control the next few thousand words will be tall tales of true about sailboat racing stories.
I remember attending a sailing technique clinic once where the sailing instructor said, “it does you very little good if you win a protest but your boat is at the bottom of the ocean”. In a similar vein, it doesn’t do your sim racing fun a lot of good if you keep getting crashed out of races when in the right. More often than not, the most fun is had by actually racing the whole race and finishing it. It’s up to you how you play it when you’re in the right, but often it pays to not force issues on the track. I’ve found that people who wrongly force passes etc often end up in the ditch after a while in any case. You can then cruise past them with a big grin on your face.
There’s a saying they have in sailing. “Sailing is like standing under a cold shower tearing up $100 bills”. I wonder what the sim racing equivalent of this is 🙂
Drive the outside wheel. When cornering, or whenever your in a turning moment, if you hit a bump or curb and the car ‘s going all over the place and you’re panic steering, settle your focus on the outside wheel and drive that. Nine times out of ten you’ll get control back and save yourself. Forget about driving the car and drive the outside wheel – the one you can see that is, the front one. Its just a concentration focus trick but it can work, more for some than for others.