Ok what am I forgetting? First attempt…
Guide for noobs in progress:
Objective: basic knowledge of track safety and etiquette. Let’s discuss this in context of a race weekend.
- Saturday open practice:
What is open practice?
The day before a race, series have a practice day. The format is simple. The competitors are arranged by a) age and b) engine type.
They are sent out on track for 10 minute sessions. At the checkered flag, everyone comes in and next group goes out.
What goes on in a practice session?
Basic idea is for you to get an idea how to get around the track. You’ll spend all day trying to familiarize yourself with each turn and hopefully manage to improve your laptimes as the day progresses.
More advanced drivers are doing the same thing as you, at the same time as you, just much faster. However, it is not a race (yet).
In this session, you will be likely be significantly off pace compared to those with experience. That is fine. It’s expected. However, with such disparate skill and speed levels, there are a few things you need to know:
This is not a race. It’s a practice session. Fighting for position is gonna cause problems, create bad blood and generally ruin your experience. If it’s egregious, you are going to get booted. Even worse, you are gonna have to convince the race director that you have changed before he/she lets you back into the series. Not a great way to begin your race career.
What do I define as fighting for position? The process in which one guy tries to pass while another guy tries to defend. It’s that simple.
So, when a faster guy is on your tail in practice, do NOT block, swerve or generally intentionally hinder the pass. That’s for race day (with conditions attached).
Safety in racing comes from participants being aware of each other’s position in the track, and there are “expectations” in terms of how you will respond to a faster driver approaching. And, if you are faster than the guy ahead of you there are expectations as to how you’ll get around the slower driver. BOTH participants share equal responsibility that the pass is safe and clean.
Good news for you, is that most of the responsibility is on the fast guy. Here’s what’s expected:
Hold your line.
This may feel counter intuitive. You are a nice person, you want to be polite and get out of the way. Basically, don’t try to “help” by quickly moving out of the way.
Think about it. If I am bearing down on you, am I going to try to occupy the same spot on the track as you? No, I’d run into you! I’m either going to take the inside (likely) or outside line.
If there’s some ambiguity in my mind as to wether I can pass you safely without losing momentum, I’m going to slow down. I’ll either get on your bumper and rev my engine a bunch to let you know I’m there or try to move myself where you can see me coming alongside.
So, if you try to be helpful and there’s a 5-10mph difference in velocity, and you swerve into my passing line (ironically to try to get out of the way)… boom. So stay on line and let the fast guy get creative to get safely around you. Behave predictably in practice and people will develop a level of comfort around you as they become accustomed to what you are and aren’t (yet) capable of.
So, just hold your line, drive predictably, and earn the respect and adulation of your peers.
Exception to this rule… if you want someone to pass you, point them by by indicating clearly which side you want them to pass you on and leave that space open for them (photo here).
Other than that, just use good judgement. Bear in mind that karts go 50-100 mph depending upon type, and there is a non-zero possibility of serious injury. No roll cage, bumpers etc. You’d expect a visit to the hospital if you ran into a wall on your bicycle at 25mph. The same with karts.
Early on your job is getting good enough to be able to get around the track without sliding in turns. Push yourself appropriately.
Most people have a built in self-preservation mechanism that yells no no no when they are trying something new and scary. Listen to this voice. In time, it will give you more and more leeway, coincidentally as you get more and more seat time!
One day, you’ll make passes instinctively. There will be no hesitation and you’ll “get it”. Until then, be sensible. Push appropriately.
Well crap. Despite your best efforts to be predictable and safe driver you done spun and the number one in your series has a bent axle and is looking at you funny…
It’s Motorsport. Shit happens despite everyone trying their best. What matters is your “total” behavior. If it’s on you, apologize. If you are not sure say “I am sorry. I am new to all this and I don’t know if I caused that crash. What could I have done different?”
Getting embarrassed and reflexively defensive isn’t a good way of dealing with issues at the track. Own it. Be adult. (This applies to everyone, regardless of age).
Angry responses to being taken out are to be expected. Be the better man/woman. I’ll let you draw upon your life experiences to figure that one out.
Next: Race day!
Sent from my iPhone