"Arghh I've had a rubbish week. I keep getting taken out on track"
This is a comment complaint every iRacer hears every now and then. Someone, it may even be you, is having a bad week or two or more. It seems every race they're in they are involved in some "idiot"'s crash. You know what I say? What's the common denominator? That driver!
To be honest I started my iRacing career like this. I was getting into more incidents that I wasn't, when racing MX-5's It seemed almost every race I was getting hit by, or hitting someone, and it wasn't often the same person. Personally, I think it's because I came to the sport with an expectation I'd be as good against real people as I was against AI. Thing is, AI don't have emotions, but people do. And people don't want to lose, they don't want to get overtaken, and they'll shut the door. They also crash. They push hard, maybe too hard, and then they come off. I remember I would brake as late as possible as often as possible. I'd run on the ragged edge and I'd attempt a pass at the faintest wiff of an opportunity. I took this behaviour with me into the Skip Barber series too.
Eventually I wisened up and I started looking at my own actions, and at my own approach. I started leaving a gap for people to get by if they came up alongside. I'd not follow too closely behind cars I could see were on the ragged edge. It started to pay off. Incrementally I reduced the number of incidents I got caught up in. I'm not the fastest of drivers, so it's not like I'm out front where no one can touch me. Most every race I'm dicing it in the pack.
What happened? I developed racecraft. It may have taken 200 races, but I got there.
There's another aspect to this: respect. Yes, we're only racing on a computer. It's not real life where we can get hurt but respect is still important. I've found, as I've improved my racecraft and my driving manners, I've come to respect a good number of drivers. I know they won't weave down the straight. I can trust if I pull alongside them into a turn they'll leave me racing room. Just like the real guys. And I reciprocate. I've leave an extra wide berth, probably too wide, for guys I know are clean - even though it's unlikely they'll lose it or go wide and push me off.
What I've also found is it makes racing more enjoyable being able to confidently go toe-to-toe with another driver without fear of being bunted off the circuit. Gentlemanly, I like to call it; like what I imagine the beginnings of motorsport was.
That's not to say I don't take a defensive line into a corner if a car is following closely. I don't want to make it too easy. But, if that car pulls up alongside and then we both start braking, I'll make sure I leave room for us both to get through the turn. What I've repeatedly found is if you do this, amazingly, you live to fight another day - so to speak - and often a repass can be made. That can't happen if you're both off into the armco.
I came across this today, when a less experienced driver got involved in the same accident as me in two consecutive races. We were both hit by someone else (and we both didn't hit each other) before the first turn at Road America and it ended both our races, both times. When he was complaining (rightly so) that he'd had a tough week and that this was the top split and we shouldn't be having these dumb accidents, my response was that he probably should consider what he's doing at the start line. Both times he hit the rear end of someone else and both times someone else hit my rear end (ie nothing I could do, someone hit me from behind). If you're getting involved in accidents on the first lap, when cars are close together, then it's prudent to leave a larger gap going into turn one. A safety buffer if you will.
In the 380 odd races I've competed in I've learned to be cautious at the start. Sometimes it means I'll get overtaken by a someone less cautious, sometimes it even means I get divebombed by an overly opportunistic noob (as was the case in the first of the above accidents), but significantly more often than not I see accidents in time and I can react and safely nagivate my way through and continue on.
I was flattered today when half the grid vouched for my "gentlemanliness" (is that a word?!) when I was offering some... er.. unsolicited racecraft advice ;)
If you've made it this far into the article I hope the two points you're taking away are:
- Respect your fellow racers and they'll respect you back - you'll have a more enjoyable iracing experience and you'll be more successful more quickly ( I wish I could have understood this 350 races ago ;)).
- If you're getting into a lot of accidents, start by looking at yourself and how you're going racing. You are the most easiest thing for you to change!