Turning Right

An Oval Driver's Guide to Road Racing

by Jeremy Paterson

Going fast on Road requires a somewhat different approach than Ovals.

Here is a list of tips to help everyone go a bit faster and have a fun, CLEAN race while road racing.


THE START

When doing rolling starts on ovals, when the green flag flies, we usually form up bumper-to-bumper and go full-speed into the first turn. Unless you're starting in the front row, don't do this on a road course or you WILL cause a pileup. There's no need to be bumper-to-bumper when the green flag flies. Instead, keep a car length or two of buffer in front of you. Don't drive into Turn 1 the way you would if you were hot-lapping. Everyone will be going slow. Just take it easy. Keep an eye on the vehicles in front of you and slow down when they do. It will feel like you're crawling through the turn at a snail's pace. That's okay. That means you'll survive (unless the guy behind you didn't read this.)

Your only goal at the start is to survive Turn 1 and not kill anyone else. The slightest bump on someone's bumper can send them spinning.

The first lap or two is NOT the time to win the race. If you are faster, you will make your way to the front once everyone is sorted out. Just be patient, let everyone get sorted out, then start racing. The first couple laps are all about survival and a very generous amount of give-and-take will go a long way.


SLOW IS FAST!

Many people tend to dive into the turns too hard on road courses.

On road courses, you gain very little by braking late, and you lose a LOT if you don't get a good exit off the corner.

The fastest way around the track is to have a nice, slow, controlled entry into the turn so that you can rocket out on exit and gain tons of time on the straightaway. Sacrificing a couple tenths by slowing down early will pay dividends when you get that fast run on the straight that follows.

Also keep in mind that the more drivers there are in front of you, the further you'll have to back up your braking zone. There's an accordion effect at slow turns and if there are many drivers ahead of you, you might as well start slowing down really early because you're going to catch up to them anyway. Pass them on the exit, not on the entry.


IF YOU OVERCOOK IT, DON'T DIVE TOWARD THE APEX!

Especially if there is another vehicle there. If you're approaching a LEFT turn and you realize that you can't brake in time, go off the RIGHT side of the track. That way you don't take others out with you.

I know the instinct is to go towards the apex and attempt to stay on the track, but it's not going to work. It never does. It just ends in heartache for the other driver. You will fly right past the turn, collect other drivers, and keep right on going into the grass.


THROTTLE CONTROL

People often self-spin on road courses due to getting into the gas too hard on exit. Slowly and smoothly applying the throttle will not only prevent spins, but it will also reduce tire-spin and actually cause you to go faster. Remember, you're slowing down to a very low speed for these sharp turns. Slamming on the gas at a low speed is how you do burnouts... save that for the end of the race

Also, if you start to slide a little, back it down to about half-throttle. The reason the back end is sliding around is because the wheels are spinning faster than the vehicle is moving. Staying on the throttle will only make it worse (this goes for Ovals too). Backing off allows the tires to re-gain grip and keep you out of the dirt. Once you stop fishtailing, slowly apply the throttle to get back up to speed. You'll lose a little time, but not nearly as much as you'll lose sitting in the pit getting repaired.


LOCK IT DOWN IF YOU LOSE CONTROL

Too often, a driver loses control and instead of locking it down and waiting for traffic to pass, they stay in the gas or let the vehicle keep rolling (even backwards) in a feeble attempt to get back on the track. If you go off track, accept your mistake and lock it down so the other drivers don't have to guess whether or not you're going to come flying back across the track. Use your "Relative" screen [F3 by default] to ensure you don't pull out in front of people.

If you're in the grass and rolling in the general direction you want to go and you're going to attempt to re-enter the track, do NOT touch the gas until you're back on the track. Let it coast through the grass. Pressing the gas on the green stuff is a sure way to spin out and make your situation worse.


DON'T DRIVE AT 100% OF YOUR ABILITY

Dial it back to about 90-95%. Leave a little on the track and you will be rewarded. This goes along with the "slow is fast" thing. If you drive 100% every single lap and screw it up just ONE time, you will lose all of that time you gained by driving so hard lap after lap... most likely you'll lose a lot more. The guy who drives at 90%, nice and smooth the whole way, will finish ahead of the "fast" guy who is on edge the whole time and loses it just once.

LETTING SOMEONE PASS

The preferred method for letting someone pass you is to do it on a straight section, NOT in the turn like we typically do on Ovals. Road Racing turns are much sharper and going 2-wide in them can get very difficult. You could end up wrecking the person you're letting pass, or causing him to lose control and go off-course.

Ideally, you will communicate your intentions to the driver behind you ("I'm going to get out of your way on this next straight"), then move off the racing line and let them completely pass you before you reach the next braking zone.


FURTHER READING

If you want to further improve your road racing skills, I highly recommend the book "Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving" by Carl Lopez. I was lucky enough to find this book in my local Library but it can also be purchased online.