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Passing in HPDE

The first thing to remember, is that HPDE is not a race. The goal in HPDE is to improve and develop driving skills. Since passing is the most likely time to have contact, and since the consequences of having contact are severe, the first rule is, “If in doubt, back out!”

It is your responsibility to know the rules pertinent to passing in your group. They will be covered in the drivers meeting. They are not complicated, but you must understand them. If you are on the track, contemplating a pass, but aren’t sure if it complies with the rules, remember “If in doubt, back out”. After the session, clarify the situation with your instructor, or at the download session.

The following statements are only a guideline. The actual rules will be spelled out at your drivers meeting. What is said at that meeting supercedes anything stated here.

Group 1 and 2 passing rules allow passing only on specified straights. All passes must start after the car has clearly left the corner leading onto the passing straight, and must be complete before the braking zone of the following corner. Sometimes there are specific reference points on the track, such as “the pass must be complete by the end of the pit wall”.

If you are being passed, a “point by” is strongly encouraged. This tells the passing driver you are aware they are coming by, and tells them 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. Do not do anything erratic.

Here’s the scenario:

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, but smoothly give him a clean lane to make the pass. Do not hit your brakes to help him get by. If your car has more or equal horsepower, do not use full throttle. Don’t leave the passing car hung out into the braking zone. The safest passes are complete long before you get near the braking zone. Being smooth and predictable are the keys to safe passing. Also, just because you point by on the left doesn’t mean the overtaking car won’t go by on the right, and it doesn’t mean the other driver has to make the pass. The point by is a recommendation only.

If you are making the pass, keep this rule in mind. It is the same rule as applies in racing. 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’s 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, and off to the side you would like to use to pass. This should put you squarely in their side mirror. Look for a point by from the driver. Pass on the side they point to, if at all possible. If you don’t 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. If you get neither, a pass can still be made, but is at your risk, the driver may not know you are there. Always be aware of cars that may be behind you, before you pull out for the pass. If you pull out to make the pass, but the car you are passing has equal or greater acceleration, remember you must complete the pass as described earlier. If you are not sure you can complete the pass properly, remember, “if in doubt, back out”. Because you receive a point by does not mean you are obligated to pass, it is simply a courtesy from the other driver.

Group 1 & 2 sessions are not intended to teach passing skills. These sessions are intended to teach the basic skills involving driving the line and some beginning car control techniques. Passing skills begin in group 3 and are really developed in group 4. Passing in group 1 & 2 is necessary because of the differences in the capabilities of the cars and drivers.

Passing etiquette in group 1 & 2 includes letting faster cars go by easily. If you drive a powerful car, it is quite easy to keep less powerful cars behind you, since they are only allowed to pass in the straights. If you blast away down the straight, but that little rice rocket is all over you again 2 turns later, let them go in the next passing zone. You might learn something by observing why the guy is so much faster than you through the corners. You will also be much less likely to receive a black flag, followed by a lecture from an official.

If you do get held up by someone who won’t let you by, or if you are ready to go a little quicker, but there is a big knot of traffic in front of you, you can pull onto pit road, and wait for an open space on the track. The official feeding traffic onto the track will signal you when there is a big gap. You can also use pit road 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.

Although passing is not taught in group 1 and 2, the basic skills necessary to allow safe passing begin here. 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 drivers responsibility to make a safe pass, the driver being passed must be aware of cars around them, leave a clear passing lane, and not force the pass to be made late in the passing zone.

By Dev Clough

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