RACE CRAFT WITH IGNITION.MY: MODULE 1
With the advent of Saturday Night Fever, we decided that it’s about time we shared some of our knowledge and experience on what is known as ‘Race Craft’.
This is Module 1 of a multi-part series of articles which we will put up to discuss and define on-track door-to-door dog-fighting for racing cars. Stay tuned for more releases as the days and weeks go by.
What is Dog-Fighting?
I like to call it On-Track Pugilism. “Float like a Cadillac, sting like a Beemer!” as said by Lightning McQueen. But it’s far from being a children’s cartoon show!
Door-to-door action isn’t like a solo-lap or time attack, where you have the comfort of an empty circuit ahead and behind you, where all the theoretically correct lines are possible and easily achieved. Almost any driver worth his teh-tarik can fling a car quickly around an empty ribbon of tarmac. Throw in just one car within a 10-metre space anywhere around you, and all that changes!
Let’s get beyond the usual stuff such as the Correct Seating Position, Heel-and-Toe, hitting the Apex, Slow-In-Fast-Out. Once you engage in dog-fighting, these fundamentals need to be instinctual, because you are going to use the majority of your concentration on the enemy. They say a good racer only utilises 20% of his focus on driving, and the other 80% on the environment: the position of his car to the others, the whereabouts of other cars around him, and the next 3 corners ahead.
Just like other forms of combat and warfare, door-to-door racing has two sides: the Attacker, and the Defender. In all our diagrams, the Green Car is the Defender, and the Red Car is the Attacker.
Respect your Opponents
Above all else, motor-racing is meant to be a respectable sport. The racing equivalent of ear-biting and blows-below-the-belt is blocking, weaving, and worst of all intentionally knocking into your opponent.
Some of the moves you may watch in modern Formula One aren’t actually acceptable. Schumacher does it, so does Hamilton, and so did Senna. True, they are individuals which are truly driven to be Champions, but it’s chilling to note that they do not mind putting others at risk to achieve their ambition.
Simply put, modern Formula One racing isn’t racing. Don’t watch F1 on television and hope to learn anything about dog-fighting. Watch MotoGP (125cc are the best!), Touring Cars, and one-make racing.
Let’s just say that drivers that resort to the despicable tactics probably have small dicks (or if you’re a woman, you’re a bitch). I leave it to them to prove me wrong: be an adult and accept the consequences, rather than attempting to take a cheap pot-shot at your adversary.
Now, have a look at diagram 1A. As mentioned, weaving left-right-left-right down the straight with the intention of blocking the Attacker is not acceptable. It’s dangerous, it’s a nuisance, and it you’re acting like an idiot.
Going into the corner, if the Attacker is already down your inside as you brake for the turn, then let him past. Do not turn-in and block his line, as this squeezing manoeuvre more often than not will result in the Attacker unintentionally tagging you in the rear and spinning you around. There are other alternative measures that will enable you to get a crack at him.
The Basic Defensive Line
Ayrton Senna said in a race, he would always be mentally thinking 3 corners ahead. He would be planning and scheming and setting up his car and opponent, to manoeuvre the elements around him as to provide a favourable situation for him to successfully get past.
As a Defending Driver, always position yourself to guard the inside-line on a turn, as depicted in diagram 1B. Exit the previous corner and immediate take a defending position, trying to force the Attacker to have to go to the outside as you head towards the turn.
A common mistake is for the Defending Driver to then brake as late as possible. Don’t fall into this trap! Think about it: you already have the inside-line, it is already a tight-squeeze for the Attacker to try get past. Additionally, due to the tighter turning-circle of the inside-line, you will not be able to carry as much speed as the Attacker, so you need to slow-down even further!
Brake at the same point as you always do at Point A. The Attacker will either outbrake himself, or have to slot in behind you.
Once the Attacker is safely behind you as the both of you turn into the corner, a little trick is to keep slowing down ever-so-slightly, and force the Attacker to brake and slow-down too. Time it so that this happens just as you hit the apex of the corner, line yourself up for the exit and then stamp on the throttle! This will catch him off-guard, bunch him up, and will buy you a little gap and breathing space down the next straight.
The most Basic Attack is of course to dive down the inside of the car ahead. But the question commonly asked is, how deep can you go?
I have personally gone right down the inside with two tyres on the grass and out-braked about 8 cars, slotting in neatly into traffic, slowed down just a bit to bunch them up behind me, and zoomed off into the distance!
Of course it takes some guts and experience, but the simple answer is just go deeper than the Defender! If he stays outside, then keep on his inside down the middle of the track. If he squeezes towards the inside to attempt to cover the line and block you, then you move deeper towards the insider too.
Refer to the explanation above in the Basic Defensive Line: as long as you have the inside line, the car on the outside will be forced to slow-down and slot in behind you. Going around the outside is dirty and a longer distance to travel due to being a wider arc, and really just won’t work.
Only Jacques Villeneuve has ever successfully overtaken on the outside (J.Villeneuve vs M.Schumacher, Estoril 1996), and well.. that kid never really was firing on all cylinders haha!
Still referring to diagram 1B of Sepang’s T1 and T2, let’s look at what simple actions the Attacker can implement in a two-car situation with the Defending Driver holding the Basic Defensive Line.
Look carefully between Point A and Point B. The Defender has kept the inside line. Due to his shallower inside-line, more often the not the Defender tends to push a bit wide into the turn, providing a small opening on the inside. But that small opening is all the Attacker needs!
Rather than get in behind the Defender, the Attacker can continue to brake and slow-down more than usual, and turning-in to the corner later than the Defender. From basic racing driving, you will recognise that this provides a straighter exit from the turn, meaning that the Attacker can accelerate sooner and harder than the Defender. Executed well, the Attacker will safely be on the inside of the Defender at Point B. If there was a long straight after the turn, the Attacker would now have the advantage and be able to pull ahead and go up one position.
However for Sepang’s T1 and T2, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Basic Attacker in ‘S’ curve
Due to the switchback nature of T1 and T2, the Attacker will now find himself once again on the outside of the approaching corner, albeit side-by-side with the Defender but holding the theoretical advantage as the Defender will be coming in shallow, still taking the Basic Defensive Line. This is Point C.
Once again, the Attacker should brake late, take a wide entry, and shoot for a late-apex (Point D) and as straight an exit as possible in order to put the power down and gun past.
Performed effectively, the Attacker will exit side-by-side with the Defender but carrying a speed advantage down T3 and up the straight towards T4.
If there are more than just 2 cars duking it out, then you need to enhance your Situational Awareness (SA). You are now the Attacker, and the Defender. Be patient, and try to project your actions to manoeuvre your opponents to where you want them to be. As Senna exclaimed: Think Ahead!
If it’s a single corner, keep a semi-tight Defensive Line, to be ready to take advantage of any mistake the Defender ahead might do, as well as to protect your line from the Attacker.
In an ‘S’ curve complex such as T1 and T2 at Sepang, go shallow into T1 and do the Bunch-Up to slow down the Attacker behind you. This gets him out of the way and means he’ll be too far away by T2 to mount an attack. Pick the wide entry line Up-and-Under for T2, and dive under Defender as you exit the corner. Voila!