RC Car Learning Center for the Engaged RC Car Racer!
Protecting your Car
The Green Flag
First, a few definitions. A "move" is a change of position on the race track. "Section of race track" is a logical piece of race track, usually a straight or curve.
A driver can move (change his line) once per section of race track. If he moves low at the beginning of the straight, he must exit the straight low. He should not move high again. The move "high again," to stop a pass by another driver, is the definition of blocking.
In sanctioned go-kart racing the rules are very specific concerning which vehicle has the right of way. This is the passing rule: "the car that is ahead has the right of way." Ahead is "which car has its front bumper ahead of the other car's front bumper." This means although your car may be beside the other car, the other driver has the right of way. He may legally choose to turn in the direction of your car, although he only gets one move per section of race track, and it is your responsibility to miss him. What this means is passing has to be done with strategies such that the car you are passing does not have the capability to move into your car. You must pass the other car when it's momentum is such that it cannot change direction enough to drive into you before your car is the lead car.
Maybe one should say that it is not always in one's best interest to drive to the letter of this rule. But, amazingly, if everyone does drive to the letter of the rule, some very good and fun racing matures out of it. Keep in mind that this type of rule is for only the more advanced classes. It sure is fun being in a class that can race this clean.
Also in sanctioned go-kart racing and at all other levels of racing the leader is special. The leader's car gets special courtesies in lapped traffic. Just let him go if you are not on the same lap with him. Any tangle with him only hurts you both.
The best place to let him by is coming off the corners. Just let your car drift a little high. Let him know what you are doing in advance. The reason for recommending letting him pass "coming off the corner" is your car should be more stable than when "coming into the corner", therefore, less chance of losing control. But don't lift your throttle as the leader goes by, your car may gain steering and run into him, while you were trying to be a nice guy.
The Leader's One Move
And to crash the leader while trying to overtake him is a mortal sin punishable by disqualification. The leader has the right to go where ever he wants, well ONE move worth's of defensive driving. Although this is the letter of the rules, it is more fun for all when the leader picks what he thinks is the fastest line and takes an attitude "of pass me if you can," and does not drive defensively. It is your responsibility to become the leader cleanly.
Now to discuss passing technique, as in what line to take. This is a picture of a fast driving line, which also is a defensive driving line. It is fast and defensive because of its shape. Notice that the car is closest to the inside at four distinct places--Points 1, 2, 3, and 4. Also half way through the corner is where you make the apex. You side up the track here, but not very much, less than a car width. You don't want anyone trying to go under you while you are making your apex.
Figure 22: Driving Line
To make a pass you must not be following the car in front of yours. Profound! What this means is that you must be on a different driving line such that at some point of the track your car's momentum will be right to make the pass. If you are following (driving the same line) your car's momentum will never be different from his.
Here is an example of a pass: Have your car back and outside at point 4, so at point 5 you can be directly behind the other car with greater momentum. The other car's momentum will push it higher at point 6 so you can pull ahead because the different line you took at point 4. At point 1 you have to be aware of the fact that you will have to go slower than normal because of the different driving line you chose back at point 4. Your car is much lower on the track and will have to take a much tighter corner than normal. But you own the line at point 1. A good pass is not easy. It really does take some thought.
That was an example of just one of many lines or strategies that can be used. Be aware of the strategy of never following--your momentum must be different in order to make a pass! This applies to all race courses.
Passing with an RC Car
Passing is hard in any race car, but especially hard for RC Car racers. Why? Because there are no rear view mirrors. Each driver has the same overhead view of the cars that are close to his own on the race track, plus you can hear where the others are or have crashed. This adds an interesting dynamic; Blocking or driving in front of the another race car is much easier to do. We all can see that car number 5 came off the last corner high with a lot of speed; so we are have a pretty good idea of where he is going next.