Racecraft is the knowledge, experience, and judgment used by a race driver to safely and successfully manage the risks and challenges in motor racing. These vintage racecraft tips unpack situations encountered in every vintage racing weekend: qualifying, starts, and traffic.
In a race, the objective is to cross the finish line first. That almost always requires passing other cars. In qualifying, the objective is to set the fastest lap. No passing is required!
From a racecraft perspective, the risk reward of “racing” during a qualie is upside down: you are going slower while taking on the risk of passing. Contact with another car in qualifying is really bad racecraft. For what purpose exactly were you that close to somebody?
If you find yourself in the middle of a “race” during qualifications, politely decline. Slow down a little bit to create some clear track and then get back to the work at hand…driving a fast lap.
A caveat. On tracks with long straights (think Road America), you will want to be around other cars in qualifying. Getting pulled along by the tow is good racecraft. Drafting by on a straight is good racecraft. Racing side-by-side through turns is not good racecraft.
Qualifying requires different thinking. It is just you and the racetrack.
Contact during the first few corners after a start is not uncommon. Starts are very hectic. Cars are close together and moving around, ahead and behind. The field of vision in your mirrors is limited. Situational awareness is incomplete.
Until the field strings out, assume that there is a car in your blind spot. Stay on your half of the track until you are sure you are clear to move over. It may take two, three, or even more corners for the field to string out. At Road America, a field of Formula Fords is still packed at Turn 5 on the first lap!
Also assume that nobody sees you. That little gap opening up between those two cars just ahead? It will be closed before you fill it. The drivers had no idea that you were there until the collision.
If you hit a slower car, it is probably, if not almost always, your fault.
Contact with a lapped car is not the same as contact with a car you are racing against. It is not a racing incident. It is bad racecraft. No one is immune to tripping over lapped traffic…even the legendary Ayrton Senna seen here with Jean-Louise Schlesser at Monza in 1988.
Why is hitting a slower car almost always your fault? You could have waited to make a no risk pass on a straight. You could have waited to properly set up a pass into a corner. Because you are faster, low risk passing opportunities are everywhere around the lap.
“He moved over” and “I thought he saw me” are the two lamest excuses in racing. They are admissions that you needed the other car to get out of your way. You just plead guilty to poor racecraft.
A few vintage racecraft tips for getting through traffic:
- leave more margin for error around slower cars
- don’t surprise slower cars…show your nose before the braking zone
- be prepared for the unexpected
- acknowledge a point by…reinforce good racecraft!
In vintage racing, you may find yourself as traffic in a race group with much faster cars. Large speed differentials can be uncomfortable. Mirrors and blue passing flags are your friends. Stay on the racing line…be predictable. And give a point by to overtaking cars.
If you hit a slower car, it is almost always your fault (repeated for emphasis).
What to Remember
“Racing” other cars during qualifications is a distraction from the task at hand: to set a fast lap.
During a start, assume there is a car in your blind spot and that other drivers can’t see you.
If you hit a slower car, it is almost always your fault.
In vintage racing, we must look out after each other and these vintage racecraft tips will help you do just that. It is a good weekend when everyone rolls their car back onto their trailer after the last race on Sunday.
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