The various racing organizations define rules for when one car overtakes another. There are subtleties in some situations where it takes a real expert to sort out fault. But in general, there are two important rules.
- It is the responsibility of the overtaking driver to make a clean pass. If there is contact in the corner, all else being equal, it is the fault of the overtaking driver. A clean pass shouldn’t affect the other driver very much. A driver who darts in front of another car and slams on his brakes isn’t making a very clean pass.
- To gain right of way in a corner, the overtaking driver must present their car alongside the other car. How much of the car and how far into the corner varies from ruleset to ruleset. But it’s safest being nose-to-nose in the braking zone before the corner. It’s tricky determining right of way in the middle of a corner, so it’s best if the cars sort themselves out before any cars turn in.
If there are rules for the overtaking driver, surely there should be rules for the driver being overtaken. Let’s call these the undertaking rules and let’s keep it simple with just 2 rules.
- Drive predictably. Keep your pace and drive the typical racing line. Trying to be too accommodating may find you turning into a road block or going off course.
- Leave 3/4 car width on all sides. Take the typical racing line, but leave enough room for a car to squeeze around you on either side. Leave room at the entry, apex, and track out. Don’t leave too much or you’ll be in violation of rule #1.
While overtaking rule #1 says it’s the overtaking driver’s responsibility to make a clean pass, this shouldn’t give slow drivers the impression they can drive however they want. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and if you’re off pace, you’re a hazard. Impeding faster cars annoys them and slows the pace of the race. It’s much better to let them by with as little fuss as possible and then follow them as long as possible. In return, you may find yourself setting your fastest lap.
Overtaking rule #1: the overtaking car didn’t make a clean pass. It apexes early and turns into a road block at the exit. Screeching tires in a pass is never a good sign.
Overtaking rule #2: the overtaking car must present itself alongside the other car before the corner. Not here.
Undertaking rule #1: the slower car must drive predictably but swerves here. Of course, the overtaking driver is responsible (as always) but this could have been incident free if the slower driver did their part by being predictable.
Undertaking rule #2: the slower driver should leave 3/4 car width. Again, responsibility for the incident rests with the overtaker, but the undertaker can prevent car damage by leaving a little room.