You suck at point bys

The winner of the YSAR Author Contest and RumbleStrip lap timer was Steve Danielson. I think you’ll agree with me that his post is as good as anything else on YSAR. Informative content, animated videos, in-car video, humor, check, check, check, check. Thanks Steve, you knocked it out of the park with this one.

How many times have you heard the following at a driver’s meeting: “If you see a car in your mirrors that wasn’t there before, at the next passing zone lift off the gas and give them a point by”. Seems to make sense, right? But how many times have you caught up to and then been stuck behind somebody that just wouldn’t give a point by? Is it because they are a jerk or have a big ego and can’t be passed by a lesser car?

Let’s take a look at it from a different perspective. You are at the track driving, and in one of your sessions, a Miata starts catching up to you in the corners, but you always manage to leave it in the dust once you get to the next straightaway. The battle is on! They are getting close, sometimes even quite close, but you are able to get away after each corner. As you pull in at the end of the session you are thinking “What a great session! Toward the end they sure seemed to get aggressive and really on my tail in the corners, but they still couldn’t catch me!” After the session you go and find the other driver to share stories about your “epic battle”, but as you approach you hear them talking with their buddies along the lines of “That session sucked, I was stuck behind some $%^& for half the session”. Why didn’t they seem to have the same great session that you did? What happened? Turns out, you were holding up a driver that was running faster laps than you until they got stuck behind you. You suck at point bys, and didn’t even know it.

Why does this happen so often?

Fallacy: When a lower powered car catches a more powerful car in a corner, often no point by is needed, because the power of the “faster” car balances out the faster cornering speed of the “slower” car on the next straight.

Reality: Power and handling only balance each other out if the two cars are running the same lap times. And if that is true, the two cars will likely never come within sight of each other. If a car catches up to another car on track, it is because the second car is running a faster lap time.

Here’s a simulation of a high powered car and a low powered car driving a lap with the same lap time. Even though one car’s lap is based on power and the other based on handling, they stay on opposite sides of the track and never catch up to each other.

Here’s the same simulation, but with the car positions overlaid. You can see where one car or the other pulls ahead briefly due to power vs handling, but they make it to the start/finish line at the same time, because they are running the same lap times. Sometimes at the very start of a session, cars can get bunched up similar to this, but usually after 1-2 sessions folks can figure out who is faster and get it sorted out in the first lap or two, or by gridding near the front or back.

What happens when a lower powered but faster driven car catches up to a more powerful car, and gets stuck behind it? Say a Miata is running a string of 89.3 second laps and catches up to a more powerful car, let’s call it a 6000 SUX, that is running 92.9 second laps. Due to being held up in the corners and losing all its momentum, the Miata will now be running laps even slower than the 6000 SUX. That truly does suck…

Fallacy: If a lower powered car catches me in the corners and I point it by, I will just be stuck behind it on the straightaways.

Reality: If you lift off and give a point by, you may have to ease off and not go full blast for the duration of that straight, but once you get into the next sequence of corners, you are not likely to be held up any longer and can resume your normal pace. In order for a less powerful car to be running faster laps than a more powerful car, it must be cornering much faster. And in that case, it will most likely leave you behind after the next set of corners. Let it by and maybe you can learn something by watching it.

Here’s a simulation of our Miata catching up to and getting stuck behind the 6000 SUX. After a few laps of holding up the Miata, the 6000 SUX gives the point by. After letting the Miata by, the 6000 SUX does get close on some of the straights but is not held up, and shortly after both cars are back to clear track and running at their own pace.

Fallacy: When I catch up to another car and they don’t give me a point by, it is because they are a jerk.

Reality: Sometimes true, but maybe it is an educational issue. A lot of times they really think that their extra power on the straights balances out your extra cornering speed, and so they don’t know that they need to give a point by.

I was at an event a few years ago and was in a run group that had about 10 Challengers. A couple of them were very fast, and I never saw them except when they zipped by. A couple of them I never saw at all, because we were running about the same lap times, as illustrated in the first simulation above, and a couple I would catch up to, but they would rocket away on every straight, and if they did give a point by, they didn’t lift and so I had no hope of completing the pass.

In this example it was an educational issue and not because they were a jerk. At lunch the event organizer talked with them, and it was totally resolved, with very courteous track etiquette after that.

It is a lot of fun to catch up to other cars when driving at the track, but can be frustrating to get stuck behind a slower car that won’t let you pass. Sometimes you can drop back for a few moments to build a gap, or you can roll through the pits to get some space, but it is better when it doesn’t happen. We’re all out there for the same reason, to learn and to have a good time, so when someone catches up to you, lift off the gas and give a point by. Try and keep up and you might learn something, and you just might run your fastest laps trying to catch back up. Don’t suck at point bys, and you won’t be this guy:

 

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