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Race Etiquette – the Advanced Course

Thanks to the overall cesspool, I mean, the wonderfulness of social media, I recently came across a club racing story–a heartwarming tale–of a 12-year old oval racer, two laps from victory, who got taken out by lapped traffic. To make matters worse, the alleged hack was delivered by an adult racer, was purposeful and was in retaliation to being wrecked by the leader earlier in the race. And, according to racing lore, the adult bragged about the take out after the fact. Now, we all know (or should know) that there are at least two sides to every story, and we don’t need to play digital judge and jury (that’s what Facebook is for). But, the incident made me think that maybe it was time to revisit the topic of race etiquette.

If you haven’t already read it, check out the late Steve Semeraro’s article: Racing Etiquette 101
If the story described above sounds familiar, take a gander at this article: How to Avoid Getting Hacked

Since this is the “advanced course,” I am going to mostly expand on topics covered in Steve’s “Racing Etiquette 101” article.

While it is largely ignored, except at big races, did you know that the fastest qualifier has first dibs on drivers’ stand spots? Yup, perk of being the fast guy. The top qualifier takes the stand first, picks his or her preferred spot, then the second qualifier goes and on down the line. That’s all on the race director, so next time you’re at some Podunk club race don’t try to tell the sixth-place C-main qualifier to move because you qualified fifth. If you do, you’ll not only sound silly, but you’ll probably be dragged behind the track and beaten.

This one was covered in Racing Etiquette 101, but is worth repeating. And, this one goes for everything from the IFMAR Worlds to the Southeastern Rhode Island Spring Nationals to the run-what-ya brung club race. Unless it’s to perform CPR, do not take to the drivers’ stand until the previous race concludes. It doesn’t matter if the previous race started with 15 racers and there are only three guys left standing (you know, a short course race). If the race is still going on, you wait.

It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t leave the drivers’ stand during a race. If you’re rocking the DNF, step back, collect your cool and close your mouth. The no leaving the drivers’ stand is usually only an official thing at big races, but it is good etiquette at any race.

For most qualifying races, you are racing against the clock, so you should always yield to faster traffic. Track position doesn’t matter, so there is no point in holding someone up or risking a crash that could hurt both of your efforts. So, while it’s hardly “advanced course” stuff, if you didn’t already know, let faster cars by during qualifying.

Dealing with lapped traffic in mains is a bit different and it’s, well, a bit subjective. Fast guys, please realize that lapped and about-to-be lapped are two different things. Further, about-to-be lapped on a small oval with six-second laps is a very different than on a large off-road track with 25-second laps. On the bullring, the car putting cars down a lap might not get, or expect, the instant courtesy that a driver on a big off-road track might get. If you’re 25 seconds behind the leader, let him or her go. It’s just about the equivalent of a driver four laps down on the bullring putting up a fight the next time the leader comes around. So, what’s the proper etiquette? When not racing for position, slower cars yield to faster cars. But, faster drivers need to realize that everyone else is there to race too. One, they might be racing someone for position as you come up and can’t afford to bow down, pull over and wish you all the best. Two, as previously stated, you can expect a little bit of a fight when putting cars down one lap on smaller tracks. If misfortune put them there, they know the same can happen to you, so they’re unlikely to want to just give up. And, by “fight” I mean hold their line, not blocking. They shouldn’t race the leader, but they also don’t need to put their race on pause. Now, that should all go out the door if you’re going two laps down. Let the faster car have the inside line and give him or her plenty of room. Bottom line is we want to avoid taking out the leader. That’s the norm in RC. We shouldn’t try to take anyone out, but we certainly don’t want to impact the outcome of the race when we weren’t even in contention.

Um, no. Simmer down. These are toy cars and this is a hobby for the vast, vast majority of us. Instead of ramming a car because they hit you earlier, go read How to Avoid Getting Hacked. Besides learning how to avoid getting wrecked, the real lesson is they probably didn’t mean to wreck you. Unless their name is Denny Hamlin. If it is, he probably meant to run you into the wall. Regardless, in RC, payback is off limits. It won’t work out. Besides looking like a jerk, you might get the track officials on your case.

Like the story in the introduction, thanks to social media, I recently caught a video clip of a pro-level race where some racing incidents took place. We’re talking world-champion caliber drivers, and thanks to social media, the online fools were offering their expert interpretation and astute judgement faster than fat folks line up at a free buffet. The whole discussion was about “the line.” Who has it, when they have it and what the heck all of that even means. There isn’t always a right answer. And, it’s a lot easier to see who has the line when watching full-size cars on TV with slow motion than it is to see at a 1/10-scale 2WD modified buggy race. So, besides keeping our often stupid opinions to ourselves, what’s the deal? The car on the inside has the right of way, but both cars have to hold their line and not initiate contact. That’s great if clear cut side-by-side racing was the norm in RC, but it’s not. Flying down the straight, skipping the whole braking part, and T-boning the car in the corner doesn’t mean you had the inside line.

What about cutting people off, blocking the pass, squeezing them out? It is racing after all. You’re going to get different opinions on this. One opinion is, say, Car A is trying to pass Car B. Car B, the lead car, can cut off, come across the track or close the door as long as Car A’s front tires aren’t past Car B’s rear tires. Unless you’re racing stock Clod Busters on a 20-foot wide flat oval with a 400-foot centerline, good luck trying to see that and process that in an RC race. So, if someone beats you to the inside, let them have it. By “let them have it” I mean the inside line, not smash the crud out of them. The flip side of this is, if you dive to the inside, that’s all you get. Your opponent isn’t an inner-city convenience store and you’re not doing a smash and grab. If you can’t maintain your line, contact that occurs is probably your fault.

This hasn’t really been covered, but there is definitely good and bad etiquette when it comes to practice. First, when it comes to placing your car on the track during live practice, please practice some common sense. Do not drop your car from a low drivers’ stand directly on the straight. Nothing will tick people off faster than hitting a stationary object (your car) at full speed and creating a yard sale of RC parts all over the track. Again, use common sense. If your track has a spot for entering traffic, use it. If not, the next best choice is the outside of a slow, wide corner.

Do not drive from the track. Not only do you look like a noob, but it’s bad practice and often distracting to other drivers. Drive from the drivers’ stand. This brings up the next point of practice etiquette. Don’t be the guy that makes it too many cars in practice. If your track runs eight cars in the mains, don’t be the ninth car in practice.

At big races, there’s controlled practice, so once again, the event format and the race director take care of most of the etiquette issues. But, with club races there’s usually just open practice, which can be chaos. Don’t be part of the problem. Don’t throw your truggy on the track with five 1/10-scale 2WD buggies and proceed to run them all over. The flip side of that is it’s good etiquette to not hog the track. Make sure you give that guy with the big 1/8-scale truggy a chance to turn some laps or be prepared to have your buggy turned into the RC version of Flat Stanley. It’s not just a size thing. Oval tracks are notorious for having classes with widely differing speeds. If the track has a bunch of Legends Breakout cars turning laps, don’t start punting them into the wall with your Pro Modified Pan Car and expect to have their respect.


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