Traffic and crisis management

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Two of the first skills you will learn when beginning your track driving experience are Traffic management, and crisis management. These are the two single most important skills the instructors and event stewards will be looking out for when considering whether or not to move you out of the begnniner/novice ranks and into the intermediate and above groups. Here are some brief explainations.

Stack 07:40, 22 December 2006 (PST)

Traffic Management

At any track event, there will be speed differentials between cars. Driver skill, driver experience, car type, and car modifications are only a few of the reasons for this. At every event, you will find that you are faster than some, and slower than some; so you will pass people, and other people will pass you.

The first thing to do is Deal With It! Do NOT let your ego get the better of you and allow the Red Mist to set in. This will lead to you only concentrating on not letting someone pass, or on trying to catch someone. This usually leads to having to learn crisis management sooner than we'd like you to. Remember... HPDE, open track, lapping, even time trials ARE NOT RACING. It doesn't matter if you pass someone, or someone passes you.

Passing at an HPDE is almost always done in this way: Within a designated passing zone (usually a long straight), the car being passed gives a passing signal to the car wanting to go around

This obviously requires cooperation from both parties... and it is designed for exactly that. What all groups want to avoid is someone being passed who is not aware of it, creating a situation where car-to-car contact might happen if the passee "turns in on" the passer.

Most groups have varying passing rules and systems. It is up to you to make sure you know and understand the passing rules for any group you are driving with. (The good ones will make it very clear what those rules are and they will enforce them diligently.)

Crisis Management

Our sport, our hobby, our passion... can be a very dangerous activity. If we were all to think about it too much, we'd call ourselves crazy... but it is very exhilarating and provides one of the best rushes out there. Thus it is VERY addictive, often refered to as the 'Track Pipe' if you will.

Every group has their own set of safety standards and protocols. But ultimately, it comes down to you, and your awareness on track, and your ability to anticipate and react to situations on track safely. This is crisis management.

One of the first terms you'll hear is: Both Feet In This describes the action of pushing the clutch in and the brake in if you get in over your head. The single biggest mistake you can make when starting out is trying to save a spin, or an off-track excursion. Nine times out of ten, it ends up doing more harm than good by causing an even quicker, and usually more violent reaction from the laws of physics that you can't react to in time.

When starting out, it is a good idea to start at a track that has lots of run-off room. It is always better to go off in a straight line, retaining some amount of control and slowing the car down, then getting back on track safely.

  • Many clubs have a maximum number of 'offs' you can have before sitting you down and parking you for part of the event. With the Triangle Z Club/Tarheel Sports Car Club events, this does not include doing the right thing by driving straight off, under control. I'm not sure about other groups, but its a good thing to find out. In my personal oppinion (Stack) groups that include controlled 4-wheels off incidents against that maximum are asking for trouble since it promotes the need to save because drivers are afraid they will be parked.

Having said that... your instructors will be looking for novice attendees to be able to anticipate when trouble is beginning. They'll instruct, then they'll see if/when you feel the rear start to slide out and open the wheel to counteract and prevent a massive oversteer situation. (The same can be said for an understeering car.)

One of the most important aspects of crisis management is to keep your vision up. This means looking as far ahead as possible (also one of the hardest things to do) and keeping an eye on all the corner worker stations. Another aspect is not to overreact to a situation. An example would be to over brake if you see a yellow flag. There might be someone waiting to pass you that may not be paying attention ahead of you.

Good crisis management comes with seat time... just remember to BE AWARE of your surroundings