The first thing to remember, is that HPDE is not a race. The goal in HPDE is to improve and develop driving skills. Since passing is the most likely time to have contact, and since the consequences of having contact are severe, the first rule is, “If in doubt, back out!”
It is your responsibility to know the rules pertinent to passing in your group. They will be covered in the drivers meeting. They are not complicated, but you must understand them. If you are on the track, contemplating a pass, but aren’t sure if it complies with the rules, remember “If in doubt, back out.” After the session, clarify the situation with your instructor, or at the download session.
The following statements are only guidelines. The actual rules will be spelled out at your drivers meeting. What is said at that meeting supersedes anything stated here.
HPDE 1 and 2 passing rules allow passing only on specified straights. All passes must start after the car has clearly left the corner leading onto the passing straight, and must be complete before the braking zone of the following corner. Sometimes there are specific reference points on the track, such as “the pass must be complete by the end of the pit wall.”
If you are being passed, a “point-by” is strongly encouraged. This tells the passing driver you are aware they are coming by, and tells them where you expect them to pass. The “point-by” is accomplished by pointing to the side you want to be passed on. As the driver being passed, part of your responsibility is to make the pass easy for the overtaking car. This means be predictable. Do not do anything erratic.
Here’s the scenario:
For the last few turns, a car has been following you, so as you enter the passing zone, you give the following driver a “point-by.” Do not jerk the car off line, but smoothly give him a clean lane to make the pass. Do not hit your brakes to help him get by. If your car has more or equal horsepower, do not use full throttle. Don’t leave the passing car hung out into the braking zone. The safest passes are complete long before you get near the braking zone. Being smooth and predictable are the keys to safe passing. Also, just because you point-by to the left doesn’t mean the overtaking car won’t go by on the right, and it doesn’t mean the other driver has to make the pass. The point-by is a recommendation only.
If you are making the pass, keep this rule in mind. It is the same rule as applies in racing. It is the responsibility of the overtaking driver to complete a safe pass. Do not pressure someone in no-passing areas to encourage them to let you by. Keep a reasonable distance between you and the car you want to pass, until you enter the passing zone. You should be close enough to let them know you want by, without being intimidating.
Here’s the scenario:
For the last few turns, you have been following a car. As you enter the passing straight, move up closer to the car you wish to pass, and off to the side you would like to use to pass. This should put you squarely in their side mirror. Look for a point-by from the driver. Pass on the side they point to, if at all possible.
If you don’t get a point-by, look for some recognition that they are aware of your presence, eye to eye contact in their mirror as an example. If you get neither, a pass can still be made, but is at your risk, the driver may not know you are there. Always be aware of cars that may be behind you, before you pull out for the pass. If you pull out to make the pass, but the car you are passing has equal or greater acceleration, remember you must complete the pass as described earlier. If you are not sure you can complete the pass properly, remember, “if in doubt, back out.” Because you receive a point-by does not mean you are obligated to pass, it is simply a courtesy from the other driver.
HPDE1 and 2 sessions are not intended to teach passing skills. These sessions are intended to teach the basic skills involving driving the line and some beginning car control techniques. Passing skills begin in HPDE3 and are really developed in HPDE4. Passing in group 1 and 2 is necessary because of the differences in the capabilities of the cars and drivers.
Passing etiquette in HPDE1 and 2 includes letting faster cars go by easily. If you drive a powerful car, it is quite easy to keep less powerful cars behind you, since they are only allowed to pass in the straights. If you blast away down the straight, but that little rice rocket is all over you again two turns later, let them go in the next passing zone. You might learn something by observing why the guy is so much faster than you through the corners. You will also be much less likely to receive a black flag, followed by a lecture from an official.
If you do get held up by someone who won’t let you by, or if you are ready to go a little quicker, but there is a big knot of traffic in front of you, you can pull onto pit road, and wait for an open space on the track. The official feeding traffic onto the track will signal you when there is a big gap. You can also use pit road this way if you notice several cars stacking up behind you.
The blue flag with yellow diagonal stripe is the passing flag. It is given to let a slower car know a faster car is catching them. If you are given this flag, you should already be aware that a faster car is approaching. You should let the car — or cars — by in the next passing zone.
Although passing is not taught in HPDE1 and 2, the basic skills necessary to allow safe passing begin here. First is the awareness of other cars on the track. Second is conditioning your reactions to allow or make a pass safely, by not doing anything erratic, and by being predictable. Although it is the overtaking driver’s responsibility to make a safe pass, the driver being passed must be aware of cars around them, leave a clear passing lane, and not force the pass to be made late in the passing zone.
“Also, just because you point-by to the left doesn’t mean the overtaking car won’t go by on the right, and it doesn’t mean the other driver has to make the pass. The point-by is a recommendation only.”
This implies that in DE1 a right-side pass following a point to the left is acceptable – am I reading that correctly? Just curious because in every other group I ran with as a novice a passing car passing on the opposite side to that expected would be a serious problem.
In every beginning group I’ve been associated with (NASA, PCA, BMW Club, etc.), passing zones are strictly defined, and passing is allowed only off of the school driving line-drivers never have a choice as to which side to pass on. This reduces unpredictability and removes a variable that beginning drivers have to worry about.
As an HPDE instructor for several groups, including NASA, I’ve never heard of letting the overtaking driver choose the side where to pass. As mentioned above, the protocol/rules specify that the lead car stays on the driving line and passes only with a point and only off line. The seeming contradiction with the above Speed News post is troublesome, even with the caveat to follow instructions at the track.
Unless you are in a run group with open passing without a point-by (HPDE4), it is still advised to always give a point-by and pass on the side of the upcoming turn.