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[Fot] The Racing Line

To: "'FOT'" <fot@Autox.Team.Net>
Subject: [Fot] The Racing Line
From: "Norlin Engineering" <>
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2008 00:47:21 -0700
I've been on the road for a few days (took in Oregon State knocking off USC
in football and then a bit of celebrating) and I just spent the better part
of the evening catching up on e-mails.  After pondering the aggressive
driving vs 80%, etc I felt I needed to toss in a couple of other thoughts.

First off, on "the line" topic.  I drive a Spitfire and my "fast line" is
significantly different than the line of my Spridget friends.  I can easily
go inside on many corners while they have the inside front wheel in the air.
Then you've got the whole subject of the qualifying line, the defensive line
and the passing line.  The only true line is the one you are taking.  The
point is that when being passed, hold your line because the overtaking
driver expects you to do so.  However, don't be surprised if they don't go
where you point and don't be surprised if they pass closer and faster than
you expect.  This is racing, not a parade. 

In the SCCA vintage group that I normally race in, I'm on the track with all
kinds of vehicles, from the Fiat that can barely get out of it's own way to
Lola T70's.  With cars that close on me at as much as 60 MPH, I've got to
use my mirrors a lot.  I most often wave them by and give them whatever
track they need! (meaning I'm not on my racing line - watch out for marbles)
On the flip side, when passing cars, I use a lot of caution until I've raced
(and talked) with the driver quite a bit.  Back on the "line" topic, we've
got at least one driver that never takes the same line twice in a row.
Since he hasn't injured anybody yet, the stewards still allow him on the
track.  I'll pull into the pits and rest for 30 seconds rather than race
close to this.......  

I've found that there's a lot of difference in driver skills and experience
as noted above.  This seems to be more pronounced in Vintage racing than in
other venues.  From my perspective there is a threshold that a driver needs
to cross to be "racing" rather than "driving".  I started driving Formula
Fords in the early 1970's.  I drove the cars, but did not really race them
until I was getting lapped at a National race in my second year of racing.
I'll never forget the sight of about 5 cars that just passed me going into
turn 1 at Portland with the cars about 30% sideways and the front wheels
moving side to side to balance the drift.  I remember telling myself that if
these guys could do that, so could I.  The next lap I dropped 1 1/2 seconds
off my lap time and never looked back.  

If I get told I can't drive like that on the track (cut back to 80%), I'll
buy a boat or something.  However, I won't drive that hard if I'm near an
expensive car (I race my against cars that are worth more than my house by
far) or a driver that I'm not familiar with.  I give the expensive cars a
wide berth and limit my close racing to my Spridget friends (need more
Spitfires in the PNW). 

Vintage racing is real racing.  However, since the whole idea is being safe
and having fun, the experienced drivers need to back pedal a bit and the
novices need to pay attention because they've got a lot of opportunities to


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