THE INSIDER’S GUIDE
You’ve battled your way to the front of the pack. You’ve done what you need to get into the lead, but you’re unable to pull a gap to the chasing pack. With time and laps still remaining in the race, you have no option—hold onto that winning position and defend hard.
This is the moment when that crucial element of race-craft—defending your position—comes into play.
Defending a position can be a tricky aspect for some drivers. You feel the pressure of the driver behind you breathing down your neck, and you need to place your car strategically and perfectly to prevent them from passing and, at the same time, claiming that all-important track position whilst still making the upcoming corner and minimizing risk of damage.
When defending, you always want to force your opponent—who is possibly trying to make an overtaking manoeuvre—take the longest or most difficult route into the upcoming corner. This is achieved by typically defending the inside line into the turn, forcing the opponent to the outside and wider, longer route.
You don’t want to be doing this too late, though, because moving to defend once they’ve committed to diving up the inside greatly increases the risk of contact, especially if you move in the braking zone, generally a big no-no.
Follow these tips though, and you will see yourself becoming a solid defensive driver, whilst still being respectful to your opponent: Remember, being fair, allowing wheel-to-wheel driving without contact, is what makes motorsport fun for everyone:
- Make one—and only one—defensive change of direction
- Give racing room to your opponent
- Nail your own braking point and brake in a straight line
One Defensive Manoeuvre
As you approach a corner where there is a high chance that the car behind is going to try and make an overtake, you will need to read and judge your opponent.
Before the braking zone of the corner, you will need to deviate from your current line and block their most likely route to pass you, typically the inside line. However, with this defensive manoeuvre, you should only change direction once—i.e., not weave left and right down the straight trying to block the car behind when he looks either side of you. If you start going in one direction across the track and give up the racing line, stick to it and stay off the racing line.
The main reason for this is that it greatly reduces the chance of contact between you and another driver, and the earlier you anticipate their overtake, the earlier you can act, and the earlier they can react and adjust to you.
Late defensive blocks are dangerous and will often end up with you getting tagged: always remember, the chasing car will often be on their limit if they’re similarly paced, meaning, once they commit to a late braking move, they cannot bail. And if you decide to weave into their path once they’re committed to their pass, you stand a good chance of either being shoved wide in a corner and losing the place, or being spun round.
Give Racing Room
Once you have made your one defensive manoeuvre, leave racing room for your opponent. This is typically at least one car width between the side of your own car, and the track’s edge for your opponent to use.
If you are unsure about the skill level of your opponent, or they have proven themselves to be dangerous, give them more room. By doing this, you allow yourself room to not be collected by their error: if your opponent makes a mistake like catching the grass under braking or braking too late, they have room to spare to sort their issue out and that minimizes the risk of yourself being taken into the scene of their shunt.
Giving opponents racing room may seem like you’re gifting them an opportunity to pass, but at the end of the day, you need to stay on-track and not suffer any damage if you want to hold the position. Showing your opponent respect will also result in them showing you respect, and giving racing room will often leave you in intense racing situations where you can go wheel-to-wheel with another driver through a corner or multiple corners leading to what we’re all after—fantastic racing fun.
Nail Your Own Braking
One of the main things to avoid when you’re defending is not to let the pressure get to you. Pointless staring at your mirrors seeing which way your opponent is going to make a dive if you out-brake yourself and miss the corner.
Nail your own braking point to ensure that you get slowed down for the corner and: also, ensure that, if your opponent does get alongside you, that there isn’t going to be such a speed difference that will result in car to car contact.
Generally, your opponent is going to try and out-brake you, so if you get your braking point spot on, you know you will make the corner: they, however, may not, and that will allow you to easily retain your position.
Also ensure you brake in a straight line. Don’t change direction in the braking zone, and ensure that you and your opponent’s paths aren’t going to cross. This obviously applies for the other driver doing the overtake as well, but do everything in your power to avoid contact. Changing direction under braking is highly dangerous as you’re already committed to braking heavily, the tyres and brakes are loaded, and any more pressure or applying steering angle to the wheel will result in locking the tyres. Once you’ve committed to a line from your defensive manoeuvre, stick with it and don’t change direction unless you know it is safe to do so and won’t impact your opponent’s line.
Experience will count a lot when it comes to defensive driving and doing it effectively, as you won’t need to defend going into every corner, so pick your moments with the heavier braking zones and slower corners typically at the end of straights. Don’t defend thin air and be respectful to your opponent and allow for good wheel-to-wheel racing whilst doing what you can to hold onto your position when appropriate without the risk of damage.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, watch Yorkie065 talk through some examples of defensive driving, critiquing what went right and what went wrong to get a visual representation of how to do it on track.