How to Pass on the Outside

Posted on December 24, 2014

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How to Pass on the Outside

By: Rob Oakman

Can you do what only Cole Trickle dared to? Yes. Yes you can. Here’s how.

Passing on the outside isn’t as daring as movies would have you believe, but it is risky. Being on the outside also means you are driving more distance than the inside line, but because of that you are carrying more speed that you can use to your advantage. Unfortunately, the person you are trying to pass isn’t always going to make it easy for you. So how do you get around the outside and make it stick?

Lotus F1 team walking the track in Brazil 2014. (Courtesy storify.com)

Lotus F1 team walking the track in Brazil 2014.
(Courtesy storify.com)

1. Walk the Track

Before you sail off into the corner expecting your “Special Tires” to find the grip you need, you need to scope out the corners first. Start with walking the track. If there has been any activity on the track in the past month or so you can get a good idea of which corners build up a lot of rubber, dirt, and debris and which ones don’t. This simple visual inspection can give you an idea of what might work in the race.

Next, use a very specialized piece of equipment that will help you gauge the actual level of grip available — your shoes. Sandals will work just fine too. Scrape the soul of the shoe against the asphalt at different points in the corner. If your shoes slide easily, so will your tires. If they stick, your tires should too. Seriously, this works surprisingly well. If your shoes find grip on the outside so will your tires.

2. Practice

During practice you are not just trying to dial in your set-up — you must also dial into the track. Trying different lines is a necessity that too many drivers don’t bother with. Don’t just pick the lines you think look right. Experiment. Move around. Try different entries and apexes. And definitely try using wider lines in the corners. You need to know where you can stick when making a pass or defending against one. Also, you never know when you might find some new line through a corner — or series of corners — that will give you an advantage on the competition and – when the time comes, you will know which corner you can stick around the rim and which are suicide.

Once you have a corner or two picked that might work, try making a pass on someone during practice if you can. Your competitors are less likely to be aggressive in practice and this will give you a chance to try it out. This is practice after all. Even if it doesn’t work the first time, you will at least have one attempt under your belt. If it comes down to it, the second attempt may get you a win.

3. Monitor the Course

During the race keep an eye on track conditions. This is a difficult thing I know, but you need to know what options you have. If someone has put down oil in your favorite passing spot you would be wise to remember that before you make a fool of yourself. Watch the build-up of rubber and debris like sand and gravel. A clean corner is always an option for making a pass. Plus, if that oil is dropped on the preferred line you already have a line picked out.

4. Know Your Competition

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. You need to watch your competition during the race to figure out where you are fast and they are slow. You also need to watch their lines so you can figure out if an outside pass is even possible. If your competition is using a late apex in corner 2, then passing on the outside is damn near impossible, but could work if you can get a good enough run.

The better you know the individual driver’s on-track personality the better you will be able to judge how aggressive they are. An aggressive driver is more likely to run you off the track on the outside, but if it has come down to the last few laps and it’s the only way through, if you have done the first four steps then you have a shot. This is especially true if they are using a defensive line. The other driver is purposely leaving the outside open which gives you a clean run into the corner, and because they are on the greasier, dirty part of the braking zone, you should be easily able to out-brake them on entry. It all comes down to being smooth, holding your line, and the available grip.

Raikkonen passes Fisichella at Suzuka.  (Courtesy of youtube)

Raikkonen passes Fisichella at Suzuka.
(Courtesy of youtube)

5. Don’t Give Your Move Away

Like all passes, you don’t want to give away your moves. As you approach the braking zone stay in line with the other racer. Wait until they have committed to the defensive line and hit the brakes, then jump out of line and go for the outside. If they are running a normal line then you have to wait for them to turn-in and you run your outside line. If you have the grip and the speed you should come up beside them naturally and then you monitor their line coming up to the exit to make sure they don’t run you off the track.

6. Commit and Go!

Once you have committed don’t hold back unless you have to avoid a wreck. As you enter the corner watch the track ahead and use your peripheral vision to track where the other racer is. Obviously you need to try to avoid contact, either from the other racer trying to hit you on purpose or because they have lost control from out-braking themselves. If all goes well just be smooth on the wheel and easy on the pedals, but get to the throttle as soon as you can.

You need to use your momentum to carry you past your opponent. This means that you really need to have confidence in the grip potential of the outside because you have to carry a lot more speed to get by. Once again, be smooth and stay on top of the wheel. Use your peripheral vision and be ready to catch the back end if it suddenly steps out of line.

7. Hold Them Down!

This is key!

As I mentioned, the racer on the inside has less distance to travel. This makes the corner sharper than running on the outside does. For them to get the most out of their corner they need to run the usual Outside, Inside, Outside racing line. You need to deny them this.

Once you get beside the other racer then you need to hold them down through the corner. Stay as low as you can to keep them as low as possible. Essentially you want to extend their apex. This makes the whole corner sharper and delays when they can get to the throttle. The result is you are carrying more speed through the center of the corner as well as on the exit. This is good.

You want to get beside the other racer on entry and get about half way up or further if you can. If you can’t get to the outside until the apex, exit, or you are less than half way beside them, you are in trouble. Unless the other racer is running a tight line on exit or they are having troubles, you are at a disadvantage because they can run you wide and claim that they didn’t see you. But don’t give up. I have seen racers make these passes work in competition on ovals and in long sweepers starting from the apex and at exit.

Christian Albers going from 3rd to first the long way around at Estoril in 2004. (Courtesy DTM on youtube)

Christian Albers going from 3rd to first the long way around at Estoril in 2004. Jump to 6:28 for the pass
(Courtesy DTM on youtube)

8. Watch The Other Racer’s Line

You need to use your peripheral vision to watch the other racers position in the corner relative to you and the track. As always your focus is on what is ahead of you on so that you are racing the track and not mirroring the racers around you. But you do need to be acutely aware of what the other racer is doing so you can judge what they are going to do next. Depending on how they behave you may have to use step 9.

9. Be Ready To Bail

I’m not saying be ready to jam on the brakes at the last second, I mean for you to be aware of where you are and more importantly, where you are going. Where you are is on the outside. If the person you are passing starts drifting out wide into your line you have two choices on where you are going:

A. Hold your line and risk being run off course.

B. Back off and try again later… if there is a later.

This is a judgement call. Late in a race or on the last lap you can try and stick it out if it looks like the other racer is aware you are there. If they look like they are just running their normal line then backing off is a good option; especially since finishing is the goal.

The last question I should address before I go is when to pass on the outside?

Oval racers will be able to use the outside quite regularly. The long arch of the corners gives you the opportunity more often than the sharper corners and close-corner combinations of road racing, rally-cross, and moto. On these tracks, generally speaking, you want to use the outside when the other racer is running a very defensive line or they are much slower than you. Otherwise, my best advice is to use the outside only when you can’t get by any other way and time is running out. If the person ahead is really slowing you up or it’s in a very important race and the checkered is almost out then go for it.

My old racing boss used to say “If you can’t pass on the inside, pass on the inside”. This is pretty good advice. Passing on the outside makes you vulnerable to get run off the track and into something immoveable. Of course there are times when you have no other choice. Experience, confidence, and these steps should help you get it done.

Remember to have fun out there and thanks for reading.

If you have any questions or comments about this, or anything else, feel free to ask. And subscribe for the latest articles.

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Posted in: How to Race