How To Use People (So You Both Win)

Posted on July 30, 2015


How To Use People (So You Both Win)

By: Rob Oakman

You can’t always do it on your own. Whether you are leading, pushing through the pack, or just trying to hang on, sometimes you need another racer to help you. But not everyone is going to be willing to work with you for a variety of reasons. So sometimes you need to use someone else to help yourself.

Before you think this is a love ’em and leave ’em situation, understand that using someone else doesn’t mean they won’t get anything in return — you both stand to gain.

One big pack of GT cars from the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. (Courtesy of

The usual pack of GT cars from the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. (Courtesy of

Working Through A Pack

Often you find yourself in a pack where everyone is passing each other without anyone making any forward progress. This happens because every time you make a pass, you both lose time. If you just join in the passing, then you end up shuffling up and down the order with everyone else. What should you do?

A. Pick a partner

This is literally anyone. Get in line with someone and start pushing them through the pack. Because you two are working together and not trying to pass each other, you will be able to break through while everyone else keeps holding each other back.

You can use hand signals or relay a message through your team of your intentions so that the racer you picked focuses on passing and isn’t worried about trying to defend their position from you.

Once you clear the pack, you have to judge if you are catching the leaders and breaking away from the pack while following your partner, or if you need to make that final pass yourself. If you need to get ahead, keep your good faith going by using hand signals again to inform the other racer that you want to stay in line (with you leading) so you can catch the leaders. Or you can relay the message through your teams.

B. Gain a partner

You can try and get someone behind you to stop racing you and instead get in line, and push you up through the pack. Once again, use hand signals and/or relay through your team what it is you want to do. If the other racer is smart enough they will fall in line and you two can begin working through the pack. If not then you have to pick someone else to work with.

Leading a big Pack

Once you and your partner start working together you will begin making progress. This progress won’t go unnoticed. Soon you may find that some of the racers who were fighting have realised what’s happening and line up with the two of you. Before you know it, you may have a big train of racers with you and your partner, and you are all headed toward the front. Though having a big pack of wrestless racers behind you may sound counterproductive, as the laps wind down it can actually be a great advantage. Remember, the whole point here is to use other racers to gain positions that you couldn’t on your own. If your group is staing in line and catching the next pack then put your head down and go. But, if your pack isn’t catching the next one and the laps are winding down then you have some tools to work with.

That's one big pack of Briggs Juniors At ECKC Mosport 2015 (Courtesy of CKN)

That’s one big pack of Briggs Juniors At ECKC Mosport 2015 (Courtesy of CKN)

A. Slow your apexes

Because you are leading the pack you have the advantage of controlling the pace. Remember that everyone is basically in alliance with you — they have agreed to follow whatever you do with the hopes of gaining an advantage at the end. This means that as the race winds down, and the prospect of you gaining any positions is reduced, you can start bunching the pack together by delaying when you hit the throttle at apex. Just be subtle about it. Don’t jam on the brakes mid-corner with five laps to go or someone is just going to wreck you. Usually the first person to make a move is someone mid-pack. And once the alliance is broken everyone is out for themselves again. The racers behind will start fighting amongst each other, using up their tires, while you can keep your stuff fresh. The racers behind will start falling back — and if you use defensive lines and/or slow apexes — you should be able to stay out front.

B. Get someone else to block for you

Use hand signals or communications between teams to relay that you want to work with the racer behind you. This shifts that racer’s focus from trying to pass you to trying to break away from the pack. They will work hard to stay behind you and keep the others back.

Being Second In A Pack

Following the leader can be the best place to be if you play your cards right.

A. Make the first move

If you are second in line as the laps wind down you are in a great position to be the catalyst that breaks up the alliance. The first person to make a move that sticks is the first person to gain an advantage on the pack. Everyone will start passing each other from that moment on. If from second you make a pass for the lead, then the people in behind are likely to start fighting for position and slowing themselves down. If you have the speed and/or run defensive to keep everyone bunched up, then you have a shot at keeping your position to the checkered.

B. Make a new alliance

If you are running behind a partner and want to shuffle them back then make a new partner with someone behind you and make a move together. Remember that your alliance will become just another pack, so you can partner with another racer at any time and work together to get up to the front. Hand signals and/or teams can get the message out.

Use this sparringly though. If your alliances end with you constantly breaking them then people will stop working with you. Only break an alliance when you need to. Loyalty matters in racing.

Leading A Partner

This is where we get selfish — when you can’t catch the group ahead how do you keep in front of your partner?

Scott Dixon and Will Power pit together at Indy (Courtesy of Indycar)

Scott Dixon and Will Power pit together at Indy (Courtesy of Indycar)

A. Slow your apexes

By slowing your apexes, you delay when your partner can get on the throttle. This effectively keeps them from getting a run on you into the next corner without hurting your lap times too much.  The advantage here is that the pack you are trying to stay away from shouldn’t be likely to catch you.

B. Get Defensive

Running defensive is a blunt weapon. It can keep you ahead but means your lap times will suffer a lot and anyone behind your group can catch you. Unlike leading a pack that is in an alliance together, this pack will catch you intending to pass you. Only get defensive when you need to.

Pit Stops

Some tracks and particular series work best when two or more machines are in line together. If you find yourself in one of these situations then you don’t want to pit alone. But not everyone has a team mate to work with, and even if you do, circumstances may make that impossible. That’s when it’s time to make a friend.

A. Find a partner

Have a team member talk to other teams that are running similar times as you, are running close to you on track, and are running a similar race strategy. Then make an agreement to pit on the same lap with the same type of pits stop (full pit, fuel only, etc). This allows you to come into and leave the pits together.

B. Follow someone

Sometimes teams don’t want to share strategies and or want to keep their plans secret. That’s fair enough. So what you can do is have your team prep for a pit stop at a moment’s notice and wait for the racers ahead of you to come in. All you have to do is follow. Your team will have to judge what type of strategy the other teams are following though, so you don’t do a full stop when the other racer is doing two tires or fuel only, thus leaving you behind.

Making temporary partners can come in really handy. It can give you a chance at getting a good finish out of a bad situation, if not a win. It can even lead to future cooperation which is always to your advantage. I used another racer to go from 4th to 1st on the last corner of the last lap at a race in Mosport once — and just to prove these partnerships are not all one sided — that racer, Marc Steele, also went from 5th to 2nd. He saw my hand signals and trusted that I had a plan that might pay off better than simply passing me. He stuck with me through the corner when I left the door wide open for him and we formed a last second alliance that succeeded where neither of us could have alone. That one move resulted is us partnering up on several future occasions to both of our advantages.

Remember to have fun out there and thanks for reading.
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Posted in: How to Race