Phillip McNelley Driver Behaviors Sim Racing
Since the release of rFactor many of us did a lot of online racing with it. The charm of racing human people instead of AI however sometimes gets overshadowed by differing interpretations of driving etiquette and limitations of the sim we drive. Some golden rules of racing which are set in real-life racing apply to online sim racing as well. In this article we’ll recommend driver behavior in an effort to let us all enjoy online racing. We’ll also pinpoint to certain limitations of online sim racing and of rFactor in particular. It might be a long read, but please do read it as we will benefit all from it. Hope you will enjoy the article Driver Behaviors Sim Racing
This guide is based on the excellent work of Phillip McNelley which is focused at racing Grand Prix Legends online. We have tried to contact Phillip to get his permission to adapt his work to our beloved rFactor, but couldn’t get in touch with him. This text can be found in different versions throughout the internet, which lets us believe the author doesn’t mind reproducing his work. OK, Let’s start reading Driver Behaviors Sim Racing
It’s all the worse if people who are on an out lap try to ‘race’ those who are trying to complete a clean flying lap. Be a sport. Let others complete their flying laps as cleanly as possible.Also if you have spoiled the lap you’re on – by spinning, a really bad section, whatever – then also consider staying out of the way of others for the remainder of your non-useful lap.
Exit the pits carefully. Watch the yellow light at the end of the pit lane. They warn you that car(s) on the track are approaching. Many drivers announce their egress onto the circuit with a ‘PO’ (Pit Out) notice though the chat facility. Thi
s is recommended. However, such announcements alone are not a license to charge onto the track with gay abandonment. In addition, try to ease yourself onto the track so that you get a view in your mirrors of what’s coming up behind. Do not rudely charge onto the racing line if that is not necessary. Get to speed and be aware of other people on the track before taking the racing line.
If you crash, spin out, run out of fuel, whatever, so that you’re on the track but not moving or moving very slowly for where you are, then move off the track as quickly as you can. If you’re bound to retire after an incident, then retire ASAP. Treat this as a matter of urgency, as if every fraction of a second counts – and it often does. Your race may be done but others are still trying to compete as best they can. Running into your stationary or slowly moving vehicle will not make their day. At the very least get away from the racing line, and do it with all haste.Of course there may be some circumstance where a damaged car might still be repaired or capable of affording some benefit to its driver. Just take the first occasion to safely get to the pit and let the pitcrew repair your car.
Do not overdrive your heavily damaged car whilst endangering other drivers. Common sense has to prevail of course, and no one can expert you not to do everything reasonable to enhance your own result. But, if your current situation is not served by staying on the track, then please get off, and get off as fast as you can.
Show yourself in their mirrors.
rFactor has the huge blind spots – see below. To state the obvious, if the driver in front of you can’t see you then don’t be surprised if they crash into you, or cut you off so you can’t avoid crashing into them. As much as you can, show yourself in the mirrors of the car in front.
Of course once you decide to overtake a car you have to drive into their blind spots. But even then, if they get a good view of what your movements are immediately prior to your disappearing, they’ll have a much better idea of your probable position and likely immediate actions, and what they need to do to try to avoid contact. This is not quite the same as real life perhaps, but real life enjoys a much better visual range.
This is not quite the same as real life perhaps, but real life enjoys a much better visual range.
Trying to stay away from an opponent’s mirrors may be a valid tactical ploy. I.e., trying to rattle them into an error by making them guess where you are. But in rFactor this is asking for trouble. Its visual limitations require us to play the gentleman here, if only for our own survival and enjoyment.
Even if their braking zones occur earlier than yours would normally, then tough luck. You have to anticipate these possibilities and drive accordingly. If you’ve tried everything, braking, gearing down, changing line, etc., but can see you’re still going to collide with a car ahead, then you should drive your own car off the track, crashing yourself out of the race if necessary, if that’s what it takes to avoid such a contact.
It often takes keen judgment and many times is not easy. You want to be as close as possible, to snatch a pass if a chance comes along, but you need to be far enough away to respond to the ahead driver’s manoeuvres, evasively sometimes. It does take practice and it is a skill. But it’s an essential skill for successful enjoyable online racing. You can practice with friends, in non-serious races, or with the AI cars offline. Offline, pick a car that’s slower than you and try to hang on their tail for 10 laps or so without passing. You may surprise yourself at how much your skill in this area needs to be improved. Avoid close racing when it’s not necessary.
Not only does very close driving give you very little time to react if the need arises, it also increases very much the likelihood of a internet-lag-time caused collision. In racing online there is always a risk of registering a collision in close driving even without any perceivable contact – due to internet lag. The closer you are to another car the more likely this will happen. The general rule for the careful and respectful driver would be, not to unnecessarily drive too close to another, especially whenever there is no point. E.g. In situations where there is no possibility of passing anyway. You’re asking for trouble if you do, even if you don’t actually do anything wrong.
Use Clear Body Language.
If someone is following you closely looking for a place to pass, and you kind of drift along with ambiguous movements about the track, or you sort of close the door but still leave the inside line half open, then you just might unintentionally lure the following car to try a pass that’s only half on. Alternatively, if as soon as a following car gets anywhere near your rear quarter coming up to a corner, and while they are still in your mirrors, you make a firm and clear movement towards the inside line, and stick there, then they will know that your intentions are to close the door and drive the defensive inside line.
Such a clear defensive move will leave them in no doubt not to try a risky inside pass.This is just one case. There are others. The thing is … always try to convey a clear message by your driving style so that surrounding drivers get a very good idea about your intentions. Body language used well can be almost as clear as having indicators on your car.
Practice the Other Lines Before You Have to Use Them.
If the first time you have ever tried driving around the outside of a certain corner is in a frantic race situation when you’re racing toe to toe with someone, then you’ll be in unfamiliar territory in the middle of a high stress precision driving situation.
A bad place to be. Before a race comes up, just try doing a few laps of the circuit hugging the left-hand-side of the road all the way around and then do a few hugging the right-hand-side. At the very least do 1 or 2 laps against each side of the road. You’ll be surprised at how much less likely you are to crash while trying to hold road position if you are at least a little familiar with how the outer and inner lines feel.
Overtaking: The Non Contested Pass
A non contested pass is simply a pass where you’re happy, for whatever reason, to let an overtaking driver go past with the least hindrance to them as possible. Your reasons may be that you don’t want to risk an incident due to an overtaking battle, the overtaking driver may be known to you as a notorious accident causer, or you may be being lapped – in which case race etiquette requires you to do what you can to expedite a clean quick safe pass for the lapping driver.
Whatever the reason, there may be times when you want to let someone past.To let someone past uncontested, drive against one side of the track and maintain that position until they’ve passed. You need to use clear body language here. Moving from side to side trying to stay off the racing line, for the sake of the passing car, is the worse thing you can do. What’s important is not weather you’re on the racing line or not, but whether you’re driving a predictable line. Pick a side of the road to move to, usually the one you’re nearest to at the time, then religiously stay against that side until the car has passed.
You might even try slowing a little to expedite the pass, as sometimes a quick pass can benefit you as much as it does the passer. But don’t slow down too abruptly of course and do not lift off in or directly after turns.During the race, if you’re being lapped by another car you’ll be shown a blue flag indicator in the left top corner of your screen. These are advisory flags to let you know you’re about to be lapped and you’re expected
to do the gentlemanly thing and move out of the way. In rFactor you may not always see all the cars behind you in your mirrors at a particular time.
There may be several unseen cars close by around your tail. You may only ever see whichever one happens to be in your mirror’s field of vision at the moment. This has special significance when you’re being passed – with or without blue flags being waved.If you’re being lapped, perhaps with blue flags but whenever, be aware there could be any number of lapping cars right on your gearbox even though you don’t see them. What can happen is this … You see a car coming up in your mirrors, maybe you also see blue flags, you think ” there’s a car lapping me I’ll move over to let him pass”, you move to one side of the road and let him through, you then move back onto the racing line and BAM, you’ve hit someone.
It turns out there was more than one car lapping you. When you moved over to let the first one through the others tried to go through too, as you’d expect. But while you were on the other side of the road, they were out of you mirrors, you simply never got to see them.This can really take you by surprise, and them too.
All you can do here is be as careful as possible, look around if you’re able too, try to shy a glimpse, or listen for more engine sounds. They can help by trying to show themselves in your mirrors before going through. Be aware that just because you see one car go past that may not be the end of them. Whether after a blue flag or whenever, as the same limitations always apply.The drivers doing the lapping/passing should also bear in mind these limitations.
You (passing drivers) be aware that the car you’re lapping may have absolutely no knowledge of your presence what-so-ever. Be careful. You should always try to show yourself in the mirrors of an ahead car before trying a pass.
Overtaking: The Contested Pass
The contested pass, or the pass done in anger, whatever you want to call it, is arguably one of the most difficult things to do cleanly without incident in rFactor. Battling for position, passing and counter passing, wheel to wheel racing, is also the most fun thing to do.
The problem with close racing of any sort, contested passing included, is largely one of what each driver in the situation can see of the other. It’s just that there’s a lot of guessing going on about exactly where and how close you are to another driver. The sim’s range of vision is much less than real life. There are huge blind spots to contend with. The contested pass then is all about what you can and can’t see.
rFactor’s Blind Spots
rFactor has got very large blind spots. Often, nearby cars are simply not visible to you. The extent of the blind spots vary per car. For the F3 they are as follows (default field-of-view): You can see down a narrow field of view extending out directly behind you via your mirrors. Forward of this mirror area your blind spots begin – the shadowed area in the illustration. Your forward vision isn’t 180 degrees as you might imagine but is also restricted to an angled area that extends out in front of the car.Perhaps one of the most significant things of which to be aware, is that your blind spots extend out in front of your own car.
I’ve seen several exchanges where one guy says something like, “what were you doing? I was in front of you! The corner was mine!” etc. Obviously unaware that you can be in front but still be unseen.The answer to the problem of driving very close to other cars you can’t actually see is to drive with a lot of caution, care, and respect for your fellow drivers. You have to use your wits and anticipation. Most importantly, you must leave room for other cars whenever you have reason to believe they might be beside you. You can’t wait to be sure they’re beside you.
By the time you’re sure, i.e. you can see them, it’s too late. You need to leave room simply if you have reason to believe someone might be beside you.Leaving room for another car means you’ll not be driving the ideal racing line. It also means you’ll be driving a line you haven’t practiced and which is unfamiliar to you. All this means you’ll be slower through the given section than usual. This also means that not only will the action of leaving room provide the opportunity for an opponent to pass you, but it also enhances the likelihood of their success – while you’re in a slower-than-usual mode of driving.
But that’s tough. It’s just the way it is, and frankly it’s not that much a departure from real life racing in some of these respects. All things considered, you will still experience the best of sim racing enjoyment by always leaving room for your opponents wherever appropriate.
Overcoming The Blind Spots: The Look-Around Views rFactor has a built in look-around facility that can be assigned to operate from the buttons on your steering wheel. When activated, the forward view slides around to the desired direction to give you a view out the side of the car. These views are a useful idea. No doubt they’re included due to a perceived need for some kind of enhancement to the visual range.A problem with the look-around views are that they turn the forward view so much that you can no longer see forward at all when they’re selected. As you might imagine, it’s rather difficult to drive a car at the bitter limit while seeing nothing but a side view line of sight.
If you watch the odd few rFactor drivers in action you might think the rule for corner rights goes something like, “Whatever piece of ground I can barge my way into I have the right to”. Well… not so. There is actually an etiquette for corner rights. It’s not just for rFactor or racing sims, but is basically the same for every level of real-world motor racing – from Formula Ford to Formula 1 and everything in between. “What !”, you say, “You mean I don’t have the right to throw my car into any gap I see?”.
Actually no, you don’t – and if you raced in any real-world competition the way you may race in rFactor, instead of being hailed as a motor racing genius you may find yourself banned from even the lowest levels of the sport. Some of the everyday things you see in rFactor simply aren’t tolerated where real cars are damaged, real money is the cost of repair, and real lives are at risk.In brief, the concept is, you must establish substantial overlap with the car ahead before a corner’s turn-in point to have the right for room to be left for you by the ahead driver. Substantial overlap means at least that the front of your car is up to say the driver’s position in the ahead car – and that’s at the very least. You probably should have more in many circumstances.
The ahead driver has every right to be fully committed to the racing line of his choice without any interference if there was no overlap before he turned in.If sufficient overlap is established before the turn-in point, then the behind driver has the right to room. The ahead driver can still battle for the place of course but must do so from a wider-out position, leaving room for the behind driver.You may wonder how this reconciles with the above regarding leaving room for cars that disappear up your inside from your mirrors.
Well … If a behind car doesn’t have overlap before the turn-in point then they shouldn’t disappear up your inside line but stay tucked in behind you. If they want to disappear up your inside line then they should do so before you reach the turn-in point. If they disappear up your inside line after the turn-in point, then it’s really up to you how you play it.
You may decide to enforce your rights and risk a contact, or your may be willing (reluctantly) to leave room because you don’t want to crash.An exception to this is where an ahead driver has clearly made a sufficient error to warrant a passing move. E.g. – they brake too late and wash out wide of the apex and have to reduce speed etc.
This would be a valid passing opportunity regardless of whether there was
pre-existing overlap. However, there is still substantial reasonability on the overtaking driver to take all necessary care.Small errors by the ahead driver may not be sufficient to allow a safe passing move however. Just because the ahead driver gets a bit out of shape at times it doesn’t give you an automatic right to room.
You still have to judge if their error provides sufficient opportunity for a safe pass to take place.As long as there is genuine overlap, in general, while going through a corner beside another car…The car on the outside has the right to the outer half of the track all the way around – right up to the exit point. They should not be squeezed against the outside towards the exit point.The car on the inside has the right to the inside half of the track all the way around – right up to the exit point.
They should not be squeezed against the inside towards the apex area.Having said all this, one would have to add that corner rights is not an exact science. There are some variables. Presented here is just the basic concept of the accepted etiquette. Even in real life, with full vision, full sensory feedback, infinite fps and resolution, its not uncommon for real drivers to come to grief with this – usually saying it was the other guy’s fault.
With rFactor’s huge blind spots it’s even more hit and miss, often literally – you can however simulate real life to the letter by saying it was the other guy’s fault.
Nothing much. Just a couple of points. If in doubt, lift. If in a loss of control situation or a near loss of control one, lift your foot off the accelerator, usually with gentle haste. In nine out of ten situations this is the right thing to do anyway. The odd situation where you’d keep your foot planted requires such a fine skilled touch you probably wouldn’t be successful at it anyway.
Lifting to get out of trouble is very often a safe bet. You’ll be surprised at how many ‘certain crash’ situations you can actually drive away from if you would only lift your foot off the accelerator. Some people are very reluctant to lift their foot off for any reason. They’re the ones up-side-down in the sand all too often. Drive, then Race.
Aircraft pilots at times have a number of matters happening simultaneously, competing for their attention. They have a saying to help them set their priorities. Aviate, navigate, communicate. The idea being that the first priority is to stay in control of the plane, i.e. fly the plane.
The second is to know where you are in relation to the world.
The third and last priority is to attend to radio communications.In our racing perhaps just two priorities are required. Drive your car, then race it. Meaning… the first priority is to stay in control of your car. Only after that is done do you worry about racing it with any near-by competitors. You often see people who left alone can drive well enough.
But once they start racing they are going into corners so deep etc they have no chance. The obvious reality is – if you could only take a certain corner at say 80mph when alone, you can’t take it at 120mph just because you’re racing someone. Don’t let the sprit and thrill of the racing moment take your attention away from your number one priority. Drive your car, stay in control of it. Then worry about racing. Survive.
It doesn’t do your sim racing fun a lot of good if you keep getting crashed out of races when in the right. More often than not, the most fun is had by actually racing the whole race and finishing it. It’s up to you how you play it when you’re in the right, but often it pays to not force issues on the track. I’ve found that people who wrongly force passes etc. often end up in the ditch after a while in any case. You can then cruise past them with a big grin on your face.
Drive the outside wheel. When cornering, or whenever you’re in a turning moment, if you hit a bump or curb and the car’s going all over the place and you’re panic steering, settle your focus on the outside wheel and drive that. Nine times out of ten you’ll get control back and save yourself. Forget about driving the car and drive the outside wheel – the one you can see that is, the front one. It’s just a concentration focus trick but it can work, more for some than for others.
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