A hotly debated subject over at iRacing this week seems to be the issues encountered with multi-class racing. As previously covered, the iRacing Grand-Am sportscar series provides the chance for Riley Daytona Prototypes to be on track at the same times as the considerably slower Ford Mustang FR500S. As with many classes of sportscar racing, there are two races on track at once, and everyone has to get along.
It’s just that, well, they don’t.
This has been exacerbated as the series moved, this week, to Lime Rock Park. A small yet fast circuit in Connecticut, 1.53 miles (2.46Km) in length, with some very fast corners and tight confines, this track quickly fills with traffic and makes any race a challenge. Additionally the place just feels a bit too small for a car as fast as the Riley and so fast laps can leave little margin for error, throw in some slow traffic and you’re hit with one of the biggest challenges of the series.
Some of us, like myself, relish this challenge. Running amongst drivers of varying ability is one thing, working with traffic in a car almost 15 seconds a lap faster than those being passed, all the while being chased by competitors, is a genuine skill that will get the sweat dripping down anyone’s brow.
So what’s the problem? Everyone loves a good race, right? People would only enter a multi-class series if they understand how it works, right?
The main problem, it seems, would be that some people don’t seem to get it. Where the closing speed is massive from a Riley to the back of a Mustang, some Riley drivers forget how to use their brakes. Some feel that they should not have to lose time stuck behind a Mustang and that the Mustang should perpetually drive around the outer edge of the circuit so that they can cruise by in their Riley. After all, they are the only person in the race, surely. In fact, maybe they are the only person in the world.
In some cases, this seems to even manifest itself in Riley drivers feeling that they, as the most important human ever, should not have to use the brakes to avoid other cars at all. They should pinball into car after car as if they were simply not there. In the below video we see possibly the worst piece of driving I have ever seen in iRacing. The first view is from the hapless Mustang driver, who gets turned around into turn one. We then see it from the point of view of “our hero”. This Riley driver is the way and the light, he shows us how it clearly should be done:
We can all learn from this, clearly, that if there is ever someone in front of you braking before you want to, all you have to do is smash straight into the back of them, and when a pesky Mustang thinks it has the audacity to ever think that it is part of a race that it should be shoved into a spin like the damned nuisance it is.
If only Fernando Alonso has had such a fundamental understanding of this remarkable form of racing, he could have simply pushed Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg into the unrelenting Abu Dhabi wall, cackling as he powered on to the 2010 World Championship.
Except that this just isn’t how motor racing works. When people crash, they get hurt, if they don’t get hurt then expensive machinery gets damaged, someone foots a bill. No one is happy.
The fact is that when people race for real they avoid crashes, they respect the people they race with and try their best to avoid making mistakes.
Where this has led is to a situation where Mustang drivers don’t know what they should do. They have a race to run, they cannot spend all of their time being off the throttle, the faster car should have the speed to make a clean pass on a relatively straight part of the track. However, they end up losing time because whenever a Riley is approaching from behind they don’t know what to expect.
It could be that they are going to be passed cleanly by a normal human who understands how motor racing works and entered a mixed class series understanding the challenge that awaited them, someone with respect for other people. Or they could be being approached by “our hero”, who will seemingly just drive right into them as if they were not there.
This brings about a militancy in the Mustang drivers, where they start to become less co-operative. Not surprising, if every race or session I entered saw me being punted into a wall and losing SR I would be pretty disenfranchised too. For the Riley driver this adds a level of unpredictability too, will the Mustang you have to pass be co-operative? Will they chop across your nose and cause you to leap on the anchors?
Of course, this unpredictability is part of the game, this is racing, we’re all trying to make the chequered flag as soon as we can. Incidents can and will happen but surely we all try our hardest to avoid them? Or do we?
This seems to be the odd part, for me. Finishing a few places lower than I feel my ultimate pace could achieve may be saddening, but finishing the race in a hedge in a smashed up car is far, far worse. Having then to contend with the inevitable redeye rage of whomever you’ve pointlessly shunted in a thoroughly avoidable accident is a stress level that no hobby should be causing.
Drivers like “our hero” seem to miss the classic cliché “To finish first, first you have to finish.”
This business has also brought about a feeling of shame amongst the many clean Riley drivers out there. Those that drive in a normal manner, who have to read thread after thread of anger from Mustang drivers who’ve spent too long digging their cars out of the gravel.
Reading this from Mustang pilot David Duda:
…In a Mustang I have to know if the guy behind me is the one who will run over me to avoid losing time, or the one who expects me to hold a predictable line. Needless to say, after one practice session I elected to not even try a race. There was a total lack of respect to the point of asking me to get the Mustang off the track so they could run Q laps. The DPs can have the track.
Saddened me greatly. When qualifying for a multi-class race has people actively trying to exclude the other car class, it points to a kind of absurd elitism that only serves to prevent Mustang drivers from bothering. Multi-class racing becomes single class racing, and the series that many drivers entered to enjoy running in traffic and improve their abilities and skills by challenging themselves, becomes a farce.
So, what can be done? If a Riley driver can never be sure if the Mustang driver thinks they are some disrespectful buffoon or someone that wants to act like other people in the world deserve to exist, how can we potentially avoid accidents via misunderstanding? Everyone makes genuine mistakes after all. Some people even apologise for them.
How can this communication between drivers take place. In real life there can be hand signals or indicators. Perhaps, if multi-class is to become a solid feature of iRacing going forward, which I sincerely hope it is, then iRacing should implement indicators in the cars that have them, so that drivers can indicate which side the passing car should go to. With clear instruction in the drivers briefing to ensure that this communication is understood.
Either way, there’s always going to be trouble if people in the faster cars have such a personally enforced superiority complex that they ask Mustangs to leave a session so that they can qualify. Anyone coming out with such boorish obnoxiousness should not have entered a mixed class series in the first place.
Alas, Lime Rock was always going to highlight this issue, hopefully as the season goes on people will get more practiced with both passing lapped cars and being lapped cars. Everyone’s got the same deal out there, perhaps the best thing is for a little bit of understanding, and remembering that a wrecked car is no use to anyone.