How to Deal with Blocking Out on the Track
From Track Days to Race Weekends, how do we get around these rolling chicanes?
Race Craft and Blocking
Blocking is one of the poorest examples of race craft that a person can display. Not only is it a cheap way to avoid getting passed, but you put others at risk while simultaneously admitting you can’t fight back in a fair way. Sooner or later you’ll have to deal with some idiot who plays this game, so you’ll need to learn what to look for, how to avoid it and how to pass them with minimum risk. Situational circumstances can make this much easier said than done, but having a solid game plan before hand can be worth its weight in gold. Stay out of this trouble with my quick and easy how-to guide.
Minimize the Risk
Blocking in a corner is one thing, but blocking on a straight-away is almost impossible to do without looking like a complete and utter fool. The first tip to deal with a blocker is to pass them in the safest possible place: the straight away. If your car is faster then this will be pretty easy to do, but if your acceleration is matched then you’ll have to get a good run going on to the longest straight and bank on drafting your opponent into the braking zone. At this point, you can pop out and take them by surprise. Ideally speaking, this is the easiest type of blocking to deal with. As long as they aren’t being stupid on the straight and you have some skills behind the wheel you should be able to pick a good place to get a run, but what if you can’t? What if they’re actually blocking you on the straight away?
Straight Away Blockers
As ridiculous as this one seems to write, you might actually encounter someone who decides the straight-away is where you will not get around them. While you can go to race control after and protest—they might not be able to see what’s happening at the moment which means you need to think on your toes: welcome to the modified bump draft. Reserved for only the most stubborn of competitors, you might find it possible to tuck in behind this person and physically push them faster than they are comfortable with into a braking zone. This is really a last resort, but it might be your only choice if you’re left with no options. We see this in very aggressive series where banging fenders is considered part of the game. This should never be used at a track day and is reserved for the aggressive wheel to wheel racing. Approach with caution and use at your own risk. Straight away blocking is one of the most dangerous things anyone can do to another driver.
Pick and Roll
If you’ve ever watched basketball you might be familiar with something called a pick and roll. One person (the pick) stands next to the defense so that the other guy can get around whoever is trying to take the ball from them. Essentially, you are using one person’s physical body as a wall so you can get closer to the basket. You can do the same thing on track if you have a guy who won’t let you pass. Start thinking of slower cars as a barrier for you to do your own pick and roll and create a physical boundary that stops the blocker in his tracks. This is one of the safest ways to deal with someone who is being stubborn and can be safely used at track days as well as wheel to wheel racing. Be smart and set up the pass in a place where you know you have an advantage—this will minimize the ability to fight back.
Fake The Line
One of the coolest and most rewarding ways to pass someone who is blocking is to set up a fake line. We all know the traditional racing line and prefer to pass on the inside—it’s safer, shorter distance and stops someone from getting to the apex, but if you move to the inside it’s pretty obvious. Enter the fake line. A technique that is used by many racers, this involves moving your car to the outside in a way that looks convincing, usually by steering faster than you normally would to give the impression you are impatient. As you move to the outside the car ahead might try to block you and that’s when you make an abrupt and sharp change of direction to the inside. Be careful—this requires you to have a high level of car control as you are no longer driving smoothly. The back end might step out on you so be ready. Usually, this works, but be aware that if you try it and it doesn’t, the blocker now knows your plan. Plan this one out and make it look as real as possible. That’s the key to the faking the line.
Know Who Blocks Ahead of Time
A little bit of homework goes a long way. Usually, guys who are notorious for blocking have a bad reputation around the track and will be on everyone’s radar. Networking and socializing can help you know who to look out for long before you ever get out on track. Sometimes studying someone on YouTube for 15 minutes before you race against them will tell you exactly how they block, where they like to do it and how others have successfully passed them. Do your homework and always know your competition. I avoided a big wreck in Texas a couple of years ago after hearing about a guy who was known all over the USA for aggressive blocking. My trick? I knew he was a sucker for the pick and roll.
Avoid the Label
Blocking and defending are totally different concepts. An aggressive defender can be wrongly labeled as someone who blocks, but this is simply high-level racing craft. It is always on the responsibility of the passing car to get around you in a safe way and if you are the one passing you need to display the same courtesy to others. This doesn’t mean you drive slow, but it does mean it is on you to drive clean and come home safely at the end of the day. We’re all out to have fun and it’s important to remember that at your next track day, race, or high-performance driving event. Be smart out there, but know how to use these tricks if you need to. Until next time…