How To Pass In Racing

One of the most exciting elements of racing is making a pass for position. Even more gratifying if the pass is for the lead. Making a pass for position or the lead is more difficult than it appears.

A driver trying to pass of another car, one must be patient along with being able stay on the bumper of the car you are trying to pass. The driver must pay close attention going through the turns, because that’s the perfect place to make a move.

Passes frequently occur coming out of the turns, where cars tend to become difficult to drive. Some drivers become loose on exit making them easy to pass. The passing driver must wait for the driver ahead to make a mistake, wash up in the turn, in order to get by. This especially happens when that driver is too aggressive into a turn and loses control for a split-second. Be more focused than usual when going through the turns. Capitalize on the other drivers error and be ready to make a pass when opening up the inside, allowing an easy pass.


Drivers ahead want to get as much space as possible between themselves and the car chasing them. This becomes a problem when coming upon lapped traffic. Lapped traffic is made up of cars that aren’t on the lead lap and very often considerably slower.

When a driver gets caught behind lapped traffic, the driver chasing, who has no one ahead to slow them down, has more time to catch up to the bumper of the car they are chasing. On the other hand, if the driver ahead can pass the lapped car just before going into a turn, the car chasing gets stuck behind the lapped car.


The passing driver is responsible for making a pass safely and cleanly, meaning no contact with the driver being passed. You must leave room, as long as an overlap exists. In other words, when the passing car’s RR bumper overlaps the LF bumper of the car being passed, the passing car must leave room.

But if the driver of the car being passed comes off the wall and turns down into the passing car, after the passing driver has a slight overlap and contact occurs, who is at fault?

Answer – The passing car of course!

Here are some ways to avoid touchy situations when passing:

  1. Never Assume – Driver of the car you are attempting to pass knows you are there
  2. Especially when that driver is trying to pass another car
  3. Greater Chance of a Spin – Occurs when the passing car’s RF bumper is close to the leading car’s LR bumper
  4. Exit of Turn – Passing car’s RR bumper is close to the passed car’s LF bumper
  5. Wait to Complete Pass – If you can only manage a slight bumper-to-bumper overlap
  6. Just Leave Room – If your RR bumper overlaps with the LF bumper of the car you attempt to pass, just leave room to the outside before completing the pass
  7. Make a Clean Pass – It will be your fault getting into the LF bumper of the car your trying to pass
  8. Always Set Up Pass – Set up pass going into the corner and completing the pass coming out

Let’s explore point number 8 more completely.

Before attempting to make a pass, always try to get your front bumper close to the rear bumper of the car you are setting up to pass. Do not get into the rear bumper, but get and stay close. What you are trying to do here is take the air away from the rear of the car. This will loosen up the car going into the corner. Now you have setup the pass.

As the car gets loose going into the corner, start to make your pass as you come into the corner, completing it on the way out and on the straight-away. Never try to dive-bomb the corner, as you will only lose grip, upset the balance and slide up into the car you are trying to pass. Or worse yet, not completing the pass and losing momentum and running side by side. This will lead to more tire wear and slowing of both cars.

Asserting a position when making a pass into a corner means that the overlap is great enough that the driver of the car being passed can see the front of the passing car in there peripheral vision. The front of the passing car is at the “A” pillar, or the front wheel is next to the driver of the car being passed.

It is always best to attempt a pass under braking before turning into a corner. When you do this, the other driver is forced to wait to turn in until you turn in. You control the corner as long as you hold your line.

Keep in mind when you turn in early under braking, you can brake later since you are taking a straighter line into the corner. But the consequence of this is that you apex earlier and you will not be able to get on full power as early as normal.


The straightaway is the easiest pass to execute successfully. The key to passing on a straightaway is to focus on getting a good run off of the corner leading onto the straightaway, then drafting the car you are trying to pass. If you get a good run off the corner and you are within five car lengths of the car ahead as you exit, you have a good chance of drafting into position. If you cannot make up enough ground on this straight-away, you will need to wait until the next straightaway or the next lap.

If you catch the car in front early enough on the straightaway, then you can pull out of the draft using your momentum to attempt to make the pass, or at least get alongside the car you are trying to pass. The biggest mistake drivers make drafting while setting up a pass, is to pull out of the draft too soon. When you are gaining ground on the car in front quickly, you should have enough momentum to make a clean pass before the braking zone for the next turn. If you pull out of the draft of the car in front too soon, the aero drag will stop your momentum quickly.

This loss of momentum also can occur, if you pull too far away laterally from the car you are trying to pass. Stay close to the side of the car you are trying to pass to take advantage of the draft until your front bumper is just behind of the other car’s front bumper. The farther away you move laterally from the other car, the less aero advantage you will gain. Many passing attempts on the straightaway fail, because the passing car swerves too far away from the car being passed. The passing car receives a turbulent wake and momentum is lost very quickly.

When drafting and you are not gaining ground on the car in front, your best bet is to stay in the draft as long as possible, getting close enough to attempt to out-brake the other car going into the corner at the end of the straight-away.


The classic pass is while braking, entering a corner. Unless you can make a clean pass on a straightaway, passing under braking entering a turn is the next easiest. Utilizing the drafting technique explained above, ideally you can get within a half car length to a foot of the car in front of you.

Now using your anticipation skills and experience, it helps to know if the driver you are trying to pass is running a consistent line. The reason, you need to pull out of the draft to the inside, just an instant before the lead driver begins braking. If you time it right, you will gain a full car length to the inside, before you need to brake. If planned the pass correctly, you turn in slightly earlier than usual, while braking later.

Much care must be taken when trying to make a pass under braking. Turning in too early and you will be in poor position to carry enough speed on exit of the turn and will easily be re-passed on the exit straightaway. By being able to assert your position before the turn in point, moving alongside the leading car early in the braking zone, you will be able to dictate when the outside car can turn in.

Even if you are not past the lead car, but alongside with your front bumper even with the other car’s “A” pillar, then the outside car cannot turn in until you do. You control the corner turn in position.

Using this technique, you can turn in at the optimum point on the track and force the outside car to turn in a little later than would be desirable. This gives the inside car the optimum exit line, allowing it to get back into the throttle earlier. This also allows defending your position from retaliation.


Passing at the exit of a corner can be effective, especially when cars are equal. The classic technique is to draft down the straightaway, fake a pass attempt from the draft in order to encourage a defensive move from the car you wish to pass. This defensive move is often an early turn in attempt to block an out braking maneuver.

When the lead driver does this, it allows you to use a late turn in, late apex opportunity to get on the throttle earlier than the lead driver, who has an early apex position and will not be able to get on the throttle early.

For road racing this works especially well. When going into the next corner, where braking is necessary and the turn is in the same direction. In this case you only need to get alongside the car you are passing to gain an advantage going into the next braking zone and corner.


Often, when failing to complete the pass, you end up racing side by side. When this happens, always try to analyze the situation, from a realistic perspective.

  • Do you have the advantage going into the next corner?
  • Or will the other car have the advantage?
  • Are the trailing cars gaining, while you are trying to complete the pass?

Racing side by side always costs time and position on the track for both cars. You both end up losing the draft, give up the best line and lose speed on the straight-away.

If you can’t pass the car in front quickly, to catch the other cars ahead, or you need to defend your position from behind, it is always better to bite the bullet and drop back in line. Reassess the situation before attempting another pass at the next opportunity by setting up the pass better. Make judgments based on the reality of the situation is vitally crucial in these situations. Wishful thinking will only cost you time and position on the track.


The most vulnerable time to get passed is right after you complete a pass, especially if the car you just passed has an advantage on corner exit. This vulnerability comes from the reality that the passing car most often must change the entry line, braking point and exit line to complete the pass. The passing car is going to be slower than normal, giving the car being passed an advantage.

To counteract getting passed and to get ready to counterattack the passing car that just passed you. Use this situation to your advantage, by using the crossover technique to reverse the situation.

As is often the case, the more you can assert your position early when attempting a pass, the easier it is to defend.

If you can get by on a straight or under braking, then you control the line through a corner, especially on the exit of the corner.

Manage to only get alongside when entering a corner, then you are in a vulnerable position to be passed again on the exit of the corner. This especially happens if you had to turn in too early, trying to out brake the other car. Leaving the passed car the option to turn in a little later than normal, getting on the power earlier, or changing the exit line slightly, so that the car is positioned to make a straight run on the corner exit. There is nothing one can do to defend this.


Passing lapped cars occurs often during a race. The goal is to always lose as little time as possible. When lapping slower cars, you have a speed advantage, but not always.

In some cases you may have a car with faster lap times, but the car you are trying to pass has fresh tires, making it difficult to get by on the straights. In this case, it is most important to gain an advantage under braking so you can use your car’s superior cornering speed to get far enough ahead so that the other car cannot re-pass on the following straight.

Coming up on a slower car, passing can be risky, even when you are clearly faster. Be hyper-alert is crucial in all lapping situations. Be aware of these situations:

  • Does the car in front know you are closing on him?
  • Have you communicated to the driver you are about to pass?
  • Has the driver looked in the mirrors?
  • Has the other driver let you know to pass?

If the answer is NO to all of the questions, then the risk factor is greatly elevated.

Passing lapped traffic – In a way that allows you to clearly assert your position as quickly as possible

  • Corner Exit & Straight-Away – The best places to pass slower traffic
  • Asserting Your Position – Under braking is the next best
  • Mid-Turn Pass – If you have a cornering speed advantage can be safely executed
  • Wait for Next Corner – When in doubt, wait for the next opportunity
  • Discretion – Is usually the best tactic


When you are being lapped, your goal is to lose as little time as possible while being passed. To accomplish this is to do the following:

  • Make it Easy as Possible – For the passing car to make the pass
  • Communicate – Tell the other driver which side to make the pass is the best way to make it easier
  • Best Place To Be Passed – On the straight or under braking for a corner
  • Breath the Throttle – Hold your line and leave the other car room to get by
  • Battling for Position – You have fewer options helping the other driver make the pass


When racing for position, defending against passes can be even more important than making passes. You already have the position. Losing it, then attempting to get it back is much more difficult than keeping it.

There are many ways to defend position. Most involve blocking. By the rule book, you can make one move to pick your line.

  • Make Two Moves – It is blocking
  • Making Move On The Straight – Is a blocking move!

On long straights, you can choose when and how you move across the straightaway. Most drivers choose to get across the track quickly to set up for the following corner. This is detrimental to defending the position.

  • First – Allows driver behind to draft, then drop down to make the pass, giving the following driver an advantage
  • Second – Moving across the track earlier scrubs off a little speed, which affects speed down the straight

Using the length of the straight, from turn exit to braking point for the next turn, less speed is scrubbed overall, but what is lost is lost later. It also gives the driver attempting to pass less distance to setup the pass and get around. In fact, the lead car is better off staying to the turn exit side of the straightaway until midway down the straight or until the trailing driver begins to move across the track. This makes it very difficult for the trailing car to complete a pass.

If a car gets a run on you at the corner exit, there is not much that can be done to defend.

Entering a turn is another story. Basically, you need to turn in early to defend. Too early, your exit line and speed, will cost you, making an easy corner exit pass for the trailing car.

Being drafted down the straight, then the ideal way to defend against the pass is an out-braking maneuver. Watch your mirrors and when the trailing driver pulls out of the draft to initiate a pass, then you begin your turn in. This only works if you are already at or in the braking zone. The trick is not to over brake if you turned in early, and to alter your line so that you have good exit speed.


  1. FOCUS OF ATTENTION – Pay more attention to what the car in front is doing, or the car behind when defending
  2. WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING – Look ahead for opportunities. Check your mirrors. You do not want to get passed while attempting to make a pass
  3. ANTICIPATE – Study the competition and anticipate their moves
  4. KNOW ALTERNATE LINES – Know how your car will react and you can use it to your advantage
  5. KNOW WHAT YOUR CAR DOES OFF LINE – Know how your car will react will keep you from a nasty surprise
  6. KEEP AN OPEN MIND – Look for opportunities and consider the possibilities

Passing other cars is one of the most exciting elements of racing. Becoming skilled at passing is like any other part of racing. It takes practice, good judgment and commitment.