The Art of Racing Like A Gentleman - Round 6 : TW Steel Daytona DMAX Championships

As many of you will know, I have been taking part in the Daytona Motorsport TW Steel DMAX Championships this year. With 10 races over as many months, this series of Kart races across the country is one of the best of it’s kind. You don’t need to own a kart, you don’t even need to own a race suit or helmet, you just book up and arrive at each race. There are even rolling discounts the more races you do. If you want a long single race then the Enduro is the one for you, but the heats races offer short sharp sessions culminating in a hotly contested final at every race meet.

As a total novice this season has been a real eye opener for me, I have learnt a lot about racing, about the people that take part in this kind of thing and about how amazing karting can be in a competitive situation. Yes, as most of you will have already noted, I do come last a lot, but you know what? I really don’t care, I am having so much fun learning and driving that it really doesn't matter.

What I started thinking about after the amazing round 6 race at Rye House was the rules and regulations that are not really written down, the nods and waves that happen out on track that just fall under the umbrella of racing etiquette. No one really teaches you these things, but without at least a working knowledge of what is right and wrong you can really cause some problems and make some people rather angry.

Karting Can Be Bumpy

Karting can involve a bit of bumping, it is not allowed, and you do get told off but sometimes it just happened. With 20 karts flying into a single corner and everyone pushing hard, a little contact is common place. It is interesting to remember that in F1 that would be the end of many drivers races, and it’s the same in karts that don’t have the bumpers like the DMAX karts do, maybe it’s more because people can get away with it that they let it happen. The rules state that you cannot gain an advantage through contact with another kart, in other words you can't crash into someone and fly past them as they spin out as a result. But between that extreme and no contact at all there is so much room for confusion.

In the last race I was actually doing OK, I was having a great battle with a guy who is generally better than me but not so much as we move into the later rounds. I was ahead and holding him off…yes I was ahead of someone! As we came into a hairpin he lunged down the inside and hit me, pushing me off line. The amazing thing was that he immediately put the brakes on and waved me by and we started the battle all over again…what a gent. He might have got away with it, he could have taken the place and hoped it wasn't seen by the marshalls, but he didn't.

Now, essentially the same thing happened the other way around in another race, it wasn’t the same guy and this time I really was ahead of more than just one driver. I had made a great start and actually held some of the leaders behind me, I was literally having the time of my life and I was doing well. Doing well until I bumped the guy I was racing because I hit the brakes too late. I did what I thought was right and waved him through, but the bump was so minor he wasn’t sure why I was waving and in the confusion 5 drivers all overtook me. I was mortified and I had basically thrown my chance for a good position.

So in one instance being a gentleman was the right thing to do, in the other it was far too nice and completely backfired. So what is the best course of action? The answer really depends on who you are and how much you want to win.

For the first few races and still a little bit even now, I hit the brakes far too early if I ever think I might even touch another kart. No one else does this, it’s just me and that why I come last all the time, it may also have something to do with the fact I'm generally a bit slow too but lets ignore that for the moment. The other drivers will instantly make an assessment of the risks and the potential blame and if they can get away with it, all in a split second. The result generally means they get the place, it sometimes back fires and they get a black flag but the risk seems worth it to win. The risk however, can only be taken if you are really good, if you don’t know the limits of the kart to the millimetre then you are likely to injure someone and certainly not gain any places.

Gentlemen Racing

So where does this leave me? Well, the bottom line is, I need to get better at reading the situation. It's good to be polite and let people through if you have wronged them, but not if you haven’t. By always automatically assuming I am in the wrong because I'm the least experienced I am losing places.

The Future

From here on in, I will not only be braver, which I have mentioned before, but I will also be bolder. If I think I can make it and its safe then I am going to push on. If I make a tiny bit of contact I am going to live with it, and I hope I will not loose so many places as a result. I feel I have to say, I am not suggesting I am about to start ramming people off the track, I would last about 5 minutes before I was banned for life and it would be a terrible thing to do anyway. I am just saying, I am going to stop avoiding contact that may never happen, we shall see what actually does happen!

The Results

Well, Rye House was pretty much the best round of the champs so far and I placed 2 positions up from last, yes you read that right, I didn't finish last, and boy did it feel good!

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