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When you book a place on a track day, all good organisers will send you a confirmation of your booking together with information on the arrangements for the day including the rules to be observed on the track and in the paddock.  One of the key rules concerns the when, where and how to overtake another car, and indeed what to do if you are the driver of the car being overtaken.

Why have overtaking rules?

There are a number of reasons but I think the main ones are –

  • Track days are non-competitive so it’s in everyone’s interests to avoid contact between cars at all times. The risk of contact is highest during an overtaking manoeuvre so some rules about how and where to do this will reduce the risk to an acceptable level.
  • There is always a variance in the driving skill and track awareness between drivers, and more so on an open pit lane format track day. This is especially true for newcomers who will probably be concentrating largely on where they are going and much less on their mirrors and what’s happening behind them than they should.  Rules about overtaking aim to clarify the procedure so that drivers of all levels know what to do, and more experienced or faster drivers do not introduce unnecessary risk by executing uncontrolled and unexpected overtaking.
  • Less experienced drivers may follow unconventional lines, or brake early or in unexpected places, and this can also include drivers who have done lots of track days but are new to the circuit.
  • There is always a difference in performance between the different types and makes of cars on a track day. Sometimes this difference is very large eg between an effectively standard saloon car like a Peugeot 106 and an out and out track car with down force like a Radical SR4.  The closing speeds of the high performance car on the slower car may be very high indeed and it’s therefore important for both parties that the overtaken driver is not taken by “surprise”.
  • Braking distances and the ability to corner at speed vary considerably between cars; driver ability is also a factor. Avoidance of overtaking in the braking zone for a corner should be avoided in the interests of reducing risk, but braking distance is a variable quantity, and the rules for overtaking should address this.

It’s all a bit of a balancing act.  We want the day to be as enjoyable as possible with as few restrictions as possible but at the same time consistent with the safety of all concerned.  A few rules and guidance are therefore essential to ease this process through.

What are the rules?

This essentially what we say about overtaking.  Other operators may say it slightly differently, but the principles behind what’s said will probably be the same.

  • At Castle Combe Circuit, overtaking is on the right hand side. This is different to most other circuits in the UK, where overtaking is on the left (well I’m not aware of any others where it’s on the right).  Experienced track day drivers new to Castle Combe need to pay particular attention to this.  Overtaking is on the right at Castle Combe because the pit lane entrance is located on the left, on a fast part of the circuit just before Camp Corner.
  • Overtaking is permitted in the straights only and never in the braking zone for a corner, including the turn-in for the apex.
  • Overtaking is a mutual experience. That is to say two people are involved and both need to cooperate with each other to make the experience safe, smooth and without unpleasantness.  Overtaking should therefore be by consent and the overtaking driver should, as far as possible, ensure that the driver of the car to be overtaken has seen the upcoming manoeuvre (use of mirrors) and has acknowledged the presence of the overtaking car preferably by signalling (hand or indicators) and moving over if appropriate.  The overtaken car may need ease the throttle as well to make it easier for the overtaking car to get by safely.

As a general guide to drivers, if you have a car behind you for 3 or 4 corners it’s generally safe to assume the driver is faster than you and you should let the car past when it’s safe to do so.  Drivers of very powerful saloon cars sometimes get caught out by this in that they have a nimble but not necessarily powerful car like a Caterham 7 behind them all through the bendy bits, then lose the Caterham on the straight only to have it catch them again in the bendy bits.  This can be very frustrating for the Caterham (or similar) driver where the car just does not have enough power and straight line speed to keep up on the straights.  Let the little guy past please!

We also advise that there are two particular overtaking hazard areas at Castle Combe.  The first is the very fast right hander at Folley which is next to the pit lane entry to the circuit and also mid-way down what is effectively the long “straight” between Camp and the Avon Rise/Camp complex.  We permit overtaking by consent through Folley but emphasise that this must be by consent only in view of the speeds involved and the potential for a high speed accident.  The other hazard point is the short straight between Tower and the Bobbies chicane.  This is too short for most cars to complete an overtaking manoeuvre safely without risk of contact as cars turn in for Bobbies.  We say no overtaking here unless the slower car has positively signalled and given way.

Do all track day operators have overtaking rules?

The answer to that is no.  We know of at least one operator who permits unrestricted overtaking.  Although this is probably fine for very experienced drivers and experienced competition licence holders, we don’t think it’s appropriate for our track days which are designed to cater for, and be enjoyable for all driver skill levels in most types of cars.

This short article is not exhaustive but covers the essence of what we are trying to achieve on our track days at Castle Combe Circuit.

I hope you found this short article useful.

Regards,

David White

BHP TrackDays Ltd

25 September 2014