Passing Etiquette

Published: December 22, 2012

Today we will go over passing rules and expectations, from beginner group all the way to advanced/instructor/open passing.


At beginner level passing is limited to designated passing zones. Frequently only longer straights are permitted to pass on.

Students who are very new and overwhelmed by what is going on at the track may be asked by their instructors to pass or give point-bys in only one of the passing zones.

Generally speaking, beginners do not set up passes. A car that is faster in corners will not always arrange to be right behind the car in front at the beginning of a passing zone. At the same time the driver in the slower car typically requires the faster car to be very close to their bumper to gite the point-by. As a result, frequently it takes several passing zones for the faster car to overtake the slower car.

Much of the passing in the beginner group is initiated by the instructor in the leading car. As a driver in the following car it is therefore a good idea to make yourself visible not only to the driver in the leading car but also to the instructor in the leading car (via passenger mirror).

Beginner groups are notorious for trains. The most frequent cause of trains is drivers in low horsepower cars who need a lot of instruction to stay on track or drive the line correctly. There is no time left between turns for instructor to draw the student's attention to cars behind them.

Intermediate With Passing Zones

The difference between beginner and intermediate drivers is intermediate drivers have more skill and higher awareness.

An intermediate driver in a slower car is supposed to see faster cars behind them before the faster cars get to their rear bumper.

An intermediate driver in a faster car is supposed to be ready to start a pass at the beginning of a passing zone. At the very least this means not sleeping through the corner preceding the passing zone. Frequently this means getting a run up on slower cars out of such corners.

Intermediate drivers are expected to be able to both pass and be passed safely in all of the passing zones available to them. This means that typically the following car expects a point-by at the next available passing zone, and if the leading car gives a point-by in a legal passing zone the leading car expects the following car to take it.

Trains do not usually happen in intermediate groups. Typically there is a higher horsepower car holding up a single lower horsepower car that takes the turns faster and runs a somewhat lower lap time. Usually these situations are resolved by talking to the leading car's driver in the pits after the session.

Intermediate Without Passing Zones

This is also called "passing anywhere wheels are straight".

I think as far as driver skill and awareness go, drivers running under these rules need, and possess, approximately intermediate driver skills. The difference is that those drivers who want to further develop their skills have more opportunities to do so.

When running in such a run group you can expect ot be given point-bys more aggressively. Generally this tends to avoid cars getting stuck behind other cars as the average time waiting for a point-by decreases. Therefore there is, paradoxically, less of a pressure on any given driver to give a prompt point-by.

Passing Anywhere With A Point-By

Now we are getting into advanced territory.

Some people refer to this as "open passing". This is not completely accurate; open passing does not require point-bys at all.

Many, but not all, advanced groups allow at least this much.

Practically speaking, "passing anywhere" means most often "passing in braking zones". Whereas in beginner and intermediate groups passes are supposed to be completed prior to braking for a corner, with both cars taking the "school line" through the corner, in advanced groups the pass may continue well into the braking zone and the corner itself, with both cars sharing the corner, usually until the apex.

Most passes in HPDE happen before corner apex. The car being passed tends to back off power enough to fall behind the passing car by the apex. Some organizations have rules disallowing "contesting corners".

Passing Anywhere Without A Point-By

This is typically reserved for instructor groups and open track days. Sometimes this is called "passing anywhere with or without a point-by", which is in practice more accurate.

Practically speaking, point-bys are never prohibited and many of the passes under no-point-by rules still happen after point-bys. In this case point-by is communication and display of courtesy from the leading car toward the following car.

The usual reason for omitting point-bys is to avoid faster cars getting stuck behind slower cars. The responsibility is on the faster car to pass in a spot where the slower car will not drive into them. In all cases a pass without a point-by must be safe, and it is on the passing car to make it safe.

In turn this allows cars with wide differences in speeds to share a run group. The slower cars do not need to worry about holding up faster cars. As long as slower cars are predictable the faster cars can get around them.

Tagged: intermediate, advanced