By Anker Berg-Sonne, Northeast Region PCA
As a beginner iRacer, one of the more depressing experiences is to have the leaders of the race lap you once, twice, or maybe more times. This may tempt you to try to drive faster and take more risks, but I think you will change your mind after this small math exercise!
The average lap time for the courses we normally drive in the PCA Sim Racing League is one to two minutes, and we typically run right around 40 minutes or 20 to 40 laps. So how much slower than the leaders can you drive without getting lapped on a two-minute course? 120 seconds divided by 20, that is 6 seconds!
To put that in perspective, in Zone 1 at the Road Atlanta race the range of fastest lap times for drivers running the Cayman GT4 was 1:28.6 to 1:32, 3.4 seconds. The number of times the slowest driver would lap the fastest driver in a 40-minute race would be 2400/88.6 – 2400/92 which is 1..001.
So, the fastest driver would just manage to lap the slowest driver if they both drove at their best lap time speed.
911 GT3 Cup
Looking at 911 GT3 drivers the range is 1:21.2 to 1:24.9. The number of times the fastest driver would lap the slowest driver would be 0.35! So, the fastest driver would only gain a third of a lap on the slowest in the entire race, again under optimal conditions.
In reality, at the end of the actual race, the fastest GT4 driver lapped the slowest 6 times, and the fastest GT3 driver lapped the slowest 9 times!
It’s not the speed differential!
So, it isn’t lap times that is the main factor spreading the field, it is something else! What is it?
Answer: Black flag penalties and loss of control!
The impact of penalties
The three main causes of black flag penalties are false starts, speeding in the pits, and exceeding the maximum number of incidents.
Typically, these are pit stop penalties of 10 to 30 seconds. If you are lucky, it’s just a drive-through penalty. The 10 to 30 seconds are the time you have to be stopped, but you need to add the driving time in the pits minus the time you drive at speed from pit entry to pit exit, typically 15 to 20 seconds.
So, if you are served a black flag penalty of 30 seconds you may lose roughly 50 seconds, which is the better part of a lap.
The impact of loss-of-control
The main causes of loss of control are excessive speed and collisions.
A simple spin will typically cost about 10 seconds. That is if you don’t have to wait for a gap in the traffic, in which case it can be an agonizing 20 to 30 seconds. Again, a big percentage of a lap.
If you also happen to damage your car, you may be lucky and be able to drive to the pits at reduced speed. Worst case you will need a tow. And if you don’t have any fast repairs you have to wait for those too. In a worst-case situation, this can cause you to be lapped several times, just because of one loss of control incident.
I am sure you see the point I am making.
On average, you will do much better by slowing down, avoiding black flag penalties, and losing control, than if you drove at 100% of your ability, or beyond!
Even better, you will make more friends if you don’t mess up other racers by driving beyond your abilities!