At the weekend we were racing the Factory Suzuki by 44Teeth GSX-R125 at Knockhill in the six hour Freetech endurance race in very wet conditions. After a bit of a telling-off from the organisers and circuit officials about overtaking under yellow flags during practice, everyone behaved themselves during the race. Or so I thought. Because after the race, there were a lot of complaints made. Complaints made in relation to people’s overtaking. You see, there’s often a fine line between a good overtake and a bad one. So join us in an investigation of motorcycle racing, as we ask ‘good passes vs bad passes what’s the difference’?
Motorcycle racing is the same as any type of racing… passing someone on the inside is usually the easiest way to do it. It also tends to be the easiest way to ram into them, which is generally frowned upon. If you’re going to pass someone up the inside, on the approach to a corner, you really ought to get the pass started before they start turning in; show them a front wheel to let them know you’re there. If you don’t, they will turn in, and they’ll probably hit you.
Every now and then you might find yourself diving in for a last minute lunge. That’s alright as long as you’re committed and you make it through. If you don’t make it through though, you’ll probably cause a crash.
Good pass – Showing them your front wheel, so they know you’re there.
Bad pass – Ramming into the side of your opponent because you can’t get your bike stopped.
If you want to go the long way round you’re going to have to carry some serious speed. You’re also going to have to be prepared to use all of the track, and maybe even a little bit more. Because if you don’t get it done quickly enough, there’s a good chance your opponent will run you right out to the kerbs, whether he knows you’re there or not. ‘Around the outside’ passes tend to work best when you’ve got a sequence of corners, i.e. when going round the outside will put you on the inside for the next corner.
But if your brave, and really fast, you might just be able to sail round the outside and get passed. If you can, you’ll look like a real motorcycle racing hero.
Good pass – carrying enough speed to ride round the outside, and get passed before the corner exit.
Bad pass – doing a half arsed job, and getting yourself pushed out to the kerbs.
The block pass
Made popular in off-road racing, the block pass is one of the more dangerous manoeuvres in racing. Even if you do it cleanly it often upsets people and it will ruin your lap time, as well as theirs. But sometimes, it’s the only option. A block pass is literally putting your bike (and your body) in someone’s way, to block them. Hence the name. That means they’ve absolutely got to know you’re going to be there, or they‘ll definitely hit you.
A block pass on a fast corner isn’t a good idea. You need to make sure your assailant has ample time to change their trajectory or velocity. It’s also not a very good idea to block pass an inexperienced rider; you might find they haven’t got the skill to avoid smashing into you – and so do exactly that.
Good pass – putting your bike in front of them in a slow corner, in a controlled way.
Bad pass – trying a MotoGP style block pass on a trackday.
Accidents happen, and if the Freetech Endurance race from Knockhill is anything to go by, they happen a lot. But at every single level of racing, sometimes there’s a little bit of contact. Sometimes you get away with it, but more often than not someone ends up on the floor; if not all parties involved. So it’s best avoided.
If you’re racing with people you don’t know, expect the unexpected. Not everyone chooses the same line, not everyone carries the same amount of corner speed and not everyone expects to get block passed, all of a sudden, so don’t assume you know where someone is going to put their bike. Because you don’t.
Good pass – getting past someone without making any contact whatsoever.
Bad pass – any type of contact, really.
Play it safe
If you don’t think you can get past safely, wait until the next corner. Or the next lap. Because motorcycle racing is dangerous enough. One of the comments people made regarding the aforementioned Freetech Endurance race was “what’s the rush?”. Well, the thing is, in a race, there’s always a rush, and you need to get past people as soon as possible, so I don’t really buy the “what’s the rush?” thing.
That said, the goal is always to at least finish, and you’ll struggle to do that from the gravel trap. So if you think you might be able to make a pass, but it’s a bit iffy, or there’s a chance you’re going to wipe yourself (or someone else) out, it’s probably worth aborting the pass. Have another go in a corner or two’s time.
Good pass – waiting until you can do it without risking a crash.
Bad pass – being impatient and regretting it.