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Sim Racing - How to start a race
This article is not about how to pull off the line perfectly, that can be worked out in your own time, especially as different cars require different revs for the perfect start. This article is more about self preservation at the start of a race and giving yourself the best chance of making it through turn one unscathed.

There is no definitive answer to the question: How should I start a race when sim racing? Every race start is different. However, there are many things you can do to improve your start procedure and to protect yourself from the cars around you.

The start of the race is potentially the most dangerous situation you'll be involved in. Cold tyres, numerous cars in close proximity, potentially different driver abilities/awarness and the fact that it's very hard to re-create a race start mean that you must be on guard. The likelihood is that the adrenalin that you develop throughout the race will not have kicked in yet, so you really do need full concentration. I don't really have an extact strategy before a race starts, but I know that the race can't be won in the first corner, but it can be lost. My intentions are always to make it through the first lap(s) unscathed. If I lose a couple of positions but remain without damage, so be it, however, if the opportunity to safely make progress and positions, then never hesitate to take advantage of these opportunities.

When sitting on the grid, there are a few things I routinely do. Firstly, look around yourself. Pay attention to the colour of the cars around you, infront, behind and especially on the other side of the starting grid to your position. Take extra care to make sure you see all the cars around you, as quite often due to the staggered nature of gridding, one car will be in your blind spot. Knowing what's around you allows you to build a mental picture of who is where and what colour car they are driving. This will prove especially helpful as you approach turn one in determining how safe you are, and how and where to position your car.

Secondly, which side of the grid are you on? Which direction is the first corner? For example if you are on the left side of the grid and the first corner is a right hander, think about getting as far left as soon as possible after pulling off the line. This may mean losing a position or two at the start, but it gives options approaching the first turn. No-one can overtake on the left side, this means only having to concentrate on what is happening behind, ahead and to the right hand side. Danger has been reduced by 25%, just from car positioning.

Not only is this theoretically safer, but it also reduces the area of vision to concentrate on. This in turn means there is less to think about, freeing up the mind. The less the mind has to process at once in a short space of time, the better the chances of making good split second decisions.

Due to the car positioning chosen, if someone decides to make a silly move down the inside, there should be plenty of run off area that can be utilised at turn one, to avoid being tagged from behind. As well as watching your mirrors, you must anticipate what is happening ahead. Not just immediately infront of you but also rows ahead.

If you happen to be on the right hand side of the grid and the first corner is a right hander, you need to be very careful that you don't brake too late. If you brake too late and lock up, you are liable to understeer straight into other cars on your left and the outside line of the corner. So make sure you brake early enough to hold your line.

Video clip: Being overly aggressive at the race start and causing incidents.

If you Brake early it should aid you in getting a good exit from the corner, despite the tight line on entry to the corner. At the same time it will cover any attempted overtakes down your inside, so essentially you only really have to worry about whoever is ahead of you and to your left, taking the long way around the corner. Because you're not travelling as fast as normal approaching turn one, due to starting from a standstill, your normal braking points will go out of the window. This doesn't mean just brake at a random point, just brake slightly later than you normally would when at full speed, unless something untoward has happened ahead of you. It still makes sense to err on the side of caution though, it's better to brake too early, rather than too late for the first corner. You will also find that if you are not on the front row of the grid, the concertina effect will be in play, so you must be wary of this.

Video clip: Being cautious at the race start and avoiding incidents.

In the clip below, I make a very cautious start, staying out of trouble, losing a place, but by the end of lap two I am leading. As started previously, you can't win a race in the first corner, but you can lose it.

Video clip: Cautious start, losing one position, but regained by the end of lap 2.
(First two gear changes had clutch stuck at 75%!)


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