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Sim Racing - Multi Class Racing
If you've been sim racing for a long time and raced a lot, you will probably have noticed that not every race is action packed. Sometimes, after the race start the field of sim racers just assume their natural pace and the field strings out and there's no battling - or very little, it's just a case of trying to free your mind, getting into a rhythm and counting down the laps. Before you know it the race is over and you realise it was a pretty dull affair. I have been in these sort of races, for me these races have tended to be single-seater races. I longed for action, much like a poker player at a cash table, yet the action never materialised.

If you know the feeling and are wondering how to make your racing more interesting, try multi-class sim racing.

Multi-class racing involves multiple classes of cars competing in one race, with the aim to win the race class in which you are competing. Usually this race takes the format of an endurance race, but not exclusively. Separate classes - races within a race - the idea being to safely negotiate and not impede any of the other closely contested class battles, whilst losing the minimum amount of time possible yourself. The video below is a pretty good example of this.

Video clip: Respect and a bit of give and take between classes.

Whichever class of virtual racecar you choose to drive, there is pretty much always something going on, or if not, there soon will be. Backmarkers are a common occurrence when driving the quicker cars and you’re often being lapped if you’re driving one of the slower cars. This presents the sim racing action junky with their desired fix.

During multi-class races one of the most important aspects when in traffic with the other class is to make your intentions clear, as early as possible. To avoid hampering the other class(s) of car you use car positioning to express to other cars around you your intentions, and what you want them to do. You can even dab your brakes - to flash your brake lights - whilst full throttle to let the faster class of car know that you are aware of them and want them to pass you. This is not mandatory, but a technique I like to employ in certain situations, just for safety and clarification.

I've driven in both the fastest car class and the slowest. Both present different challenges to the sim racer, however, I think I preferred driving the slower class of car, as when the leaders come around not only do you have to be highly alert, but it's also a chance to use racecraft and car positioning to attempt to gain time on your class opponents, whether they are ahead or behind. Quite often in a multi-class race - the race itself - can be won or lost in these moments of traffic.

Video clip: Okayama multi class traffic.

As the slower car when the traffic from the faster class appears, your duty is to try not to hinder the overtaking cars, especially the cars that are battling with each other, whilst losing yourself the least amount of time possible. One of the keys to multi-class sim racing is how efficiently you deal with traffic. The driver who can maximise the gain in traffic, or minimise the time loss in traffic will have a great shot at winning their class of the race.

The video clip below shows a multi class race at Road America (faster car Corvette, slower car Ford GT). I'm driving a Ford GT, battling to hold my position. The black Ford GT was ahead of me a few laps previously until they spun their car. The leading Corvettes are advancing quickly and about to lap us. I'm trying to not lose too much time, but also if possible trying not to disturb any close battles, whilst running my own race. You have to be accomodating to the other class of car, without impeding yourself. It's a balancing act between self preservation, trying not to be an obstruction, obviousness of position and trying to prosper over your opponent.

Video clip: Multi class traffic at Road America.

As the faster class of car, you have to realise that in some situations you will have to show patience and lose a bit of time, due to the fact that the slower class of cars ahead are embrolied in their own fierce battle. They may be battling two wide through corners, you will have to bide your time before you can pass. The two battling cars in the other class will be aware of your presence and will be doing all they can to allow you past as soon as possible without comprimising themselves, however, they are not obligated to give you precedence. A good example of this can be seen in the video below. The two Ford GT's are two wide through the last series of corners, but as soon as they get onto the main straight they allow the two HPD-ARX 01c's to pass, without relenting in their own personal battle.

Video clip: Multi class battle in traffic at Okayama.

In multi class racing the slower classed car should pick their line when being approached by a faster classed car. The slower classed car should make their intentions clear, as early as possible to allow the faster classed car to pass without endangering or hindering each other. As long as the slower car holds their line and positions their car early, it is the duty of the faster car to pass in a responsible and respectful fashion.

Some multi class overtakes are simple straightforward affairs that take place on corner exit or along a straight, whilst others can be slightly more complex.

The main danger occurs when an overtake takes place in a braking zone, especially if the faster classed car doesn't get it done before the apex or if the faster car misjudges the closing speeds between the different classed cars. If trying to overtake another class of car in a braking zone, try and get it done before the apex, it makes things a lot easier for both parties. If overtaking on corner exit the only thing to bear in mind is that the slower car will generally have less downforce than the faster car so it is likely to track out. As long as the faster car is mindful of this, there should be no real danger.

The more experience you gain from driving in multi-class events the more race craft you can employ. When battling with a car in your class you can use the traffic in and around you for your benefit strategically. This advanced driving technique requires a good understanding of closing speeds between classes and also great situational awareness. Quick thinking and good car positioning against your opponent can allow you to gain an advantage by using other classed cars to your advantage, or even cars in your own class if they are off the pace. A good example of boxing an opponent in using traffic is illustrated below - utilising a slow car of the same class.

Video clip: Using a slower car to whilst battling to make the pass.

If multi-class racing sounds appealing and you decide to race in a multi-class event keep in mind the following points.

Always make your intentions clear, as early as possible.
Always be thinking about closing speeds of different classes.
Always expect the unexpected - err on the side of caution rather than risk.
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