RC Racing Lines

The basics

What are racing lines

What is a racing line?

A race track is made up of corners that you drive around to complete a lap. A racing line is a strategic line around the corner to maximize you cars speed around it, by learning about the different strategies and when to use them you can get quicker lap times and better position yourself around other cars.

Here is a great video explaining racing lines really well.

-Chain Bear F1 | youtube

So, we've just learned what a basic racing line is, lets break it down into it's key parts.

  • Entry
  • Apex
  • Exit

The entry to a corner is where we choose the line, as you approach the corner you want to choose a braking point. A breaking point is the part of the track leading up to the corner where you will start to brake to slow the car down, picking a braking point helps you to take the corner more consistently because it lessens the amount of guessing or eyeballing it.

The apex of a corner is where you will cross from the outside of the track to the inside of the corner, as we've seen where you choose to do this will effect the speed of you car during entry and exit of the corner. An early apex will carry speed into a corner at the cost of a slower exit while a late apex will sacrifice entry speed for an increased exit speed.

The exit of a corner plays a big part in selecting a racing line, exiting onto a straight  you want to accelerate quickly where as a corner that exits into another corner you may want to be slower to set yourself up for the next turn.

With scale racing the cars are light and the can break/accelerate very quickly so the sooner they accelerate the quicker they will be.

Next we will have a look at some corners and see if we can select the best line to take.

Racing line selection

Corner 1

This corner is a basic 90ยบ corner with a straight on either side. Thinking about what we just learned and how RC cars can accelerate quickly, which line should you take?

Racing line selection

Multiple corners 

When it comes to corner it pays to think of them as part of a track instead of individual turns, this helps you pick your racing line to best set you up for the next section of track.  In this example you are entering the first turn of the complex after a straight away and exiting onto a straight away. Which racing line should you take?   

Setting up corners

Passing round corners

Overtaking round a corner 

Now that we know what a racing line is and understand the 3 parts of a corner lets look at how to set up an overtake round a corner.  Overtaking around a corner is one of the most common ways you will over take and be overtaken, this is because in a straight line it is harder to overtake without an advantage of a faster car.  Most RC clubs will minimize this by regulating the cars with a set of rules for set up, this makes for more competitive and close racing.

So, how do you overtake someone round a corner? Think about the racing lines we looked at earlier, the cars your racing with will most likely be trying to follow these lines too particularly experienced racers.  To make a pass you need to be aware of the car in front of you and what they are doing, this might even take a few laps, where are they fast? where are they slow? you've looking for the best place to make a move.  For example, if you're following a car you might notice that they struggle to brake in time for a corner or they're slower coming out of a turn. 

Okay great, you've found a spot where you can make a move, what next? The way in which you overtake the car in front of you depends on how they drive and where they are most vulnerable to an overtake maneuver, lets look at a few to get our head around them.


In this example the car in front is not slowing down enough to turn in for the apex of the corner, this leaves a gap for us to overtake it on the inside.

To do this we want to stay tucked behind the the car in front as long as possible for 2 reasons. One is you get a slight aerodynamic advantage but most importantly the driver has less time to react to you overtaking maneuver.

Now that we've waited as long as we can, pull out from behind them and begin the overtake.  The goal in this maneuver is to brake late and take a late apex allowing us to drive up the inside of our opponent and begin accelerating far earlier than them.  


Forcing them off the racing line.

If the car in front doesn't have a blatantly obvious area to attack like in the example like above then you may need to force them off the racing line, there are two main ways to do this.

First lets assume that the car in front is taking a good racing line around the corner, instead of leaving a gap.  

In this example we want to pull out from behind the car in front as late as we can and aim for an early apex, this is because like we learned before, an early apex allows us to enter the corner faster.  A faster entry to the corner will allow us to get along side of our opponent, now they cannot take the racing line as doing so will mean they turn into us and make contact which is bad sportsmanship and can even be penalized. Now that we have a good position on the track we can then run out wider to force the other car to concede and gain a position. 

Dummy or Fake Maneuver 

Another way to make a pass in to give the driver in front of us a "dummy maneuver", this is where you make it look like you're setting up a pass and once the driver moves his car to defend the maneuver switch and attack from the other side. This move works for two reasons, one, in the name of sportsman ship clubs often deem it "illegal" to weave back and forth to block a car behind you in a straight line and two, it is very difficult to move to defend once you have committed to a braking point and  racing line.  This again give us track position to control the other cars exit and make the pass stick.  

Lets look at an example of this in full scale racing in a Formula 1 race from 2007, don't worry the maneuver scales down to RC racing too.

See how the chasing car starts to drift towards the outside of the track the car in front moves over to defend so that the chasing car cannot get along side him on the outside? As soon as the lead car does this the chasing car moves to the inside of the track and with the track position he has controls the other cars exit by pushing them to the outside.

-Bono Huis | youtube 

Pressure them into a mistake 

The last method we will cover is forcing the driver in front into a mistake, with this method our intention is to keep the driver in front constantly guessing in the hope they will make an error whether it being from trying to cover an overtake you're not actually going to make or just from the pressure of us being right behind them.

Here are some examples 

In this clip the car in front has the pressure of knowing the car behind them is there looking for a way round, the chasing knows this and sets up for a dummy pass they never intended to take. The chase car moves to the right hand side and then quickly ducks back in behind to follow the normal racing line.  The driver of the car in front makes a mistake as a result of the pressure of taking the corner and defending.

-James Prentice | youtube

This next clip is a very clever way to force a mistake. The two cars are pretty evenly matched so rather than going for an overtake that may not stick, the chasing car stays right up next to the lead car but backs off and takes the corner normally. Caught up in defending their position, the driver in front brakes later and runs wide allowing the chase car to pass. 

Forcing mistakes is a great way to overtake but it is heavily dependent on the other drivers skill and experience. 

Passing questions

  • You should pull out from behind the car in front of you as soon as possible to give you lots of time to pass.
  • It's a good idea to plan your overtaking over a few laps.
  • You can control another cars exit from a corner by moving to the outside of the track to force them to concede the position.
  • You are allowed to make contact with other cars to force them to let you past

Name this maneuver

Name this maneuver

  • Switch back
  • Dummy pass
  • Lane change
  • Swerve and dive

Defending a position


Defensive cornering 

Right so now we've learnt how to drive a racing line and overtake other drivers next, we'll look at how to defend our selves from overtaking maneuvers. 

This video offers an excellent break down of both offensive maneuvers and how to defend against them, it uses full scale examples from a Formula 1 race but these can equally be applied to RC racing.

-Chain Bear F1 | youtube

One thing we do need to keep in mind that is different between these full scale examples and racing RC is the distance required to slow down an RC car when braking is significantly smaller. While this means there less opportunity to attack under braking it gives us longer to make defensive moves.

Assessment 1

What are the 3 main parts of a racing line?

  • Front
  • Exit
  • Axel
  • Entry
  • Back
  • Apex
  • Middle

Click on the apex of this corner

Advantages of different racing lines

  • Early Apex
    Fast Entry Speed, Slow Exit
  • Late Apex
    Slow Entry, Earlier Acceleration
  • Geometric Apex
    Fastest Average Speed

What is the advantage taking an early apex?

  • Put your answer option here
  • Put your answer option here

How many defensive moves can you make against an overtake?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

What does it mean to force a driver to make a mistake?

  • Run into them and bump them off the racing line
  • Stay close behind and pressure them with dummies and late braking
  • Give them room to get overly comfortable
  • Let other cars though and hope they crash

This corner has a straight on either side, which racing line is best?

Assessment 2

Optional final assessment

Optional final assessment 

Once you have completed the first assessment a practical test can be done at your local club meeting or with a friend,  you need another car to pass and to pass you.

The three stages are:

  • Complete 4 laps with a lap time difference of no more than 1 second
  • Start the other  car ahead of you and pass it within 4 laps
  • Start the other car behind you and stay in front for 4 laps