The Meaning Of "Faster" In HPDE
Published: May 2, 2013
In HPDE, the word "faster" as in "I am faster than you" means a very specific thing, and that thing is lap time.
On Track - Comparison Between Cars - Actual Lap Time
Given two cars running in the same session, the slower car should point the faster car by. Which car is the faster one? It is the car which runs a lower lap time. If both cars were allowed to run by themselves, then whichever car turned lower lap times would be the faster car.
In a situation where one car is behind the other car, if the following car is directly behind the leading car at some point on the course, and the next lap the following car is still behind the leading car at the same point on the course, then given clean track the following car would have turned a lower lap time than the leading car, and therefore the following car is faster than the leading car.
In the context of car to car comparisons, none of the following factors individually determine which car is faster:
- Horsepower. A high horsepower car driven poorly can lap a circuit slower than a low horsepower car driven masterfully.
- Handling. A car with great handling can lap a circuit slower than a car with poor handling but a lot of power to compensate for the lack of handling.
- Driver skill. Same situation as handling, driver skill is worth a lot in HPDE especially but a 500 hp Corvette driven by an intermediate level HPDE driver is likely to run lower lap times than a 120 hp Miata driven by an advanced driver.
However the faster car achieves its lap times, be that through horsepower, race tires, driver skill or a combination of these, the definition of "faster" is lap time. Sometimes this means Corvettes should point by Miatas. At other times it means Miatas should point by automatic transmission family cars.
It should now be clear that both of the following scenarios demonstrate the leading car's poor track manners:
- A Corvette is in front and pulls away from a Miata on the straight parts of the track, only to be caught by the Miata in turn 1 on each lap.
- A Miata is in front and pulls away from a Corvette on the technical parts of the track, only to be caught by the Corvette at the end of the main straight on each lap.
The rule is extremely simple and straightforward: If the car is behind you, and one lap later at the same point on the track is behind you again, that car is faster than you are and should be pointed by.
Off Track - Comparison Between Drivers - Lap Time In Identical Cars
When drivers are compared in HPDE context, usually this is done supposing they drive the same car. For example, if Driver A runs a 1:02 lap time in a 120 hp Miata and Driver B runs a 1:01 lap time in a 500 hp Corvette, then if both drivers drove either the Miata or the Corvette it is quite likely that Driver A's lap time will be significantly lower than Driver B's lap time, and therefore Driver A is faster than Driver B.
Off Track - Gridding - Comparison Between Cars
However, if the comparison is happening for the purposes of gridding, such as during a Time Trial competition, then the actual lap times that each car runs defines how fast that car is, not relative skill of drivers. This means that a group gridded by lap time can have a Corvette in front of a Miata, and the Miata can be on Corvette's bumper for most of a lap, except the main straight when Corvette would pull away.
A modified example is an advanced and consistent driver in a Miata gridded behind a novice driver in a Corvette. Even though the Corvette eventually runs a lower lap time than the Miata, it may take multiple laps for Corvette to get close to its best lap time whereas the Miata might hit the same vicinity within one lap. In such cases Miata would, unfortunately, need to leave plenty of room to clearance itself from the Corvette for the initial laps.