Racing and large egos go hand in hand. Over the years, I've seen drivers make questionable, sometimes flat-out dangerous moves to gain a position in a low-stakes club race [prototype and GT car tangling 2-wide at 130mph through Bishops Bend; one of them got air-lifted]. I've seen racers refuse to admit fault for an honest mistake, at best offering a non-apology apology [sorry for hitting you, but you shouldn't be braking so early]. I've seen intelligent, mature adults lose their minds over on-track mishaps [condescendingly asking a national champion if this was his first race].
A considerable part of what draws us to racing is ego-driven: we're trying to prove ourselves as superior drivers, builders, and race engineers. And when we get beat, we don't want to admit that we came up short in one or all of those areas. It's easy to blame your lack of budget, the 7whp you're missing, or your competitor's questionable move under braking. Blame anything; just don't look inward.
Driving in HPDE and Time Trials, I haven't had much on-track drama with others, and thankfully, no car-to-car contact. In highly competitive virtual race fields (read: low stakes), more accidents and car contact occur than you would expect in real life, where binning a $90,000 MX5 Cup car could mean a hospital stay and a long-term pause on your racing career, or worse.
Unfortunately, in iRacing, I have found myself developing a bit of an ego. I've even bragged here on RE about my top 5% driver rating (it has since dropped significantly; serves me right). I don't like it, and I hope to nip it before it spills into my real racing.
For example, during week three of the GridLife iRacers Drop Top Series at Magny-Cours, I battled my way up from 7th to a podium position with just two laps left. With three fast competitors close behind me, my ordinarily relaxed demeanor behind the wheel suddenly got tense.
I did well for 1.75 of those final 2 laps, but with just four corners remaining, I fell for an inside-fake move in a braking zone. When the car behind me faked to the inside, I panicked, and in trying to defend down to the apex, I missed the corner. The guy who faked me out quickly went by, but there were still two more cars behind him. As I frantically tried to rejoin and salvage my race, my car got slammed on the passenger side, spinning me around.
At that moment, I felt a flood of emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment. But even in the heat of the moment, I knew the accident was my fault. Could the driver have given me more space? Maybe, to his detriment. In the end, though, it didn't matter. This wouldn't have happened if I hadn't fallen for the inside-fake and blown the corner.
How I reacted after the race was a poor showing of my character. Unprompted, the driver that hit me apologized. Instead of being gracious and commiserating about what could have been (he lost a position in the process, too), I responded poorly with snark and sarcasm, saying something along the lines of "yeah, why wouldn't you drive right through my door?"
I watched the replay and realized I could have handled my rejoin better. Sure, the other driver could have given me more space, but his actions were not intentional, malicious, or egregious. It was a racing accident that started with my own mistake.
He and I had some back-and-forth that I'm not proud of. He apologized, and I wasn't ready to let it go. Later on, I felt remorse for letting my ego get the best of me. I haven't had a chance to apologize to the guy, which could be part of the reason why I felt like writing this article. Getting it off my chest feels good.
I don't want to be that hot-headed racer. As I approach real-life wheel-to-wheel racing for the first time, I want to be safe, responsible, gracious, and understanding. If anything unfortunate happens, I want to be fast to listen and slow to talk. I want to be willing and able to accept responsibility for my role and unconditionally ask for forgiveness.
I know my actions are not infallible. I know mistakes happen all the time. I know I'm here to drive fast and have fun (it's the motto of RE, after all). I pray I can keep my ego in check.