Nobody is infallible, and mistakes can happen. Sometimes the consequences are minor, but in racing the consequences can sometimes be a little more dire. To help you out with your New Years Resolutions, we thought it might be timely to put together a top ten list the most common 'rookie errors' made in racing, so you can vow to avoid them!
- Forgetting the Bonnet Pins
- Forgetting to adjust the Tyre Pressures
- Running Out of Fuel
- Incorrectly Tensioned Wheel Nuts
- Oil Surge
- Flat Battery
- Something Left in the Boot
- Soft Brake Pedal
- Steering Wheel Off Centre
- Left Something Important at Home
1. Forgetting the Bonnet Pins
This has happened to many a sedan-mounted racer. It usually occurs as the result of an interrupted routine, or lowering the bonnet, with the person thinking they will come back to it, or someone new to the team. As the racecar heads out on track, the airflow lifts the bonnet, usually smashing it into the windscreen, often damaging the bonnet and the windscreen. It's also not very good for the driver's vision, and heavy braking almost never causes the bonnet to close again. It usually means at best a trip back to the pits, at worst a new bonnet and windscreen.
To avoid this, have a rule: anytime the bonnet is closed (for ANY reason), the pins are fastened. It's also a good idea to add a check of the bonnet pins to your pre-session checklist.
2. Forgetting to adjust the Tyre Pressures
New tyres are awesome. Wasting their best grip is not awesome. The easiest way to do this is to forget to reset the correct pressures after new tyres have come back from the tyre truck and been fitted to the car. If the pressures are too high, the crown of the tyre will overheat and the tyre will feel greasy. If the pressures are too low, the tyre will move around a lot, and probably overheat (and feel greasy).
To avoid this, add a final check of the tyre pressures to your pre-session checklist. Make sure your mechanics know what the cold pressures should be.
3. Running Out of Fuel
This has happened to more people than would care to admit it. It's usually blamed on fuel pressure or fuel pump problems. That almost always means the car ran out of fuel. If you're very lucky, the car will stutter and allow you to limp back to the pits for a refill. If you're unlucky, the car will stop working on the track, taking you out of the session or race altogether.
To avoid this, designate one of your crew as 'fuel man'. Add a confirmation of fuel state to your pre-session checklist. Do not rely on fuel gauges. For some types of tank a 'dipstick' may be appropriate.
4. Incorrectly Tensioned Wheel Nuts
There are three scenarios here. Nuts can either be too tight, too loose, or missing altogether.
If the nuts are too loose, they will likely vibrate looser, allow the wheel to move on the hub, which will cause more vibration and expedite the further loosening of the nut, and ultimately cause the wheel to fall off. That is bad.
If the nuts are too tight, as things start to warm up and move around, the wheel studs will probably break. Once a couple break, there is more load on those remaining, and the wheel will fall off. That is bad.
If there are studs or nuts missing, eventually the remaining studs will give up and the wheel will fall off. You know what that is. Bad.
To avoid this: tension the wheel nuts at the beginning of the day, when the wheels are cool. Add it to your pre-session checklist. Avoid the temptation to tighten wheel nuts when the wheels/brakes/etc are hot.
5. Oil Surge
Oil surge is common to wet-sumped, production-based cars (and, believe it or not, some purpose built cars too). It happens when the car goes around a corner fast, generates lateral forces, and causes the oil to move to the part of the sump on the outside of the corner. Invariably the car will also have rolled to the outside of the corner, exacerbating the problem. When the oil moves, it sometimes moves away from the oil pump pickup (usually placed in what is, under normal conditions, the lowest part of the sump). If the pump picks up air, it pumps air to the bearings, and air doesn't do much lubricating. In the best case, your car will run a little hotter, maybe blow a little smoke. In the worst case, your bearings will seize, the engine will stop, and you will need to walk back to the pits.
To avoid this, there are a few options: 1) Fit a good dry sump. 2) Fit an oil accumulator
. 3) Try baffling your wet sump, and improving the pickup position/arrangement. 4) Try running a little extra oil in your wet sump (this is not ideal as you will get windage). 5) Bring plenty of spare engines.
6. Flat Battery
Most cars refuse to start when the battery is flat. A bump or jump start may be an option, but is not ideal.
To avoid this, always charge your battery between race meetings. Always turn your battery and accessories off between sessions. If you can, carry a spare, charged battery in your spares kit.
7. Something Left in the Boot
Never happens. Yeah right. It may be something that was in the boot for the trip to the circuit. It may be a tool, or some leftover parts. It may actually be in the cockpit. Either way, it's a hazard. It can damage oil, fuel or hydraulic lines. It can damage the driver. If it's really heavy, it can upset the centre of gravity.
To avoid this, check your whole vehicle for loose articles before every session. Add it to your pre-session checklist!
8. Soft Brake Pedal
This can manifest in two different ways: as soon as you drive out of the pits, or once you start hammering the car.
If it's as you drive out of the pits, it's usually because the brakes haven't been bled, and there is air in the system. Bleed your brakes.
If it is when you are hammering the car, it can be quite off putting. The brakes work, but the pedal never ends up in the same spot (this can make heel-toe difficult). There are a few things that can cause this - very hot brake fluid, very hot pads, pad knock-off (either due to warps in the disc, or if the hub is moving relative to the caliper over kerbs or similar). The best way to avoid it is to tap the brake pedal (softly, not enough to slow the car) on the straight. This will reset the pedal position, and should give you a firm pedal in the braking zone.
9. Steering Wheel Off Centre
Having the steering wheel off centre is not the end of the world, but it can be a little off putting to the driver. There are usually two scenarios when it can happen. 1) The steering wheel is on a quick release hub, and is aligned incorrectly when fitted (or the 'slow release' splines are incorrectly aligned when the steering wheel is installed). 2) The wheel alignment is completed with the steering wheel off centre.
To avoid this: 1) Clearly mark the splines and the hub so the wheel can be installed on the same position every time. 2) Put a small strip on the very centre of the top of the steering wheel, align this with part of the cockpit/dash, and lock the wheel in place when doing a wheel alignment.
10. Left Something Important at Home
Sometimes it's your racing licence, or your helmet. Sometimes it's a crucial tool, or a part of the car that you really need. Either way it's a large inconvenience, and could preclude you from competing at that meeting.
To avoid this, create a packlist. List everything you need to take to every race meeting (or at least the mission critical items). If you like, you can laminate it and tick things off each time you pack.
So, there you go. Plenty of things to think about avoiding the next time you go racing. You may have noticed that a "pre-session checklist" featured a number of times. It's a very simple way to ensure that very simple mistakes don't happen to you. Perhaps your New Years Resolution could be to make (and use) a pre-session checklist...
Happy New Year!
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