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Becoming the B.E.S.T. ™ racing driver

Lay people often believe that being a good racing driver is just about having fast reaction times and being prepared to take more risks than anyone else.

As soon as you become actively involved in the sport, you soon realise it is about assembling a multitude of talents and resources. For a driver who wishes to build a career, there are four key areas they need to master. If any are missed it is like a table missing legs, it will inevitably fall over.
The four areas of the B.E.S.T. ™ acronym are:
  1. Business
  2. Entertainment
  3. Sport
  4. Technology

1. Business
Don Bradman may have been able to develop his cricket skills by spending hours hitting a golf ball against the wall with a cricket stump, but it is not that easy in racing. Time in a car costs money. Having access to the best equipment costs money, and it soon adds up. Now a young driver may have an enthusiastic family backing him through karts and the lower formulas, but sooner or later the expenses become painful. It is therefore essential at an early age to develop business acumen. This is a great life skill that will stand a driver in good stead, regardless of whether he fulfils all his driving aspirations.
 
2. Entertainment
When presenting a sponsorship proposal many novices give a statement of how much TV time that their car got and extrapolate it out with the TVC (television commercial) rate. This then equates to some huge mythical amount of money. However, any Marketing Manager or Managing Director will find this comical as a sticker on a car full of stickers, amongst other cars full of stickers, on a track full of signage, isn't equivalent to a dedicated company commercial. So to provide value to a sponsor a driver must be able to make them feel important at the track, to proactively network them with other people they can do business with, and be of sufficient interest to get relevant media coverage.
 
3. Sport
Lay people cannot understand that driving a car could possibly take a significant amount of effort. They do not appreciate the effect of G forces, or adrenaline that doesn't get fully burnt. When elite racing drivers attend the Institute of Sport they constantly surprise with their athleticism. You need to be at a level not just to be able to handle the strains, but to do so with ease so they are not a distraction.
 
4. Technology
There have been many drivers that do well in the lower formulas, but then fail to deliver as they advance. This is due to a lack of technical understanding in order to get the most from the car. The further they progress, the narrower the variance in driver ability and consequently the more critical is the car setup.
 
So question yourself.
  • Which of the four pillars are you best at?
  • Are there any you avoid?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities for improvement?

As you dip below the surface as a motor racing fan you recognise that every driver and team bring a different mix to the table. The competition may not always be equal or "fair", but it is always fascinating. And aren't the best times when  a Senna performs a David and Goliath act by taking a Toleman and humiliating the might of the most established teams?

Racing with your Mind

Brain

Racing is a mental activity. Everything is processed through your brain. Some of it consciously, and some unconsciously. Some automatic, and some with a lot of effort. The most effective and efficient way to improve laptimes is not to spend thousands of dollars on more powerful engines or sticky tyres, it’s to spend maybe thirty dollars on a book and invest the time required to learn and practice the knowledge contained within.

That racing is a mental activity is well understood by the world’s most successful racers. Those at the top level know that having a mental edge can be the difference between winning and being mid or rear field. They spend a lot of time and money on coaches, training and psychology in order to win. You can tap into this too, and for a tiny fraction of what the top guys spend.

There are a handful of racers willing to write down all the things that they have spent countless hours and dollars learning in order to win. Many of you will already have at least one Carroll Smith book. Most of you will have learned about ‘Think Fast’ by Neil Roberts from us last year. Now we’ve teamed up with Jon Newell to get the word out about another fantastic opportunity.

Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley is an awesome series of books sharing many of the secrets he learned while racing CART Indycars, and winning the Daytona 24 hour race, and even more that he has learned since in his quest to figure out what separates the winners from the also-rans. Ross Bentley has combined all the most useful parts of his earlier books into one essential volume - Ultimate Speed Secrets.

www.speedsecrets.com.au are giving away a copy of Ultimate Speed Secrets at each round of the 2012 Independent Race Series. The book will be awarded to the driver judged to be considered ‘most promising’ at each round. The book went to Peter Robinson at Round 1. If you want to know all the secrets now (and you should), you can buy a copy here, and it’s also available as a Kindle eBook here.

And if you really want to take it to the next level, head over to speedsecrets.com.au and sign up to their mailing list to receive all the information about the Ultimate Speed Secrets seminars that Jon Newell is collaborating with Ross Bentley and iRace to organize for 2013. You can also get information on Ross Bentley's terrific iPhone Driver Coach app.

SpeedsecretsTunethedriverDrivercoach



Handicap Racing

At iRace we work hard to promote hard, fair racing. We want the drivers in our series to develop, and to gain the maximum benefit from racing with us. We've evolved a variety of different race formats, including rolling starts, reverse grid races, and perhaps the most beneficial of all, the handicap race format.

The handicap race format allows cars and drivers of all different speeds to race together, and for everyone to have a chance of winning. The basic concept is that the slowest cars start first, with faster cars released in groups at calculated time intervals. In Acuform Muscle Division and K-Mac Touring Car Challenge, we spend a lot of time trying to perfect the groupings, and the time delay. We work out the delay based on the average laptime for each group (taking the fastest time for each member of the group and then averaging from there), and such that the groups should all come together at around 80 percent race distance. This leaves the remaining 20 percent of the race for overtaking. For example in a 10 lap race, we'll try to get everyone to merge on lap 8, with laps 9 and 10 where all the action happens, and the final race result is decided. Occasionally things work out perfectly, and we'll have the whole field covered by 10 or 20 seconds as they greet the chequered flag.

How can drivers maximise their chance of winning? Consistency. If you are able to put in the same laptimes lap after lap, you'll give yourself the best chance of being at the front at the finish. Spin, make a mistake, or lose time on the odd lap trying to hard, and you'll struggle to either: a) hold onto the lead you have (if you started at the head of the field), or b) make up ground on the slower cars ahead. Consistency is the key.

Some other top tips include: try not to lose time being overtaken, the best option is to brake a little early and let a faster car by - this will lose you the least amount of time (unless it's the last lap and you have a chance of keeping the lead!), if you are chasing, be patient - it's tempting to go hell for leather trying to catch the cars you can see so far ahead, but try to pace yourself, drive your markers, and put in smooth consistent laps (pushing too hard risks making mistakes and losing time). If you are out front early, just put your head down and go, go, go.

When you get it right, and handicap race can be the most fun you'll ever have in a racecar. It offers racecraft, strategy, overtaking, being overtaken, and best of all, a thrilling finish.

We were able to put together the following video, showing the perspective of cars at either end of the field as they make their way through a handicap race. Enjoy!


The Art of Overtaking

Overtaking is a tricky business. It’s part of motorsport, and one of the most exciting aspects. With the diverse range of cars in the Independent Race Series we see even more overtaking than most other circuit racing.

Done poorly, overtaking can cause unnecessary delays for both cars, and in the worst case damage and DNFs (think Vettel and Webber at Turkey last year). Done properly, and with respect, overtaking can be safe, efficient and exciting (think Webber and Hamilton carving through the field at China this year).

The aim of any overtaking manoeuvre is for the overtaking car to safely pass the car in front, and for both cars to continue on. Our previous feature article looked at how to avoid contact in general, click here for a refresher. Building on that information, let's have a look at some of the complications of overtaking.

For the overtaker:

  • The car to be overtaken is in your sights for a long (relatively) period of time - your attention is out the front of your car, so you see the car ahead for a significant period of time. This can lead to a failure to appreciate that the car you are approaching does not have the same awareness of your presence as you do of his.
  • You may be behind the car for long enough to see a sense of his rhythm. If the car ahead deviates from the normal rhythm you have observed, you may misinterpret this as him either giving way to you, or a small lose that you can take advantage of. This can cause problems if it was simply a small error or missed gear, wires can get crossed, and contact can occur.
  • Frustration may set in, and you may start to get impatient.

 

For the overtaken:

  • Your attention is naturally on the road ahead. Nobody drives fast by looking in the rear view mirror. A faster car may suddenly appear in your mirror (if you check it), or alongside you. In your eyes he came from nowhere, but in his eyes he was watching you for some time.

 

How to be passed

There is a right way and a wrong way to be passed, or perhaps better phrased as a fast way and a slow way. The wrong way is to position yourself such that the only way for the faster car to get through results in contact, or at the very least in both of you going off line and losing time. The right way involves either being passed on a straight, or on the approach to a corner. If the overtaking car is faster in a straight line, the pass on the straight is simple. To allow a faster car through on the approach to a corner, simply brake a little earlier, or for a little longer, while holding the normal line. This will allow the overtaking car through on the inside, and the instant he is past, you can release the braking pressure and take up the normal line an inch from his tail (watchout for cars following closely behind the overtaking car!) - you lose VERY little time by using this method, and reduce the likelihood of contact.

Last Word

The last word on this topic comes from the fantastic book "Think Fast" by Neil Roberts:

  1. It is your responsibility to see and avoid everything, everywhere, all the time.
  2. The car in front of you owns the entire width of the track, even if you are alongside, and even if you are about to lap that car. The car in front of you has the right to use any and all of the track, the curbs, and the grass, so any contact is your fault. The instant that the nose of your car edges ahead of the nose of the other car by one micron, the roles reverse. Now you own the entire width of the track, and you can drive anywhere you want.
  3. The way that you deal with nearby cars reveals how much you can be trusted.

Contact!

DSC_5016Driving race cars on the limit is a challenging activity. Add in variable track and weather conditions, plus other cars sharing the same piece of road, and it becomes a constantly changing and formidable task. Most of the time we get it right, and everyone is able to keep to their own piece of the track. Occasionally though, cars come in contact.

Contact between cars is obviously undesirable, and something that is not taken lightly by officials. There are some simple things to keep in mind though to help keep you out of strife, and ensure you're operating in the spirit of the Independent Race Series and maintaining harmony with your fellow competitors and respective their and your own investment.

Avoid contact in the first place


Seems pretty obvious, and the most effective way to do this is never to overtake anyone - obviously that is not a workable solution (nor one that we would encourage), so a better approach is needed.

Know your fellow competitors. You can start working on this before you even line up on the grid for a race. Other drivers racing line, braking points and on track demeanour will certainly be subtly different to your own. You can observe these things in practice and qualifying sessions, and you should work to build a mental database of what to expect from your competitors when you encounter them on track. Knowing what to expect from them will mean you are prepared if you see the other guy brake a little earlier, or turn in a little later. It will help you be ready for it, take advantage of it, and avoid contact.

Know the track. When you are practicing, as well as just learning the fastest way around a circuit, look for good, effective overtaking places. Generally you'll be looking for somewhere you can get a better run out of the preceding corner or a tow on the straight, to set yourself up in a favorable position approaching the braking zone. A long braking zone is good, and you'll also want a section where you can make the pass stick (where you can exit the corner firmly in the lead and pull a small gap on the next section). Sections like this are rare, so sometimes you need to look for the best compromise and file it away as one of your preferred overtaking places.

Know your car. The most important part of this is knowing your cars strengths relative to the competition. Is it lighter and nimbler? Or more powerful and stable? This will help you know where the best place to pass might be.

Know your limitations. If you consider all of the above, and know your own limitations: how late you can brake, how fast you can take each corner, how tight you can hold your line and so on, you should be able to successfully overtake without making contact.

Know when to back out. Sometimes you can line the perfect pass up, but the other guy doesn't see you, or is baulked by something out of your control - be on the lookout for this, and know when to play it safe and try the pass on the next lap, or on another corner.

If you make contact, apologise


The person you have made contact with may not always be in the most receptive mood, depending on the outcome (but hopefully you've applied most of the principles above, and the consequence of the contact was minor), but generally the sooner you can apologise, the more it means. If you gained an advantage on the circuit as a result of the contact, and you can redress the situation, do it as soon as you can - don't slam your brakes on in front of the other car, but blend out of the way and allow him back past (a good example of this can be seen here, where Daniel Flanagan inadvertently contacts Tony Grant and slows a couple of corners later to allow him back past).

If you have the chance to redress things during the race or not, you should always make the effort to apologise to the other driver in person.

Never make deliberate contact


Deliberate contact will not be tolerated in the Independent Race Series, you may receive anything from a warning to a complete ban from the series.

The role of the driver being overtaken


No racer likes to be overtaken, but there are a few things to keep in mind to minimize the likelihood of contact. Be aware of all the considerations mentioned above. Know what is going on around you - checking your mirrors will let you know if a car is gaining, the rate of closure should give you an idea if you should expect a move at the next corner. You're generally within your rights to defend your line, but you should not change your line once the other car has achieved an overlap. If you see another car going for a move that will clearly never work, sometimes it's best to just move aside for a moment and allow that car to go off on their own (rather than taking you with them).

Final thoughts


Racing is a tricky business. Racecars are expensive. Contact is something we should do our best to avoid, and if the worst does happen, apologise and endeavor to redress any advantage it may have gained you.


Most of all, remember these iRace principles:
We care about safety
We care about each other


Flagging Attention

Motor racing is dangerous. It's printed on every circuit admission ticket you've ever seen. But really, motor racing is for the most part a safe activity. Part of that safety is directly attributable to the communication and control of the Race Control team.

From time to time Race Control need to communicate directly with a driver or drivers. And the only way to do this is via flag signals. It's important that everyone knows exactly what each flag means, so the messages that are passed aren't misunderstood or ignored.

Below is a short refresher on what each flag means. This information can also be found in the iRace Series Rules & Regulations.

blacksm.png

Black Flag


Driver Action:
Enter the pitlane on the next lap

Reason for Use:
Shown when there has been an infringement or other problem


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Black and White Diagonal Flag


Driver Action:
Correct driving behaviour or standards

Reason for Use:
Warning flag shown when driver is behaving in an unsportsmanlike manner


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Chequered Flag


Driver Action:
Cease racing and return to pits or paddock

Reason for Use:
Marks the completion of the race or session


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Blue Flag


Driver Action:
Check mirrors and prepare to be overtaken

Reason for Use:
Usually waved when a faster car is approaching or attempting to overtake a lapped car


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Green Flag


Driver Action:
Resume racing

Reason for Use:
All clear ahead (usually after an incident zone)


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Black with Orange Disc Flag (Meatball)


Driver Action:
Stop at pit on the next lap

Reason for Use:
Vehicle has a mechanical problem which may cause a safety hazard


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Red Flag


Driver Action:
Stop racing, return to the grid or pitlane (as directed), be prepared to stop at any point, NO OVERTAKING

Reason for Use:
The race or session must be stopped for safety reasons, usually an on-track incident


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Red and Yellow Striped Flag


Driver Action:
Use caution the racing surface is degraded or slippery

Reason for Use:
The circuit is breaking up, or oil/coolant or debris on surface


whitesm.png

White Flag


Driver Action:
Use caution, slow moving vehicle on the circuit

Reason for Use:
Slow moving racecar or service vehicle on the circuit


yellowsm.png

Yellow Flag


Driver Action:
Slow, use caution, be prepared to stop or take avoiding action, NO OVERTAKING

Reason for Use:
An incident or obstruction on the circuit. Waved if partial blockage of the track, double-waved if significant blockage

Featured Product Wrap Up

featured product.pngWe've been slowly adding some articles to the Featured Product page, and have some great reviews and tutorials now available:


Head over and have a read, and if there is a product you would like to see reviewed, please get in touch by clicking here.

Roll On: How an Anti Roll Bar Works

Most racecars are fitted with at least one anti roll bar. Anti roll bars are a simple and effective way to fine tune the handling characteristics of a racecar, and yet they are often poorly understood and sometimes used incorrectly. This article will attempt to explain the three things an anti roll bar does, and why you might want to do these three things. Finally, it will attempt to provide an explanation of what change to make to your anti roll bar to achieve the result you want.

There are some technical explanations missing from this article. This is deliberate. We want to keep things as simple as possible, focussing mostly on what anti roll bar change to make to achieve the right result. For more in depth coverage of this topic, you might like to refer to Allan Staniforth's excellent book: Competition Car Suspension.


What does an Anti Roll Bar do?


Resists Roll
The anti roll bar (as is implicit in the name), resists roll. As a racecar drives through a corner, the anti roll bar works to resist compression in the outside suspension, and also works to resist extension in the inside suspension.

Increases Spring Rate
The anti roll bar increases the effective spring rate in the outside suspension when the car is going through a corner.

Transfers Weight
In a cornering situation, the anti roll bar works to transfer weight from the inside tyre to the outside tyre. If anti roll bars are fitted front and rear, the relative strength of the anti roll bars at each end will also work to transfer weight from front to rear or vice versa.


What does all this mean?


Resisting roll is generally a good thing. It maintains the racecar in a relatively stable platform. For an aero sensitive car, it will also keep the wings working at or near their optimum. Most cars also experience some camber change as the suspension moves through it's travel. Any change in camber from optimum means less of the tyre is in contact with the track - this means less grip. The roll resistance provided by an anti roll bar can help reduce this by keeping the tyre closer to optimum camber.

Increasing spring rate leads us into how we use the anti roll bar to tune the suspension. The static spring rate at each end of the car is normally selected to keep the tyre in contact with the track surface as much as possible. Too soft, and the suspension will deflect to the point where the bodywork/floor contacts the ground, or the suspension reaches the end of its travel. Too hard, and the tyre will spend most of its time skipping across the surface. If we go to the extreme, to solid suspension, the tyre will quickly become overloaded and skate through every corner. So, if we assume that the spring rate is already at optimum, an increase will result in some reduction of grip.

Weight transfer means that more of the cars total weight is carried by one wheel than the other. If we imagine a car that, when parked, has equal weight on every corner (say 250kg), all tyres will provide the same amount of grip. As this imaginary car enters a left hand corner, some of the weight is transferred to the outside tyres (the exact amount will depend on roll centre heights and other things beyond the scope of this article). If the anti roll bars front and rear are the same, the weight transfer at the front and rear will be the same. We now have 300kg on the right hand tyres, and 200kg on the left hand tyres. If we were to simplify things, we would assume that this means we now have 20% of our grip coming from each inside tyre, and 30% from each outside tyre - this is not accurate, the relationship between tyre load and resultant grip is not linear. The actual figures may be something more like: 15% from each inside tyre, and 35% from each outside tyre. If we stiffen the front anti roll bar (but leave the rear the same, the result may be something like: LF 180kg, RF 320kg, LR 200kg, RR 300kg. Because the load/grip curve is not linear, the amount of grip at each tyre will be something like: LF 10%, RF 38%, LR 15%, RR 37%. If we then compare total front grip to total rear grip, we see there is 48% at the front, and 52% at the rear. Stiffening the front anti roll bar has given us a higher proportion of grip at the rear. The car is now more likely to understeer.

Putting it into practice


There are a number of ways to remember what effect an anti roll bar change will have.

You may like to think of it as putting a stiffer anti roll bar at one end of the car, will 'tie-down' the opposite end, ie; a stiffer bar in the front will yield more rear grip.

Or you may consider that the anti roll bar reduces compliance at the end it is used, and reduces grip at that end of the car.

Both of these explanations overly simplify what is actually happening, but they do help to remember which way to make changes when adjusting setup at the circuit.

Essentially, to reduce understeer, you may try using a stiffer rear anti roll bar (trade offs will be reduced rear grip, worse power down for RWD cars), or a softer front anti roll bar may be more appropriate.

To reduce oversteer, go for a stiffer front anti roll bar, or soften the rear anti roll bar.

Further Reading




Disclaimer:


Remember, you are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make, and any adverse outcomes. This article is provided for reference only. Neither iRace or the author offer any warranty or any liability for any damage or injury caused by tweaking any racecar.

New Years Resolutions

4A3B45AB-6BBA-4C28-BF7A-459BD30E704A.jpgNobody 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!

  1. Forgetting the Bonnet Pins
  2. Forgetting to adjust the Tyre Pressures
  3. Running Out of Fuel
  4. Incorrectly Tensioned Wheel Nuts
  5. Oil Surge
  6. Flat Battery
  7. Something Left in the Boot
  8. Soft Brake Pedal
  9. Steering Wheel Off Centre
  10. 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!

Do you have something to add to this list? Head over to the iRace Facebook page and share your thoughts with everyone.

Crash Proofing

What is the cause of most aviation accidents:
Usually it is because someone does too much too soon, followed very quickly by too little too late.
— Steve Wilson, NTSB investigator




Introduction


It's something we don't like to think about too much. Crashing. But sometimes it happens. Mechanical failure, driver error, attempting to avoid someone elses error, pushing that little bit too hard - there are plenty of things that can lead to a crash, and once the trigger has happened, it's too late to be worrying about whether all the right protections are in place. They need to be complete before the car ever turns a wheel in anger.

So, in this article we're not going to be looking at what you can do to avoid having a crash (the doing "too much too soon" from the quote at the top), rather we'll look at what you can do to your racecar in advance to ensure that if you ever do end up in that situation you're not left with the second part of the quote: "too little too late".

It's not possible to make your car "crash proof", but it is possible to apply the maximum amount of thought, effort and preparation to provide yourself the maximum chance of survival, and minimum chance of injury.

Definition


The aviation world are the accepted experts when it comes to crashworthiness. And they define crashworthiness as follows:

The ability of an aircraft and its internal systems to protect occupants from injury in the event of a crash.

Substitute the word aircraft for racecar, and this sounds a lot like something we might want to achieve.

Principles


So, what are the principles and how do they apply to us?

The aviation industry uses an acronym to describe the specific areas for attention when assessing/improving crashworthiness. The acronym is CREEP.

C - Container
R - Restraint
E - Energy absorption
E - Environment (local)
P - Postcrash factors

That's great, but how do these apply to us?

Container


The container in an aircraft is the cockpit and cabin area - the space where people go. For us, it's the cockpit, or passenger cell.

Ideally the container will form a protective shell around the occupant(s) in the event of a crash. It should be strong, and protect as many sides as possible. The container needs to protect the occupant from external objects penetrating the skin, and also from other parts of the vehicle entering the cabin.

To improve the integrity of the container, racecars are often seam welded, strengthening panels may be added to parts of the skin. The rollcage is a very important feature of our container. Other things you can do is race with your windows up, and fit and use window nets. Some racecars feature side impact protection, in the form of carbon fibre slabs mounted to the side of the driver.

Restraint


Obviously restraint refers to any system or device which keeps the occupant(s) in position. This is desirable to avoid the occupant contacting parts of the inside of the container, or being ejected altogether.

In a racecar, the restraint must be strong. The stronger and wider the webbing of your multi-point harness, the more chance the harness has of keeping you in place. One sometimes overlooked part of the restraint is its mounting - the mounts must be strong, and not allow the restraint to come loose under impact conditions.

The basic lap-strap stops the midsection from moving forward. Shoulder straps stop the upper body from moving forward (or to the side), and crotch straps reduce the chance of 'submarining'.

A HANS device can be considered as an addition to the restraint system, and stops the head and neck being overextended, and greatly reduces the likelihood of neck injuries.

Window nets are another aspect of restraint (and crossover to the container section). Some cars also feature small straps connected to the arms to minimise the chance of flailing (sometimes seen in use in Sprintcars).

Energy Absorption


This refers to the ability of the vehicle to absorb some of the impact energy to reduce the impact loading on the occupant. The more absorption, the more time is available for deceleration, and the less force is applied to the occupant.

This can be seen vividly in the video above. The 'crumple-zones' of the late model car provide more time for the deceleration to occur, and the forces on the occupant are greatly reduced.

In our racecar, there is not a lot that can be done to improve energy absorption, it is inherited from the vehicle manufacturer. We can ensure that our car is correctly assembled and that all parts are in good repair (no rust!).

Local Environment


This means the area in the cabin around the occupants. Obviously you would not install sharp knives pointing at the driver so in an impact he has nowhere to go but to the knives.

Crashworthiness looks at all objects within reach of the occupant in a crash scenario - with restraints at full extension, and extremities (arms and legs) flailing. Sharp edges, switches, steering wheels are some common local environment hazards.

Have a good look at the cockpit of your car, and see if there is anything you would be happy to slam your hand against at full force, anywhere in reach of your arms, legs and head. If you find something, look at if it may be able to be relocated or 'de-lethalized' - put a foam cover over it, or otherwise reduce the consequence of an impact.

Postcrash Factors


This is what happens to the vehicle in the aftermath of a crash. Does fuel keep pumping through the fuel lines? Do the petrol/oil/lubricant tanks rupture and leak? Common postcrash hazards are: fire, fumes, fuel, oil and water.

The ideal scenario is to control these hazards at their source. In a racecar, a crash resistant fuel cell is much less likely to allow fuel out to start a fire. An automatic fuel pump cutoff will stop pumping fuel to the hot engine bay. A manual isolation switch will stop everything (if someone is able to activate it). Second best is dealing with the subsequent problem: extinguishing the fire, wearing flameproof nomex clothing etc.

There are many things we can do to help with postcrash factors including: fitting the best systems - fuel cell, fuel pump cutoff, leakproof catch tanks and reservoirs; wearing the best safety gear - nomex overalls and underwear; providing first aid equipment - serviceable fire extinguisher and manual cutoff switch.

The final part of postcrash factors is getting safely out of the vehicle. The restraint system must be easily released, and the doors must be easy to open and egress through. You should regularly familiarise yourself with escaping your racecar - try to imagine it is on fire, close your eyes, and practice getting out. It may save your life.

Conclusion


So, hopefully we never need to use this stuff. But, if we ever do, time spent thinking about, and addressing it now, may be enough to save your life, and you won't be relying on 'too little too late'.

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