Words of Wisdom by Tony Mac
Part 1: What's your goal for the season?
You must have one. A goal is a wish until it's written down. Wishes don't come true. A goal is a target - something to aim for! You can have several goals; what you want now, short term, long term. Write them down on the whiteboard in the shed. It could be to:
- Finish every race every night
- Win the points
- Win the local champs
- Win the Grand Prix, North Islands or the big one - 1NZ on your door
- Get in the rep team
- Be the best stirrer
If you're in a contact class, have a crack at everybody, even your mates - you'll get everybody's respect. If you are selective, it becomes "personal". Every week analyse your performance, your gains and your losses. If you go backwards with a change think about it, maybe go in the opposite direction and don't be afraid to experiment. Only by making mistakes will you learn why and how. Don't be afraid of the wall. In the beginning if you don't crash you're not trying hard enough. "Push!" Find your car's and your own limits. That may sound harsh but most good drivers started out as bad drivers. But please look ahead - don't endanger other drivers. If you spin out try another line - change your set up. Don't just do the same thing every week - if you do you'll get the same result. You must experiment - learn and improve. The guys at the top constantly experiment. Watch the guns, glean information off them. Their lines, braking points, where and how they pick up the throttle. Look, listen, duplicate, become their apprentice. Talk to them, they started where you are. 99% of the guys will help - talk to them before or after the meeting. They are serious and they're there to win. Are you?
If your not improving your driving and your car every week you're going backwards. Your competitors surely are improving. Put the hours "in the shed". Do the hard yards so you can get to the top. Be respectful of other drivers gear - don't be a wimp. Be fair - they might not have your budget. Contact classes - save the crazy stuff for national events and teams races. Don't be too harsh on the opposition or you'll eventually have nobody to race.
Part 2: Planning and Organisation
Plan your season. What meetings you intend to do - be realistic - don't burn out yourself, your car, your crew or your budget. An organised team runs smoothly even under pressure. Every person on the team must have specific duties. You won't end up with "I thought you did that?"
- Ask your partner to clean your goggles and helmet
- Who takes the bonnet off?
- Who cools the engine?
- Who gasses up?
- Who changes the wheels and set up?
- Most importantly - one person should be responsible for tightening the wheel nuts. Yes use a torque on the wheel nuts then they don't get over-tightened and break. That person should also check the hub nuts ensuring that they are adjusted - split pinned or double nutted and locked together.
Give everybody a job. It involves all your family and crew - they feel useful and important to the success of the TEAM.
Setup and Record Book
You must have a set up book and use it every night, every race and every track you visit. Don't rely on memory! Write it down. Get an A-Z ring binder and have a header sheet under every track you race on. Next time you visit that track you can refer to all your last visits for set up, track conditions, driving style and how the track changes during the night, how it reacts to water and heat. What changes you made to wing, stagger, brakes, bias and wedge etc.
Something I've found useful is to use two pages at the front of your set up book.
- On one side list every possible change you and your crew can think of to tighten the car up
- On the opposite side list every possible change to loosen the set up.
When the pressure's on and the brain is scrambled - you can refer to these pages and just make decisions.
Part 3: Timing
Start your winter by rebuilding early. Plan what improvements you want to make. Ask how can we make this car faster next season? Look at all aspects.
- Down force
- Weight distribution
Look at everything.
Do the practices
- Don't just go out for a skid!
- This is the time to introduce some radical changes and see if they work
- Use a stop watch
Race opening night
- A good start creates a good result
- Early points leads are hard to beat
- Catch up is always more difficult
Be early to the track every night
- Think about what changes may be required to the set up
- What is needed to make these changes
- Who will perform them
- Also talk to other drivers - bounce ideas off them!
Part 4: Safety
You are it! You pay the price physically and financially. Almost all back injuries are seat related. You must have a strong seat that holds your hips and shoulders and also has good lumbar support. Helmet catch nets are cheap and essential. Just the sprint car type can save your neck in a hard side on crash - both sides of the helmet. Generally it's the whiplash effect on the opposing side that causes the most injuries.
- Read your rule book and follow the mounting instructions
- Get the mounting points perfect and ensure the belts pull straight from the mounting points and that the eyes are still in line with the belts when done up.
- Set up your anti-submarine belt so it holds the lap belt low over your hips when it's done up
- Get the lap belt tight first
- Push your feet on the pedals and force yourself back into the seat and get the lap belt tight. Don't just do the lap belt up around you - it wont be tight enough - get someone to help pull the lap belts tight.
- A lot of back injuries occour because drivers submarine because the lap belt wasn't tight enough.
- Only after the lap belt is tight pull the shoulder belts tight
- If the belts go through holes in your seat, make sure the edge of the hole is protected so it can't cut/fray the belt.
I strongly suggest that all the contact classes have a mouth guard. A mouth guard can prevent knock out not to mention dentist bills.
My old mate Graeme Gaskin's favourite saying is that "races are won and lost in the garage". If your car is unreliable, breaks down, misses or handles like a pig, week after week - you'll never win anything.
You invest your time and hard earned money to race, if you can't fix something properly find someone who can.
- Don't rely on your mate who may know less than you
- Commit everything in writing to your garage whiteboard or pad
- Spanner check the whole car every week
- Look for anything bent, cracked or leaking.
- And finally, get the crew to check the wheel nuts several times during the night.
Part 5: Set up Basics
Always set up in the same place every week.
- Inspect the whole car for bends or cracked parts. When you are cleaning the car - check as you go.
- Spanner check the whole car to ensure everything is tight!
- Grease all the joints - CRC/Oil all rose joints and move them to make sure they are not knuckled out and that the joints are in line (not one joint one way and the other end the opposite way)
- Disconnect the front and rear sway bars (if fitted)
- Check tyre stagger (the difference in circumference between the tyres on each side of the car)
- LF should be the same or 25mm smaller then the RF
- You should measure each wheel and mark with a felt pen the measurements by the valve cap.
- Rear stagger typically 3 to 5" in stock cars, but saloons and modifieds can be as much as 6 to 18"
- Find out what works for you - when you find it use it.
- Set tyre pressures LF 3 to lbs less than RF. LR 5 to 8 lbs less than RR
- Always check pressure build up - try to get the build up even
- Sit the driver (or same weight person) in the car - set the ride heights (can use either bumper or chassis heights just remember to always use the same points to measure from)
- Square the diff to the chassis. I mean square to within thousands of an inch. Depending on who built and how square your chassis is will depend on what you measure off - don't screw the diff in the hole.
- Once the diff is square, measure the left side wheel base then the right side wheelbase (with the front wheels facing straight ahead). I recommend 3 to 6mm lead on the RF (ride side wheelbase is slightly longer than the left)
- Check the camber and the caster of both front wheels.
- Set the front wheel alignment - I recommend 3 to 6mm of toe out. Put a ring mark around the tyres (hold a big screwdriver against the bumper, get someone to hold the steering wheel straight and get someone to spin the wheels, push the screwdriver against the tyre to make a scribe line right around the circumference of the tyre. Use these lines at front and rear of the tyres to set toe out.
- With the driver still in the car, place a small piece of angle iron on your jack and very slowly jack the car mid way between the two rear wheels. Keep lifting the diff until the second tyre has just left the ground. Get some different thickness of timber and use them as feeler blades under the most lifted wheel. That thickness is the "wedge".
I cant recommend whether you should set your car up so that the left rear or right rear that comes up first as it depends on tyre stagger, driver preference, track shape and experience. I will generalise and say that when you are running small amounts of stagger normally the LF of the car will be lifted higher up. New drivers will tend to be more comfortable with a LR up set up but then may slowly be able to grow into a RR up set up. You need to experiment to find what works for you. More LR up will make the car looser. RR up will tighten the car.
- Drop the car back to the floor. Settle the car, bounce the suspension and move it back and forwards a bit. Check the bumper heights with the driver still sitting in the car. You may need to adjust several times to get the wedge and the bumper heights right. Don't give up - you'll get better at it. Get it right!
- Once your happy with the wedge and ride height (driver still in) neutralize the front and rear sway bar links so the bars are not preloaded, bolts should just slide through.
- Check the steering at full opposite lock (it's hard to have too much but you must make sure the steering arms don't straighten out and the steering jams on full lock - not good!)
- Check the air filter is clean and you are getting full throttle.
- Check the oil levels, brake and clutch fluids, check the timing, hose clips, and hose connection - if in doubt replace a hose is cheaper than an engine.
- Invest the time in setting up. Generally remove stagger as the night goes on and don't play with the wedge until you know what you're doing even then only a small amount at a time. Adjust the car with tyre pressures and stagger.
- Another major area is brake bias. Generally the rear brake should lock up just before the front. More front brakes are needed as the night goes on to pull the car up more square. Most top cars run a smaller RF calliper than LF. You must not lock the RF under heavy braking (you will hit the wall!) - the brakes should pull to the left. You can remove pad material from the RF pads to achieve this.
Now you're all set up. Once you have perfected your ideal set up and you're winning races take detailed measurements and notes so if you have a bad crash you can get back to where you were before the crash.
Put the effort in - do the homework. Now get out there and kick some butt.
Win! Win! Win!
The Bullet - Tony Mac