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Words of Wisdom 

By Tony Mac

45 Years of Experience – Driving, Championship Winner, Car Set-Up, Car Designer, Constructor


Part 1: What Are Your Goals For The Season?

You must have them. A goal is a wish until it’s written down. Wishes don’t come true. A goal is something to aim for! You can have lots of goals; what you want now - short term and a long term target.  Write them down on the whiteboard in the shed – check your progress.

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

  • Win best-presented car

  • Most improved driver


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 or spin out 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 from watching them or following their lines, braking points, where and how they pick up the throttle. Look, listen, duplicate, become their apprentice. Talk to them before or after the Meeting (not during).  They started where you are. 99% of the drivers will help.


They are serious and they’re there to win. Are you?

If you’re 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 your local 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. There’s only one person in the car, but speedway is a team sport. Getting a good crew makes things more fun and 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?”

  • Get a whiteboard in your trailer and write down each person's name next to the task to create clarity of roles

  • 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 wrench on the wheel nuts – they don’t get over-tightened which will cause them to break. That person should also check the hub nuts ensuring that they are adjusted – split pinned or double nutted and locked together.

  • Write down your starting position for every race, and who you are behind – on the whiteboard


Give everybody a job. It involves all your family and crew – they feel useful and important to the success of the TEAM.

Set-Up Book:-  You must have a setup 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, wedge, gearing, shocks etc.  What tyres were the fastest drivers using? 


When you are away to a Championship, walk the track.  Look at the corners, camber, wet patches, where it tightens up, entry/exit.  Pick up some track material, feel it in your hands. Grand Parades.  Look at the Track – where is the drive going to be.  Watch the locals in the Practices, duplicate their lines.  They know their home track!


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 rebuilding early. Plan what improvements you want to make during the current season, so when the off season comes you already have a wish list. Ask how can we make this car faster next season?


Look at all aspects.

  • Aerodynamics.  Down Force & Less Drag

  • Traction, Traction, Traction

  • Motor

  • Suspension

  • Weight distribution

  • Brakes

  • Steering

  • Chassis


There are generally more gains from driving style, traction, brakes, weight distribution, handling than more power from the motor.


Look at everything.


10 small improvements add up on the track to a Winner.

To be fast you must be comfortable, relaxed and the car be neutral handling, not under steering or over steering.  When you and the car are in sync you will win races.  Find out at the Practices if your winter changes improved the car.


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 on points is always more difficult

  • When you go out on the track to line up, have a good hard look at the track. Where is the drive, where is it sloppy or slick? What line will I take on the first lap?


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? Get the gear out – lay your race clothing and helmet out early, get the jack etc. out – be prepared.

  • Also talk to other drivers – bounce ideas off them!


Part 5: Sponsorship - By Marketing Guru – Shane Davis 7W


It’s not a gift to help you race.  Your Sponsor expects something in return for their money or goods. 


  1. Who could you approach for sponsorship?
    Consider who might get something out of your car being on the track. Think about the feeling that person will get being part of a well prepared, competitive race team. Think local first. Think about people that have expressed an interest in what you are doing.

  2. Put a proposal together...
    Consider a premium sponsor that is sign written on both sides of the car – and call your team the “ABC” race team, with the price more than others – and then other contributing sponsors spots elsewhere on the race car. Make the proposal short but punchy. Include photos. Think about how you could use your car to improve their business…..e.g. static displays at their work, having their employees come along to a race night with BBQ with you, writing updates for their work newsletters etc…

  3. Ensure the car is well presented
    This means doing your best to have it presented exceptionally – and to the best of your ability. Consider having someone help with design and signage to have the car look right. A well-presented car looks fast standing still and will get more attention

  4. Once you have sponsors, acknowledge and appreciate their help by

    1. Keeping your sponsors informed at least every couple of race meetings. Make it personal just to them and thank them every time for supporting you.

    2. Talking to people about who supports you. Use word of mouth and social media and unashamedly plug those that support you.

    3. Cleaning your car between races. Be proud of your race car and keep the presentation at its best.

    4. Most important….. make them feel a part of the team. Make sure all your crew know who they are and welcome them every time you see them

    5. Give them some merchandise, if doing T-Shirts etc. and a framed photo of the car with thanks for their support.


Part 6: 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.



Do the right thing in the pits. Have axle stands and use them every time you jack. Don’t allow people to smoke around your car. Drive slowly in the pits, especially when there’s spectators around. Have covered in shoes, and in general make sure you and your crew take safety seriously


The Seat must fit you with no slop.  If you are flopping around in the seat you will get hurt in a big hit.  Modify or pad the seat to fit you.


Seat belts

  • 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 won’t be tight enough – get someone to help pull the lap belts tight or if you have ratchet belts get them super tight.

  • A lot of back injuries occur because drivers submarine because the lap belt wasn’t tight enough.

  • Only after the lap belt is tight then 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.

  • *CRUCIAL* – Make sure the shoulder mounts are at your shoulder height when belted into the seat.  If they are below shoulder height you are in serious danger of breaking vertebrae in your back in a hard crash.  The belts will pull down on your shoulders and hurt your back. 

Mouth Guards

  • I strongly suggest that all the contact classes wear a mouthguard. A mouthguard can prevent knockouts not to mention dentist bills.


Part 7: Driving & Car Preparation

Think about your Driving.  BE SMOOTH.  Our best drivers are coming from Mini Stocks and Go Karts.  They learn about momentum and smoothness.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a 100cc Go Cart or a 900hp Sprintcar, smoothness is the key – Pedals & Steering Wheel.  If you’re jumping on the pedals and waving the steering wheel, you’re losing momentum.

The hardest adjustment in a car is the “Nut behind the Wheel”.  Be your own worst critic.  Get a top driver to watch you and suggest changes to your lines, braking points, brake application.  Look at the track.  Where is the drive? It’s not in the black slick area.  Slow down to speed up.  Don’t overdrive the car by jumping on the pedals and swinging on the wheel.  BE SMOOTH.


Car Preparation

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. 

Wash the car on Sunday and get it into the shed.  Go over the car every week and ask “How can I make this car better for the next Meeting?” Get a whiteboard in the shed and write everything down in two lists. One under maintenance which is down week to week, and one under improvements which are done as time and budget allows 


Get serious

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

  • 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.

  • If the motor is not performing and you can’t sort out a misfire etc. Dyno the car – put it under load


Part 8: Set up Basics

Always set up in the same place every week.

  1. Inspect the whole car for bends or cracked parts. When you are cleaning the car – check as you go.

  2. Spanner check the whole car to ensure everything is tight!

  3. 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)

  4. Disconnect the front and rear sway bars (if fitted)

  5. Check tyre pressure & stagger (the stagger difference in circumference between the tyres on each side of the car)

  6. LF should be the same or 25mm smaller in circumference than the RF

  7. You should measure the circumference of each wheel you carry and mark with a felt pen the circumference by the valve cap.

  8. Rear stagger typically 3 to 5” in stock cars, but saloons and modifieds can be as much as 6 to 18”

  9. Find out what works for you – when you find it use it.

  10. Set tyre pressures LF 3 lbs less than RF. LR 5 to 8 lbs less than RR

  11. Always check pressure build up immediately after a race – try to get the pressure build up even on both rear tyres

  12. 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)

  13. Square the diff to the chassis. This means making sure your back axle is the same distance on both sides from your rear bumper, at ride height, on your set up pad.  I mean square to within one mm. 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.

  14. 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)

  15. Check the camber and the caster of both front wheels.  Even use a big steel square off the concrete floor and measure the gap at the top of the wheel.  If that gap changes something is bent.

  16. 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 edge 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.  If you have a slightly bent wheel these lines are straight to set the tow in. 

  17. 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 jacking 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”.

    Wedge:  I can’t recommend whether you should set your car up so that the left rear or right rear comes up off the ground 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 LR 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.  I recommend no more than 10 to 15 mm under the RR up, any more and you will start to lose side bites. Some drivers now have access to scales for each wheel to assist setup and this adds a degree of accuracy to your setup.

  18. 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!

  19. Once you’re 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.

  20. 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!)

  21. Check the air filter is clean and you are getting full throttle.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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 at the end of the straight. 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, stagger, wedge etc. 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. Make yourself, family, pit crew & sponsors PROUD !!


Now get out there, have fun and kick some butt !!

Win! Win! Win!

The Silver Bullet 5W – Tony Mac

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