Positioned to Win
Over the years I’ve seen (and heard from) endurance racers who are frustrated by their inability to reach the podium or attain some other goal they have set for themselves, like cracking the top 10. Or finishing.. My friends, racing and race cars have been frustrating drivers for as long as auto racing has been an outlet for humankind’s need to compete. “Why can’t we finish higher” is the question. And it’s often answered with a peak into Occam’s Razor, which if you strip the Latin and boil it down, simply says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. So here’s some simplicity laid out like only a simple mind could-
Okay, so you’re not Mr. Goodwrench…
Is it the car? Yeah it’s the car. It’s just never fast enough, is it? Or maybe…is it how well the car is (or isn’t) prepared? When you look at the teams that seem to always be fighting for a top spot at the end of the race, you’ll note that their cars are well sorted and reliable. They have invested the time and resources necessary to make sure their car will last the entire race, and that it’s properly set up. When it comes to prepping the car, an ounce of prevention is worth pounding out a cure. Or to put it another way, double checking fluids, drain plugs, alignment and bearings is worth a couple of hours in the paddock. Time and money in = reliability out. Accept no substitutes.
…and you’re certainly no Boy Scout, either
Showing up unprepared kills all chances of winning. Think about it. Would you show up for a first date with someone you really liked, but not brush your teeth for a few days prior? No! You’re coming in clean, hot and ready for action. You have a game plan – where to eat, what music to play in the car, things you want to talk about. Why? Because you want to win. So why would you not do the same for an upcoming race? Choreograph your pits stops. Set your fuel system up for the fastest pour. Know what spares (and tools) you are most likely to need. And for Pete’s sake, don’t show up with a set of tires with two races on them. Shade, water, food – this is a weekend outing, not a trip to the mall. Make a list, check it twice. Don’t forget the beer and ice…
You’re just not on the right track
That last race – you know, the one where you finished 8th even though your hot shoe turned the 2nd fastest lap of the day? Looking back, did you spend every possible minute on track, making laps? Extra pit stops make a difference. Pit stops that take too long make a difference. You can address those issues by being prepared. But what about your driving? Spins and offs eat up time, not just getting the car re-oriented and back in the race but also to bring it in and pull the weeds and gophers out of the radiator or slap a roll of Gaffer tape on the freshly-broken splitter blade. And it doesn’t help if you’re hanging out on pit road talking shop with the Black Flag Steward for passing under yellow, contact, blocking or multiple offs, either.
Drive like you stole it is just an expression
Being the best driver doesn’t necessarily mean being the fastest driver. You can reverse that and end up with the same point. Fast Lap is a nice bragging right. Laying down fast lap after fast lap is not only fun, it’s satisfying. But how is that affecting the tires and brakes? Are you smooth? Are you consistent? Are you using up the car, or worse, are you pushing so hard you’re breaking the car? Endurance racing requires skill, but it requires a lot of thinking and even more patience. Robert Frost wrote a poem about endurance racing once, it ends something like this – “I have hours to go before I sleep”. Remember that. You don’t need to pass that car in this turn on this lap. Sticking your nose inside and assuming the other driver sees you and moves his line is going to catch up to you at some point. Kick back, put your feet up and enjoy the ride. At least, that’s the mindset you need while your heart is pounding and sweat is soaking your Nomex on a 50-degree day. That car you felt like you needed to pass? Yeah, he just went in for an unplanned pit stop because he didn’t read this.
Recognize your team in any of that? No it’s not an exhaustive list of why winning an endurance race might be eluding you, but then again it might be exactly why winning is eluding you. At any rate, it’s guaranteed cheaper than adding a turbo or a set of TC Klines…