Because race season is officially underway, with registration officially opening this weekend for some Midwest autocross events, we thought we’d repost our article on getting ready for race day!
For those of us who aren’t temporarily embarrassed millionaires, race days are about having fun and not clutch-dumping a career. Use our list as a guide to help you focus on having fun and not cursing the Sun on race day.
It won’t go without saying that you should have two things sorted before deferring to this list: Bring your friends and be reasonably sure that your car will make it home afterwards. Going autocrossing without a friend whose company you simply enjoy, or is a co-driver, is like going to the bathroom by yourself. Who’s going to hand you toilet paper? Who’s going to remind you that you need to wash your hands? Most importantly, making sure the car gets home afterwards should go without saying. Don’t let foreseen consequences turn your free weekend into a how-am-I-going-to-get-to-work-on-Monday pity party.
Friends, Food, and Canopies
Standing around in the hot sun is for lizards. Since we don’t often see any of our underworld overlords at these events, we sprung for a small 10ft x 10ft canopy. Not surprisingly, our Harbor Freight canopy came with subpar staking hardware so we grabbed some heavier duty ones from a hardware store. Altogether we were only out $60.
The unintended and welcomed consequence was that we became a magnet for the weary sun-faded autocrosser. We were an entertainment hub for the rest-period racer with our tantalizing conversation skills, good view of the course, Bluetooth radio beats, and tuned-in two-way radios we used to listen to track times.
We race in and around the Chicagoland suburbs, so food and drink are never far, but we bring a cooler for drinks and snacks nonetheless. Take lots of water, sports drinks, and snack bars. If you’re inclined to do so on your rest period, hit up a local spot and support the local business. The club we usually participate with asks you to donate your receipts to a small recycled baby wipes container at the timing tent to show the municipality that we contribute to the economy if ever we were to get on the wrong side of the local Karen squad.
If you don’t expect anything catastrophic to happen to you or your car, then leave the defibrillator and engine hoist at home. The picture above shows a small kit we brought to use for tightening the wheels and for experimenting with advancing and retarding the intake camshaft. We also usually take a small assortment of common sockets and wrenches (3/8″ drive, 10mm-17mm), and other regular hand tools like screw drivers and pliers. That saved us last summer when an alternator housing screw backed out into its own cooling fan. It didn’t save us when the timing chain case profile gasket failed and our last stop at the finish line preceded a plume of white smoke. Fortunately the car survived the trip home as the coolant leak wasn’t as bad as we thought. Pack light by just bringing the basics.
Tire pressures should be taught in schools right along side how to manage your finances. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but if we don’t have enough grip, how can we effectively put that power down? Take an air supply, like an air tank or portable air pump, and a pressure gauge with so you can add or subtract air as needed. Pressure gauges with the convenient release button on the side are nice, but not necessary; pen gauges work just fine. Rule-of-thumb is that lower tire pressures help provide grip by giving up more rubber along the width of the tire, but too much can roll the tire over onto its sidewall and thus, negate the lower pressure’s effect. Do research on your specific tire to see what its limits are. Remember too that you gain about one to two PSI after heat builds up in the tire. Consider that when you’re setting your pressures.
I’m ready for my close-up
Dogs were made to have their pictures taken. Make it a true family affair by bringing your dog, your partner’s family, their dog, and enough water for all.
Take pictures with whatever you have, but if you have a DSLR that’s collecting dust, bring it out and test your know-how by playing with the manual mode. Leave your ISO low, and expect to adjust your shutter speed and F-stop (iris size) a lot because of the rapidly changing car and weather conditions. Consider your safety first and make sure you’re not in the “oops” path of any of the drivers. Stick to the outskirts or the designated areas where cone-catchers are posted.
An Intimate Setting – How to Dress Sexy When You’re in the Driver’s Seat
Loner helmets tend to be a bit…musty. For low stress driving events like parking lot autocrosses, you can get away with wearing any helmet you want as long as it’s not a bicycle helmet or one of those that infants wear to shape their skulls. Road course events on the other hand, will more than likely look for a Snell rating and consequently tag your helmet with an inspection sticker. If you’re sunglasses snobs like we are, bring a pair of polarized shades to stuff under the visor for those glare-heavy days.
Wearing gloves is all about preference. For the driver seen in the photo above, it’s more about fetishism, but you’ll catch that story in a different blog. Some find gloves to be too bulky or too sloppy. All understandable given the standardization of sizes and the un-standardized sizes of hands. Don’t worry about being required to wear gloves until you get to wheel-to-wheel events.
Print out a course map to tape to your dash as a quick reference before you hit the go button at the start line. Nothing will replace walking the course before-hand, but every little bit counts. Use the tape you brought to artistically apply your driver number to the windows or doors of your car, to stick it to the dash. Congratulations, you’re now a professional race car driver.
Preparation-R: Dont’ Forget your Decorative Meat Tenderizer
Lastly, it wouldn’t go on the list if we didn’t think it was essential to having fun on race day. Don’t forget your multi-purpose decorative butt plug and meat tenderizer to help you de-stress after each run. Carry it in a fanny pack or have your co-driver standing by with it on a small red pillow for a fanciful touch. A little bit of olive oil will aid installation.
Go race your E30!