Things Nobody Tells You About
There is a lot to take your attention when you turn up to a race meeting. It’s a massive help if you can ‘buddy’ up with someone else for the first few races, so that you can learn how things work on a race day, where you’re supposed to go, and when.
But even then there are some things that will catch you off guard, because nobody remembers to tell you about them.
I get a lot of questions from new and potential racers, and have discovered some of these myself that hard way. So when you roll into the holding area ready to go out for your first time, and a marshal leans in and yells “IS YOUR PIN OUT?” – hopefully you’ll know what they’re talking about!
New driver briefings
If it’s your first time racing at that circuit configuration, then you MUST attend a short New Drivers Briefing. These are normally held every 30 mins in the morning, last 5-10 mins, and you can get a hefty fine if you miss them! A couple more things to note on these: 1) Check you’re using the same configuration, even if you’ve raced at that track before – i.e. if you’ve raced at Donington on the National circuit, if you’re racing on the GP (with the Melbourne Loop), you need to go to the briefing. 2) These are in addition to any other driver briefings – so you may well find you need to go to both on the same day. Check your Final Instructions for details.
How to do your belts up
I still remember sitting in my car the day before my first race, then having to telephone Ben Miloudi to ask how the Hell you’re supposed to do the 6 point harness up properly! It seems easy, but it’s a fact that even experienced racers are still doing it wrong. Get used to putting your belts on, and adjusting the straps etc – because you’ll find yourself having a flap before you go out on track, get pulled by the marshals for having done it wrong, or at worst get trapped in your car when you need to get out.
Taking the pin out
There is a fire extinguisher system in all racecars, with an internal and external way to activate it. To make sure you don’t accidentally foam yourself whilst scrabbling to get in your car, there is a safety pin on this system somewhere, and before you go out on track you may be asked if you’re taken the pin out. Find out where the pin is, and how to use it!
Sign on before scrutineering
The first thing you should do when you arrive at a circuit is go and sign on. When you do this, they give you a slip of paper that you have to hand to a scrutineer when they are checking your car. Without this slip of paper, you may find you just waited in line for an hour, only to be told they can’t check your car. You might also want to take a few spanners so you can take bits off the car. And then don’t lose the ticket that the scrutineer gives you to stick on your car to say it’s been passed…
Waving at marshals
Don’t switch that YouTube onboard video off after the driver crosses the finishing line! Now keep watching – the driver is waving as he does his cool down lap. This is unlikely to be at his fan club waving banners around the track in a Formula Vee race… No – the driver is actually waving to the Orange Army – the marshals stood at their posts! We do it because it’s nice to thank them, and also because they will be waving back at you, and you get a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside! Feel free to also wave at your wife and kids, if they’ve prized their hands off from covering their eyes after your dodgy last lap antics.
Hit the brakes!
You’re going to spin your car in the middle of a filthy great pack of race cars. Don’t just sit there swearing/crying/waiting for the bang – stand on the brake pedal (and the clutch, if you think you’re going to get going again). This will lock up your wheels and so you’ll slide in a predictable direction, and the other drivers might not clatter into you. If you don’t do this, the tyres may grip and send you flying off at very odd angles, almost certainly into the path of someone trying to avoid you.
Plug ’em up
Your engine is about 6″ away from your ears, and putting out the same kind of noise as a jet plane taking off. This is Not A Good Thing for your hearing. To save you going deaf or getting tinnitus in later life, use some ear plugs. A cheap pair stolen from the factory floor will do the job, or you can get special custom-fitted ones made up for you.
As a biker, I was prepared, but if you’re not used to wearing a helmet you’re in for a shock as the visor will fog up on the inside, and you won’t be able to see a thing! This will happen mostly when you’re coming around to line up for the race start, as you’re breathing heavily, and especially if it’s cold or wet. There are millions of anti-fog sprays and people will give you a million other ‘miracle cures’, but the truth is that the only thing that works is a pinlock visor insert – and these don’t fit 99% of car helmet visors. I leave my visor open a crack to shove a finger in and give it a wipe until the race starts, and you may see me sat in the holding area with my visor down breathing deeply – this seems to prime the inside of the visor so it gets less fogged up. Any decent helmet will have vents that clear the fog as soon as you get going, so try not to panic too much!
Pants on fire
Fireproof underwear is not compulsory. It’s a good idea, but as long as you’ve got a good race suit you don’t need it. Some common thinking is that if you only have a 2 layer suit – get nomex underwear, but if you have 3 layer suits it’s less essential.
One of the many great things about Formula Vee, and most club-level racing, is that it’s extremely rare you’ll have a problem that other drivers and crew can’t help you with. You’re not on your own, and the chances are it’s happened to someone else (whatever it is), so don’t be afraid to get help! We all want as many cars out there as possible!
Anything else that I’ve missed?