A Walk Through A Race Weekend
When you first start racing it can all be a bit daunting when you become faced with the finer intricacies of getting through a race weekend.
As some of you will be reading this thinking of jumping in a Formula Vee for 2017, I thought you may find it useful.
Arriving at the circuit
More and more people seem to arrive the evening before. The main advantage here is that you can (hopefully) secure a spot in the paddock with the rest of the Vee’s. This is especially important if you have the garages, as most of the time there won’t be enough space for all the cars. Oh, and you want to be finding out where you are by looking in the Final Instructions that will be mailed out with tickets, or published online about a week before the race.
If you are testing at the circuit then you may have to move after your test sessions have ended.
Once you’ve unloaded your car and got yourself set up (tent up, sleeping back in the bag of your car/van, camper set up) then there will be thre options for you: relax, have a walk around the track or get the car scrutineered.
I’d advise always getting scrutineered the evening before, if this is offered, as it give you a lot more time in the morning, and possibly a lie in!
At this point, if you’re doing it the Posh Way, you can head off to your hotel or B&B. Otherwise there will probably be a few other drivers mooching around the paddock pub or restaurant.
If you’re getting to the circuit on the race day itself, be prepared to find you can’t get anywhere near the rest of teh Vee drivers, and you have to set up camp next to a few bins and an ice cream van (not entirely a bad thing!). This will make life harder because you won’t be able to see all the other drivers disappear to some meeting, or be able to follow them when they drive off to the assembly area etc. Not then end of the world – but not advisable until you’ve done a few meetings!
Have a bit of a panic, now – but remember to try and enjoy it!
First off – have a look at the programme. The times your qualifying and race sessions start are pretty important – but there are actually a few more important things here.
Signing on – Sometimes you can do this the evening before, too. You need to show your race licence and sign a register, and then you get a programme and a slip of paper that you need to get your car scrutineered.
Check the times that you can take your car to the scrutineering bay. All classes are allocated slots so they can scrutineer the whole class together, and get you all done in time to get out on track. Stick to the time, and be prepared to stand around in the queue for ages.
If you’re hiring they’ll probably do all this for you, but the scrutineer will still want to check your helmet and race kit so make sure these are available.
When they check your car over they’re primarily making sure it’s safe to race, so will be checking bearings, fire extinguisher, dates on seatbelts and brake fluid, so you need to strip off all the bodywork and have a few spanners on hand just in case. If you’re using a camera you must have it mounted so they can check it’s in a safe position and all secure. They will also check things like your rain light is working, and possibly get you to start the car and then kill the engine with the kill switch.
They will also have a magical gripe list of stuff to challenge you on, so you might have to fight your case! I’ve been pulled up in the past for things like having a tinted visor and having someone else’s name on my race suit… Stay calm and polite and do what they tell you, or you might not be racing!
The first time they scrutineer your helmet you need to pay a small fee (about £2) for a sticker, too.
New Driver Briefing
If it’s your first time racing at a circuit IN THAT CONFIGURATION (and that bit is key), then you must attend a new drivers briefing. These are normally about every 30 mins for the first few hours of the day, and times will be in your final instructions. You can be fined for not attending this before you go out on track. They will tell you where you need to wait before you go out on track, where you need to go when you come back in, and other information and helpful advice/warnings. This is where it all starts to get real, and if the butterflies haven’t started yet, they will do here!
These are for all drivers from all series, so you won’t just be with Vee drivers.
These will only be for the drivers in your series, and you won’t have one of these at every race. They are generally to bring things like driving standards to the attention of your race series. They can be held or called for at any time of the day, so if you ever look up and notice all the other drivers have disappeared, ask someone! Also note that you may well have a new driver briefing AND one of these on the same day – you must attend both. Most of the time these will alos be listed in your final instructions, but be aware of flash meetings arranged by word of mouth.
Now things are flying along, and you’ll feel the buzz in the air!
Try to keep an eye on the programme in case the schedule is ahead or behind. You need to be ready about 30 mins before your qualifying session – as in strapped in and ready to go out on track, so make sure you’ve done everything you need to.
Again, if you’re a hire driver most of this will be done, and so you just need to make sure you’re ready to jump in the car and race! If you’re running your own car, or want to get a bit more hands-on, do these:
Fill up with fuel. This is easy to forget. If in doubt, just brim the tank – the chances are a few kg of petrol won’t be the difference between pole and last row. I once ran out of fuel when going for a best ever position at Donington because we adjusted a few things and forgot to compensate…
Check and adjust tyre pressures. Again very easy to forget. You’ll get a different answer whoever you ask – but Hoosier recommend 16psi in the front tyres and 18psi in the rear. As a base setting you won’t go far wrong with this. If it’s raining then you want more air in the tyres to open the grips up and help the tyres heat up a bit more. Some drivers go well into the 20s here, but if you’re around the 19-20 mark in the wet it won’t do you any harm. Tyre pressures are a black art, and if you’re new you won’t have a lot to gain here…
Adjust suspension settings. Another black art. Most of the suspension set-up is done the night before we put the car on the trailer – camber, castor, toe, rake etc and it’s all specific to your car and your suspension and weight distribution and driving style. It’s tough to even hint at a base setting here, so this is why you should have tested!
Other driver may help you out here, but be wary they might not know as much as you think, either!
These settings will pretty much stay the same on the car, unless we’re having some kind of issue, and it’s where Glenn’s experience comes in.
What we do adjust at the track are the dampers and roll bars. The Sheane only has one adjuster on the dampers for both compression and rebound – which keeps things simple, but isn’t ideal if, like me, you’d like to separate the two settings. The more expensive shocks with have separate adjusters to fine tune things more. Either way, the biggest quick change you can do with a Vee is with the dampers. In general, you want these softer in the wet, and the harder you have them, the faster your reactions need to be to catch a spin.
The roll bars front and rear should also be softened in the wet, but remember changing something at the front may well also change what the rear is doing. Get advice off an expert, if you can! Or play lots of video games where you can play around and learn what the settings do…
Noise Testing. Before you drive into the holding area, you’ll see a couple of marshals there holding strange long sticks and a clipboard. Stop near them and they’ll tell you to hold the throttle at three quarters or a specific RPM to make sure you’re not above the noise limits. At most tracks this will be about 106db, so if your silencer is any good you should be fine… if you’re over you may find you’re excluded from all the racing and putting the car back on the trailer. But no pressure!
Get to the holding area nice and early – but not too early or you might be the first on track with nobody to follow. At most tracks they will let you out on track in whatever order you’ve arrived at the holding area.
You must do at least 3 laps to qualify for a race – so get these in before any heroics. If the worst happens go and see the Clerk of the Course as soon as you can, and they may be able to get you to follow the course car around for a few laps between sessions or over the lunch break. Take your best puppy-dog eyes.
Once the session is over you’ll come in off the track, guided by marshals, and either stop in parc ferme where nobody does anything, you chat to the other drivers, and then push your car back to your paddock place, or they’ll let you go straight back.
Timing sheets. Relax, and wait for the timing sheets to be published at race control. Most races are now covered by live timing that you can get to on the 750 website, so you may find your Mum is already ringing you to find out why you’re the slowest car out there!
Have a look at where you wil be starting from on the grid, and take note of which cars will be around you so you know where to line up.
Recheck tyre pressures and make any tweaks to dampers/roll bars, and remember to refuel!
You need to go to the holding area again, but this time the marshals will line you up in grid order. When they give the signal, start up and follow everyone to the grid. Have a look to your side and try and find a marker to remember where your grid spot is – a post or advertising hoarding on the pit wall is a good one to look out for. The Vee’s will normally have a ‘Green Flag Lap’ – this means they wave the green flag and you all leave the grid and do one lap to warm your tyres and sight the circuit conditions, before returning to your grid spot.
This time look at the boards that are displayed from the start position. These boards say stuff like “3 minutes until start” but ignore that – it’s usually seconds between these boards and then you’ll see the red start lights come on.
Give the inside of your fogged-up visor one last wipe and set your revs, because those lights are about to blink out any second!
After surviving this you’ll then come back in, and much the same as after practice, you’ll either go to parc ferme, get sent straight back to the paddock, or if you’re really lucky be in the top 3 and have to stop somewhere in pit lane to speak to the commentator.
This is exactly the same as race 1 – but check the time sheets as this time you’ll be gridded up according to your second best lap from qualifying.
At most races, there will be a brief awards ceremony for A and B class, so try and attend and do some clapping and cheering! There may also be some information about ‘stuff’ relayed here, so it is useful to go along.
Then you load up, get out of there (or collect your card if you’re getting your rookie signatures done), and that’s it!
The rest of your day will be spent drinking water, going to the toilet, and finding out you can’t go more than 5 steps in the paddock before you end up chatting to someone else for the next hour!
Enjoy it all while you can!