Something most of us that travel to a lot of tracks may take for granted is our routines when we show up to either a new track, or a track we frequent with a new layout. I’ll go over both and try to give some insight and my procedure(s) I generally follow.
If I’m going to a track or facility which I’ve never been to, I’ll do my best to research it online with a little “google’ing.” I’m looking for regular business hours, pit situation, what tires may work there, what classes are the most common, any team drivers that we have in the area or region, and what I’ll need to bring with me to race there.
- I primarily race off-road so tires are a huge factor travelling to any track. I’m going to reach out to a few fast guys if I know them, maybe email the race director or shoot the owner a quick email asking what tires/inserts work for their track. These are the guys that are going to know what works, and what I’ll need to bring. Why is this important? If I’m flying for example I’m going to be limited as to what I can bring with me due to weight restrictions on the flights. Packing for a race is another tip you can find HERE. Generally when I travel I may only race 2 to 3 classes due to this same weight restriction. You can only bring so much gear on an airplane! LOL
- I’ll also ask about the pitting situation. Do they have plenty of pit space? Do they have power at the pit or do I need a cord and power strip? Are pit mats required(I bring one anyhow)? Do I need a pit light or is the lighting sufficient? Do I need to supply a chair and or table? Again if you’re flying you’ll need to sort this out ahead of time. Don’t be the guy that shows up with arm loads of gear and no plan.
- Once I arrive I’ll often walk into the facility with nothing in hand or at the very least maybe my radio case or a car. I’ll often walk in, introduce myself to the staff behind the counter and ask where I can pit, if the race director is present and introduce myself to them as well, and then make my way to the pit area. If I brought my radio box or a car I’ll set it down where I plan on pitting to secure the spot. Then I’ll go out to my car and get the remainder of the gear. This let’s me scope out the pit space right out of the gate and assure I have enough room for the gear I brought. If I don’t have enough space, I can leave non essentials in my car, etc.
- I generally try to show up with a least one set of tires for the track ready to go for whatever cars I’m going to race. If not for whatever reason, I’ll at least get a set gluing up so I can hit the track. Now is also when I’ll setup my pits, get a few batteries charging, etc.
- While that’s going on, I’ll walk around meet my pit neighbors and walk to the side of the track and just watch anyone on it. Right away you can generally identify the tough technical sections, pinch points on the track, or possible bad visibility issues if there are any. You can also get a feel for how the track is. What I mean by that is often before a large event the track is fresh or “green.”
Now once I’m ready to hit the track I generally go about it in one of two ways.
- If the track is already up to speed I will watch for a few laps from the drivers stand before pulling onto the race track myself. I’ll just watch a few fast guys and see what line they’re using. I’ll also identify a good place to pull off to the side off the race line in case I need to make a radio adjustment. I’ll then let the fast guys go by and simply follow them around for a few laps or as many as it takes to figure out the rhythm of the track, jump speeds, etc. I will also try and drive from a few different vantage points on the stand. This is something I see a lot of people make mistakes at. They will practice or drive from a single point on the stand, never trying an option or two. Then come main time or qualifying time and they can’t get to that spot and drive like garbage because the view is unfamiliar now.
- If the track is green however, all I will do is focus on the race line, getting jump timing down, and just putting down some laps. The track will come in, it’s just a matter of time. I often will not change my car too much if at all knowing the track conditions will inevitably “come in” over time. Now if my car is way off of course I’ll make changes, but I’ll keep in mind the track is going to come in also.
- I’ll go out and turn marshal, quite a bit actually. As long as I don’t have anything pressing for my own race program or a team drivers, I will go marshal during open practice so I can see where others are struggling. Why? So I know to focus on those sections as well so I don’t mess them up like the rest. It will become very evident early on where everyone will struggle on the track. The marshals perspective allows you to see why they’re messing up, and likely how to overcome that obstacle.
Now I know what you’re thinking here; “Well what’s the second way?”
- I’ll drop a car on the track and simply drive. I generally grab my favorite car that they’re racing at the race, E Truggy for 1/8, and 1/10 Stadium Truck. Both allow me time on the track but are a little forgiving and larger than their buggy counterparts. Why is that important? It may not be but for me it allows me to find the lines and simply tighten them up when I switch to buggies.
- I’ll be frantic because I’m late or unprepared for whatever lame excuse I can offer. Don’t be this guy 😉 If you know me at all you know this is not my “happy place” at race and I really try my best to never be here. But there are simply times where it’s out of my control( yes an excuse). Again don’t be this guy.
So what if it’s a facility you’re familiar with and just a new layout? Chances are that if I’ve been to a track not a lot will have changed. But it never hurts to check before you leave. Again club racing is one thing but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
- Make sure you’ve got everything you need. I can’t remember how many times someone had to go back home to get their batteries, radio, hell a car! Pay attention.
- I setup my pits pretty much the same way every time. Bring a pit mat or a towel, each and every time. Pit tables aren’t cheap to build and you should be a good racer and protect the facilities amenities. Everyone has good intentions but it’s so easy to spill some CA glue when you’re not looking and ruin a table, yeah that happened.
- If the track requires a lipo sack(all should) use them. Don’t be “that guy” and try to finagle your way around track rules. It’s dangerous and it maybe your butt that gets hurt. Lipo fires unfortunately occur, so be prepared.
- Don’t take up too much space. 4 feet should be more than sufficient for pitting in most cases. Be cordial to your pit neighbors, etc.
- I will again be looking at the surface and watching cars. Are they spinning out? Is the track too wet? Too dry? I will decide on when to go out for practice based on typical known “racing” track conditions.
- Again I will also likely marshal for a bit while my stuff is charging, drying, etc. I like to learn as much as I can from others mistakes if the opportunity presents itself. Besides that if you’re out their flipping other racers cars, the chances of them lending you a hand if you need help is much higher. It’s called good race Karma and we all need it.
I’m sure there are a lot more things I do that I simply do out of second nature. If you have something to add be sure to comment and share. We all hit the track in the same fashion, but maximizing your time there is critical to doing well. Practice how you race, at all times. No sense in practicing if you’re not going full speed.
If you have a topic or an idea for a Tip of the Month, hit me up HERE and I’ll work on the topic. Maybe I’ll start sending out some sponsor swag for those ideas chosen!?