I’m so pleased to re-introduce you to my friend, sponsored racer, and public relations/media manager Paul Sexton.
If you’ve followed Racers HQ for a few months you’ve likely heard his name. But this is the first article he’s written for the website.
Paul’s experience as a Master Toyota Technician offers a unique perspective into racing that I’m excited to share with you.
I admittedly tend to swing for the fences and prattle on about varying vertical loads, yaw angles, and co-efficients of friction. But…
While I think those things are important, I’m very thankful to Paul for reeling me in reminding me that the basics are the most important component in a successful racing endeavor.
Paul’s back-to-basics approach and unique expertise is a powerful combination to educate any racer.
Prattling over. Here’s Paul.
3 Smart Strategies To Avoid Grief At The Track
You’ve read one book after another about vehicle dynamics. You’ve studied left foot braking, trail braking, lift off over steer, and have a good understanding of why smooth is NOT fast.
The car is unloaded and stripped of anything that could potentially slide around during a run. Tires are swapped, EZ-Up has been deployed. Registration, check-in, as well as tech inspection are done.
The course? Walked, memorized, locked, and loaded.
This is your day. You’re ready. You give the car a quick once over after the driver’s meeting. Wait, is that…
Oil under the car?
“But, I just had my shop check everything last week.” Your run group is up in an hour. Your day of flogging your ride around the track is over before it has even gotten started. Or is it?
Can you repair your car with limited tools and get yourself to grid when the unexpected happens? If you said no, that needs to change.
Is that two dollar oil return line going to thwart your entire track day just because you don’t understand how to take two minutes to swap it out and get to grid?
It’s aaaallll on you.
You need to know your car – and not just from the driver’s seat.
“But I have a great mechanic” Good…did you bring him with you? Self sufficiency and creativity are essential to solving the inevitable problems that you’ll encounter on race day.
Between YouTube and the abundance of repair information online there’s really no excuse not to.
For those of us who are pinching pennies (yep, it’s all of us) you likely don’t have access to a support crew – leaving all the responsibility on you.
3 tactical strategies to build self sufficiency.
1. Find someone with the same type of car.
Suck it up and admit you don’t know enough about your ride and choose to change that.
Strike up a conversation and ask if he or she has done any of their own work. See if they will help you on your car or let you help with theirs when possible.
I’ve been an automobile technician for over 16 years and I love teaching people about cars. So do most other gearheads. Cars are much simpler than you might think.
2. Buy a Repair Manual for your car.
Anything is better than nothing but I highly recommend you buy a factory manual, the same thing your dealer would use.
Often times you can find a print version relatively cheap online. Plus you’ll be able to access it right from you phone, which you’ll have on you anyway.
Most manufacturers now offer customers online access to repair information through a pay site. This is typically inexpensive and you will always have access assuming you have an internet or data connection.
If you’re old school I highly recommend a physical copy of the factory service manual. Other alternatives include manuals by Haynes, Chilton, or Clymer for you motorcyclists. These are typically available at your local autoparts store.
3. Get yourself a decent tool set and some spares.
Take them with you to every event. 90% of all vehicle repairs can be made with a basic set of hand tools.
Also, pack some spare parts. A set of brake pads, a couple quarts of oil, and a set of spark plugs too. You don’t want a $10 part ruining your day (and your entry fee).
[EDITOR’S NOTE: I also recommend a set of ramps. Call me crazy but I’ve had the BRZ up on ramps between runs more times than you could believe.
Not because it was broken, but because I wanted to make a snappy mechanical change to the handling.
If you’re quick and understand what you’re doing you can grab a serious advantage over everyone else who set the car up for rain that never happened.
You also want a set of ramps so you can quickly change that two dollar oil line and get back in the game.
I also highly recommend making a load out sheet for everything you need to bring with you. Print it out, laminate it, find a dry erase marker and check of everything on the list as you’re putting it into the car.
This is makes it physically impossible to forget anything you could possibly need.]
It’s only the beginning.
Another area of the car you should be familiar with is brakes – the most common high-wear component on any race car.
Depending on how many miles you drive and how many events you attend in a season you’ll need to swap out pads on at least one end of your ride.
Learn how to do it, properly. There are components that should be inspected, cleaned, and lubed when you swap brake pads. Don’t just toss the old ones in the trash and slap on the new ones and call it done.
Not only will this knowledge keep you racing at the track, but wrenching on your own ride brings a great sense of accomplishment. No one is going to do a more thorough job on your pride and joy than you.
As you learn more about the mechanical aspects of your car you will also have a better understanding of what is occurring during your competitive runs – allowing you to modify what you don’t like about your ride.
Make sure you’re completing proper inspections of your vehicle before each event. Find it early, fix it right.
Proper preparation goes beyond buying the right tires and getting enough sleep – it’s a complete package.
Paul Sexton is a Master Toyota Tech and sponsored racing driver. He is proudly partnered with Racers HQ, Virus Clothing, RhynoPower, and Ams Oil. You can follow Paul through Facebook and Instagram.