Driving Preperations

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A motoring event, be it a race, a rally or autocross, begins before the cars have been launched off of the starting line.


Technical car preperations

First off, check all fluids: brake fluid, engine and gearbox lubrication oils, power steering fluid (if fitted), coolants, fuel.

  • Brake fluid is the most important. In performance driving, brake fluid has a tendency, considered utterly rare on road cars, to boil and even evaporate, leading to a partial but substantial brake failure. Make sure exposure of the fluid to air is minimal.
  • Oil must be clear and not smell burnt.
  • A preferable fuel is a high-octane one, with minimal amounts of additional combinations to it. Note that you should only feel an amount of fuel that should get you through the event. Excessive fuel storage will result in extra weight and weight transfer.
  • Check for coolant in both coolant storage tank and the different radiators. A 60-40 ratio of water to artificial coolant is advised. It is possible to fill it just slightly above the max. line if the car heats up too quickly. Make sure the coolant is cold when about to race or when measuring it. If needed to check a hot engine, keep it running with the heater working full-time and with open windows. Since race cars don't have A/C (because of minimal connection between the engine compartment and driver), you will need to shut it off. Once the car has seemed to cool down, start it and open the cap carefully with a towl, stading from the side, with the hood between you and the coolant tank.

The discs and pads of the brakes are perhaps must important to check. Racing disc brakes -- especially on tarmac racing, due to speed, friction and driving style-- face great loads, and are made of ceramic materials. However, they should be frequently replaced, whenever any obvious signs of wear appears on them or on the pads.

This by itself, though, will not be enough. A good brake without the tyre, damper and suspension to back it up is the equall of a faulty brake. You need to check the thread and wear on your tire, fill it with air pressure: measure the pressure with a proffesional clock-shaped gage. Make sure the gage is not old and haven't suffered blows or shocks that can inflict it's accuracy. Keep a pencile gage on your skin for emergencies, as it is more resistant to blows. You need to fill the tyres with atleast 7% more air than the manoufacturers reconmendations, and add 3-4 extra PSI for the front (in a front or all-wheel drive accordingly), or 2 PSI (in a rear-wheel drive).

Now, check the radiators. A car typically has more than one, and you will need to make sure all radiators are clear for air intake. An inside clean of the radiators is reconmended to perform a day or two before the event. Note that some number plates can obstruct the radiator, so remove them at the site. A clear radiator will provide better performance and millage, and more aerodynamic downforce with less air drag.

Make sure the seat is adjusted to your satisfactory. A racing seat is adjusted carefully by engineers, according to driver feedback. You should experiment differnet postures around a track, untill you find the ideal position. It should be slightly closer to the wheel and more upright than on the road, but not substantially different from your road driving position. This process, though, may take a few hours, even 6 hours or more.

A car should never be raced cold. However, modern autombilies don't require a delibrate warm-up. All you need to do is to drive the car around, relaxed and smoothly, on low RPM's (A rule of thumb, nothing more than 3800). After the car has reached and maintained working temprature (normally 96 degrees Celsius, should take 20 minutes, unless it's very cold), drive it around for a short while on higher revs (3900-5800). This will help engine and gearbox lubrication, and will minimize soot inside the cylinders. Note that, in freezing conditions, cars must be connected to warming devices overnight.

Driver preperations

The driver should have a good rest to be fully capable of racing. Note that being sleepy due to an extended nap is also unreconmended, you can't count solely on adrenalin to wake you up.

Drivers should be in a generally good shape, health status, state of mind, and well-fed. This normally means a consumpsion of "light" carbohydrates, which can be found in salads and white meat. Before a race, however, a driver will have to consume enough water to keep him hydrated throughout the whole ordeal, which might be more than what might feel nessecary, though without flooding your belly. For this sake, mineral water is reconmended, but some drivers will have to their disposal water specially enriched in minerals and electrolites. Cafein is not reconmended because than you might hear nature calling in the middle of the race. However, it is worthy to consume sugar just before the race. This can be in the form a bit of soft drink (without or with very little Cafein), a fruit (preferably grapes) or snack (preferably a special energy bar). Note that after this, you will need to drink a bit more water, to get rid of the sweet taste. A bottle of cold water, or a canister with a tube running through the helmet, is a must.

Driver clothing begins with shoes: These should be closed, no overtap, and with light but slightly dense soles. Special racing shoes are the best, but a light-soled trained will do. Clothing should be comfortable, but long. In a serious event, a racing suit will be best due to safety reasons (fire-resistant). Racing gloves are important, because the external layer of carbon fyber comes in contact with a similar layer on the steering wheel. However, thin leather gloves will also do. Moderate-dark shades should be used on sunny days.

Driving mentality

First off, you need to walk around the track, find lines and reference points. Trying to imagine the car going through them and how it would look from inside will help. Talking yourself through, and pointing with your fingers on reference points (even though you see it) will help. You can actually remember them according to associations you can make with the name of the corner. The more bizarre is the connection, the easier it is to remember, so long as it is short.

You don't need to run or to walk with your whole racing suit, as this will tire and dry you out. However, a good walk will only do good with your muscles.

Now, position yourself in the car. Look on the track (not on other competitors). You might want to put the hands and feet on the pedals and wheel, strap yourself in the suit and harnesses, maybe even start the car up, and now close you eyes and imagine going around the track as you planned it. Try to bring up sounds, sensations and everything that can help imitate the real experience, maybe even talk yourself out laud through it.

Now, you may begin to drive. Stress is common, regardless of experience, and is to some degree an incentive of good and competitive driving. The idea is not to let it go too much into your head by, again, focusing on your lines and driving, building up speed as you go. It is common to wipe off at the beginning, but if your drive neat and in your own limits you might get a better result than you may think, even if it seems you are slower than others.

Re'em Samuel, CEO of "Maslulim", 1994 Group-N rally champin, 97 Citroen Saxo rally challenge champion (France), 4th place at the world championship in Monte-Carlo, and the first and only Diabetes racer, wrote this on "what eyes can do":

"Daniel is not yet 16 [go-karting] and he's nervous. Behind him are running excellent and experienced drivers, drivers that will not hand him anything, who will do whatever it takes to pass him. I try to calm him down, telling him to focus merely on his own driving, not looking sideways to left or right, let alone behind! The backwards look, the disturbed look, is the most dangerous look in the world of motorsport. It's a look of doubt, a look that hinders all driving concentration. You are showing others, as you show yourself, that you are afraid, not focusing on your driving.
End of October, 1997. Getting off of the line and into the last stage of Rally Ardech, the first before last in the season. I start second, behind the reigning leader in the race and championship. I need to get my head around a tactic: To go into full-attack mode and put my comfortable second place, in order to get to the last race with a substantial lead in points. Thinking again, I might ease into it, drive in rhythm and settle for second, leaving it all to hang in the last race (To which I will get with a large gap from the current leader, should he win rather than I).
I approach his car from behind as close as I possibly can, and stare at his inside rear-view mirror. Awaiting his eyes as if they were prey, let him look behind if he has the guts. Than he made the mistake. He looks up to the mirror and dead at me, seeing that killer's look I just adopted for that moment, knowing I will do whatever it takes to pass him in this stage.
Victory is at hand. He has made the error, looked behind and revealed the fear in his eyes to me. He now knows I have the psychological edge over him and it's hard, so very hard, to get over that feeling and focus on driving." (Re'em Samuel, Rechev magazine, "when Daniel cannot sleep".

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