[Editor’s note: Even though this article originally appeared back in 2013, it still holds water today.]
Story and Images by Alan Cesar
Your automobile is constructed to the inch of each rule, designed to realize tenths of a second per lap over everybody else. Your final pit cease, nevertheless, went 14 seconds over your 5-minute minimal since you couldn’t discover that lug nut you dropped. Struggling and fumbling are the final belongings you want when time is tight and championship bragging rights—or bins of nickels—are on the line.
In Grand-Am racing, pit stops occur in mere seconds. There’s lots of planning, follow and expertise crammed into these few moments you see time and again on TV. At this yr’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, we had been once more embedded with Group Sahlen for his or her first scorching dog-fueled try within the Daytona Prototype class, and we acquired to see these stops—in addition to how they put together for each—up shut.
Although the Riley/BMW prototype is new and high-tech, a lot of Group Sahlen’s crew is similar as final yr’s. There are few adjustments to the method in comparison with operating a GT automobile: There are 4 wheel nuts whole as an alternative of 20 lug nuts, however there are nonetheless 4 tires, one driver, and two gasoline fill hoses.
Knowledgeable crew’s precision and rigor can simply assist any membership racer who needs shorter stops—even within the crapcan pits. Speedy stops name for a similar diploma of dedication as quick lap instances. The checklist of necessities is brief on particular gear however lengthy on course of enhancements and, most of all, follow.
None of it’s super-secret magic sauce, although a couple of particular instruments do assist. Race groups put money into a pit socket and lug nuts that can match inside it. Pit sockets are balanced in order that they don’t wobble when spun freely; they’re designed to go on and off a lug nut simply whereas the socket continues to be spinning; and there’s a spring inside to spit out the lug nut as quickly as you again off the wheel stud.
One in all these sockets prices round $50 at any pace store, however they’re solely made for 1-inch lug nuts. When you can’t match 1-inch lug nuts inside your wheel facilities, you’ll have to alter wheels the tougher approach.
You might not be allowed to make use of—or be capable to afford—the gravity-fed two-hose gasoline system utilized in Grand-Am. Nevertheless, a 5-gallon gasoline jug by VP Racing is simply $25 from just about any pace store, and it’s a lot better than that canister you utilize to gasoline your garden mower.
Your automobile additionally most likely gained’t have a pneumatic on-board jack system. However fast-lifting aluminum flooring jacks can be found for lower than $100 from Harbor Freight, and so they’re good to have within the storage anyway.
Past these bits, the one instruments you’ll want are arms, legs, brains and muscle reminiscence. Everybody can carry house good concepts by taking an in depth take a look at how an expert crew does it. Listed below are some essential factors we observed whereas crewing for Group Sahlen.
Lug nuts get dropped. Hold extras in your pockets so that you’re not looking black asphalt for a black lug nut or reaching underneath a automobile for the one which’s immediately underneath the red-hot exhaust. When coping with large, heart lock nuts, all of the members of the Group Sahlen tire crew preserve one held on the entrance of their belts.
Group Sahlen’s DP automobile makes use of center-lock lug nuts, however the Mazda RX-8 they used to run had 5 lug nuts on every wheel. With that setup, they used 3M weatherstrip adhesive to connect a recent set of lug nuts within the lug seats of every wheel. Gluing them in place meant the pit crew may simply jam the wheel onto the hub and the lugs can be hanging on the bull-nosed studs, able to be zipped on with the air gun.
In addition they lubed the lug studs with a mixture of Marvel Thriller Oil and anti-seize. Slippery threads helped preserve off the glue, and made the set up only a bit smoother.
Electrical affect wrenches will be dear, particularly cordless ones. The correct-size air tank will function a pneumatic affect gun lengthy sufficient for a tire change, and a small compressor can repressurize it between pit stops. Grand-Am groups simply acquire prefilled nitrogen tanks from Airgas.
Don’t waste time checking your tire pressures when the automobile is in entrance of you. Set them earlier than the race, and examine them earlier than your driver is coming into the pit or paddock.
Will you realize off the highest of your head all of the sockets and wrenches wanted to switch a bent strut? Will you realize instantly if that’s the precise or left brake caliper? You probably have spare elements, manage them and mark the instruments it’s good to change them. You probably have sufficient instruments, you may merely pair them up with their corresponding elements.
Don’t hunt for that elusive 13mm wrench. Manage your instruments, and reorganize them after every cease. That is Group Sahlen’s toolbox after 20 hours of racing.
Every crewmember ought to have a selected job with fastidiously detailed procedures. The skin tire changer, for instance, goes to the precise of the hearth extinguisher man, who crops his ft to maintain the air hose from getting dragged underneath the automobile.
Anybody going over the pit wall must also be hyper-aware of the penalties relating to pit process. Are you allowed to step over earlier than the automobile has fully stopped? How many individuals are allowed over the wall? Is everybody carrying the mandatory gear? Learn the foundations and share them together with your crew.
All events ought to follow their roles—so much. Group Sahlen even has a pit wall of their store so their crew can follow hopping over it. In your personal driveway, mock up your pit spot and have your drivers and crew carry their gear. Spend a day fueling the automobile, altering tires and altering drivers.
Know your job and the order through which issues ought to occur—is it belts first or the CoolShirt or the radio? Make any tweaks essential to preserve the method shifting alongside easily.
Talk. A pit board and a spotter could also be sufficient if the monitor is laid out to permit quick communication between the spotter and the pit crew. Two-way radio communication with the motive force and all of the crew, nevertheless, might help everybody put together for unscheduled stops.
Nonverbal communication is essential, too. A “lollipop”—the automobile quantity on an extended pole protruding into pit street—helps forestall the motive force from blowing by your spot. Make just one individual accountable for signaling, “Go!” to the motive force. That individual ought to obtain distinct indicators from each different crewmember indicating that the job is finished and so they’re away from the automobile. Individuals don’t need vehicles dropped on their toes.
Lastly, do not forget that you’re a crew. Nobody individual can win a race, however one individual can typically lose it. Everybody is determined by you, and also you depend upon everybody else. Working collectively towards a typical objective, your crew will set up a bond that can final lengthy after the race is over—even should you end lifeless final.
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