I remember, many years ago, having read somewhere Adam Drake talking about his LST and how he prepares before a race. I remember him telling that the key for success was preparation. Those words have been graved in my memory since then. A good preparation will not make you faster and will not give you a free ticket for the podium but it will make you smarter than others racers and will dramatically increase your chances of finishing the race. If you can’t finish the race, you can’t win!
What is a good preparation before a race? No matter what is your level of racing or if you are experimented or not, there are many things you should consider before racing.
- Preparation begins before the race day. The day before a race, clean and inspect your vehicle. Make sure all screws are tight. If you have a doubt concerning a part, replace or fix it. A “road test” is also a good idea just to make sure everything is Okay. This is definitively not the time to beat your vehicle, just run it.
- When you arrive to the track, take few minutes to walk the track. Take the time to inspect every corners and jumps. Identify your best line of racing. Also pay close attention to the track surface.
- During the practices, watch the fastest guys. Watch their racing line and how they approach jumps and corners. Watch how they accelerate and brake around the track. Try to identify who is driving what vehicle. This may be very useful later on your race day.
- I’ll repeat it again; tires are the most important part of a race setup. So, have a look to what tires the fastest guys are using. If you have the same tires somewhere in your boxes, install them. Don’t try to be innovative with a “weirdos” tire setup telling everyone they are your secret weapon.
- If you need a pitman and you don’t have one, it is time to find someone who will like to pit you. It is good to find a pitman early in the day. Find someone who will not race in the same class as you. This will eliminate the chance that you and your pitman will race in the same qualify or main. Remember, if someone helps you out, you will have to help your pitman when he will be racing.
- Before a practice, qualify or a main, take the time to inspect your entire vehicle for loose screws or wheel nuts. Make sure everything is clean and spins freely. Clean your air filter and charge your receiver pack. This is important.
- Get familiar with the track. This is exactly why there are practices before the qualifies. I normally do few laps at low or medium speed just to get familiar with the corners and jumps. Remember what you noticed when you walked the track. During those slow laps, let others racers pass you. Remember, you are not racing, you are practicing! Once you are Okay with the track, you can go at full speed if you want.
- Estimate your runtime. This is something I never read anywhere before but I normally find a way to estimate my runtime with a full tank during the practices. Once I’m familiar with the track, I fill up my vehicle and start my chronometer. I run my vehicle like if I was racing until I run out of fuel and then stop my chronometer. If my runtime is 9m45s. I then estimate my pit stops at 9 minutes. For some, this is not a good idea to tell everyone what is your runtime. In a 30 or 45 minutes races, runtime is part of your race strategy. Not telling your runtime is not really lying, this is racing 🙂
- After your practice session, inspect once again your entire vehicle. Check for leaking fuel tubes, loose screws, worn turnbuckle ends, clutch bearings, bent or loose components. Check everything. You will have to inspect your vehicle after every practice, qualify or race. This is the good time to fully charge your receiver, transmitter and glow starter packs. Don’t forget to marshal!
- Before the first qualify, show to your pitman how to fuel and start your vehicle. If you use a starter box, show him how to correctly align your vehicle on the starter box. Along with your glow starter and your starter box, give to your pitman an extra glow plug, a glow plug wrench, an extra wheel nut, a wheel wrench, a spare tire and few body clips. Just in case…
- It is now time to talk qualifying strategy with your pitman. With his help, identify when he will fill up your vehicle before the start of the qualifying and how he should hold your vehicle. Yes, some vehicles tend to lean out when you hold them by the wing. Keep it level to avoid engine stalling problems.
- After every qualifying, check how much fuel is left in the tank. This will confirm your runtime estimated previously. Don’t forget to marshal!
- Before the main race, have all your receiver packs fully charged. This is important to have more than one fully charged receiver pack. If you bump up, you’ll need extra power for the next race. And the time between each race is relatively too short to charge your receiver pack. Check if your transmitter batteries are OK. Once again, make sure your pitman brings extra glow plug, wheel nuts and wrenches. Fill your vehicle and your fuel bottle. You need enough fuel for the entire race.
- Talk strategy before the main race. Like for the qualifying, explain to your pitman what he should do before the start of the race. Tell him when he should call you for a pit stop. Don’t forget to give him your chronometer! Having a good communication between you and your pitman is very important. Make sure your pitman is directly in front of you in the pit lane. It is a good idea to have your pitman calling you one lap before your pit stop. When your pitman calls you, just make a sign with your head or tell him that you have understood his call. Mains are at least 15 minutes or more. There are a lot of things that can happen in a race. Don’t push too hard on the first laps, stay in the race pace and let others commit mistakes.
- During the race, remember that slow is fast. You’ll lose more time if you crash than if you go a little slower. If you don’t control your vehicle before a jump, you better role the jump. If you stall or crash in the middle of the track, tell others racers on the drivers stand to pay attention to where your vehicle is to prevent an accident or another crash.
I hope those steps will make you a better racer and will increase your chances of winning a race. A good preparation is definitively the key for better race results. You may not finish first but you’ll put all the chances on your side. You better finish last than not finish at all. Have fun and keep on racing!