Once you hit the track, you...
Once you hit the track, you need to debrief the driver after every session in the car. The same goes for the crew after they observe the car on the track. This type of information is critical, as the driver is not always the only source of information you have on how the car is working.
At times, racers are difficult to understand. They desire victory and spend prodigious amounts of money while trying to gain a competitive edge to reach their goal.
Racers test and practice to gain knowledge, and they keep the car in top mechanical condition in the pursuit of victory. They spend money on fancy paint and crew uniforms. They have trucks and trailers with self-contained meeting and conference rooms that would put many a resort hotel or corporate meeting room to shame. They have trailers with fancy graphics intended to attract sponsors or promote the sponsorship they may already have.
But the one thing many racers may not have is a comprehensive set of notes-notes that constitute critical documentation chronicling the activities at the track and even the shop. Yes, shop notes. The reasons for not having notes are varied. They can range from "we don't need notes," to "we don't know what to write down," to "we don't have time." Then there's the real dandy of excuses: "I keep all that information in my head."
These attitudes are not so prevalent at the professional levels, where the mindset is just the opposite. There are still some old school thinkers out there who see notes and the advent of computers as a bad thing for the sport.
Rest assured, though, that data acquisition and note keeping are here to stay. Developing a comprehensive set of notes is just as critical as new tires on race day. It is just that simple.
This is a typical cockpit....
This is a typical cockpit. Notice the brake bias adjuster. It would be good to know just how much the driver adjusted the bias during the course of the race, during practice, or during a heat race. Possibly, you could document a standard starting point for this adjustment so the whole team knows where the driver will start each race. This is a good place for the development of shop notes.
The underlying reason for this fear of pencil and paper may be that in the early stages of our racing careers, we did not take notes. Notes were not part of what we felt was critical to the program. We were busy just getting the car to the track, and notes were viewed as a sign that we really didn't know what we were doing. In reality, just the opposite is true. As we have stated in prior articles, racing has some unique skill sets that we need to develop, since we probably didn't have all the skills we needed when we started.
Any racers say they do not know what to write down. They have difficulty arranging the notes in a fashion they feel would do them any good at a later date. Racing is a process, and it is necessary to extract the critical components from the background noise. Let's start at the beginning.
You do not need a computer to take notes. We suggest a simple spiral-bound notebook. Go to one of the bigger chain bookstores that sell hard-bound books designed for developing a journal or notebook.
When you start, leave the first several pages blank. Start on the fourth or fifth page, as this gives you some room to develop a table of contents on the first pages as you fill the book. This makes finding information in the future easier because you have a way to filter the data. In your first step toward rational subgrouping, the first several lines should include chronological and geographical data-in other words, the dates and places the races are held. This may sound like a simple comment, but it is important.
The next thing should be the type of conditions present on a particular day. Be as specific as possible.
· Was it sunny and warm? What was the temperature for the first heat,the main?
· Was it sunny and cold? Did it get colder, or was there no change?
· Was it cold and cloudy? Did you need a coat? Did the weather change by race time?
· Was there a cloud cover? Did it start out cloudy then get clear?
· Was it windy or calm? What did the wind do? Did it get stronger or weaker?
· Were the skies threatening rain? Did it rain?
· Was it humid or dry? Did that change over the course of the night?
If you have time to bench...
If you have time to bench race, you have time to keep notes. Many times, racers say they just do not have enough time at the track to keep notes. It is a matter of time management. If you were a paid team member and your team owner told you to keep notes, you would do it. Notes can help get you to the winner's circle.
The next thing is the hard data-the numbers that support the visual weather observations. The ambient temperature, the barometric pressure, and the humidity should be recorded several times over the course of the race event, possibly right when the car hits the track and after it arrives back in the pits. This should take a grand total of three to five minutes over the course of the race day.
The track has a place in your notes, no matter if it's asphalt or dirt. Will there be multiple classes running at the track today? If so, will they run a different tire from the one used in your class? Is your class the only one running today? If this is a day race, was there a class racing last night or yesterday? How long has it been since the last time it rained on the track? How does the promoter take care of the track? Does he take care of it? The track is a very large component that you have little or no control over. It is important to document what is going on with it.