Going Racing !
(By Douglas McLay & Patrick Huston)
A beginner’s guide to a Monoposto Race Meeting
This short description of a typical Monoposto Championship race day is given to help those who are new to club racing in the UK. It is in two parts. Firstly there is a narrative about how a typical day goes. The second part is a series of check lists for the critical parts of the day. I hope that these notes help you find your feet, and that you enjoy a good days racing with the Monoposto Club.
Although these notes are written from considerable experience of how race meetings run, they all vary. Study the organisers Final Instructions, which usually arrive about a week before the event. If they are at variance with anything written here, follow the Final Instructions!
The Monoposto race meetings are held at most of the British mainland circuits. They are normally two day meetings with signing in and scrutineering held on the Saturday. Usually there is a single qualifying session and a race on each day of the weekend. Naturally, in a one day meeting everything takes place on the same day, and there is usually one qualifying session and two races.
Usually several days before the meeting you should receive the Supplemental Regulations (SRs), the Final Instructions (FRs), the Paddock Plan, the Timetable and your tickets (if individual tickets for that meeting are being issued).
For some teams the race meeting starts the day before with a pre-race meeting test session. The race car with its tools and spare parts will have been loaded earlier in the week. Try not to forget anything essential, this is best done with the aid of a check list. Once you have been racing for some time you will develop your own list or system . However, a suggested list of items is given below. Ensure that the race car’s battery and the transponder battery are charged.
Once the tow car is loaded, the race car is put onto the trailer and tied down with a strap at each corner. The trailer can also used to carry large items e.g. a shelter, a cover for the race car, and a work bench, and of course the treaded rain tyres. Cheap garden centre gazebos are widely used as shelters. They need securing when in the paddock usually to the trailer or the wheels that are not in use on the race car. Finally the trailer is hitched up to the tow car and the lights are tested. Trailers do have load limits, try not to overload yours!
If the circuit is more than a couple of hours drive away, or if you are in an early race, you may wish to set off the day before and camp at the circuit or ‘bed and breakfast’ overnight. Take the car to the circuit the evening before, park neatly in the designated area (shown with your Final Instructions of the meeting), unload and pitch the shelter to give yourself a flying start on race day.
The actual race day can be hectic. Make sure that you know what times the key events are scheduled for before you arrive at the circuit, and get there in plenty of time! There will be paddock announcements, but they can easily be missed in the noisy paddock environment.
Usually the first thing is to unload and check the race car prior to scrutineering. At the designated time the driver goes to the Race Control Office to sign in, he or she will have his/her club membership card and race licence checked. Officials will give you a signing on slip, which you will need to present at scrutineering. Meanwhile, when time becomes available, the tyre pressures are being set, fluid levels checked and the race car’s wheels torqued up. An added complication for novices is that while all this is going on, they may have to attend a mandatory novices’ meeting.
Next the car is pushed, occasionally driven, to the scrutineering bay where it is checked for safety and eligibility. The driver’s helmet, HANS device, race overalls, boots and gloves are also checked at scrutineering, so wear them or carry them with you. Be ready to remove the bodywork, and if you don’t have see through reservoirs, the brake master cylinder tops. The scrutineer will check that all is done up tight, and that the basics of steering, brakes and suspension appear OK. They will also check the rear light and electrical cut out switch. The key thing to remember at scrutineering is to keep calm! Even experienced competitors get caught out by the scrutineers from time to time, but the scrutineers objective is to get you through, so listen carefully to any advice that they give you. If you need help to get through scrutineering, don’t hesitate to ask one of the regular Mono competitors who is not too busy, we all want to see you out on the track. When you’ve been passed by the scrutineer he will give you a ticket. Stick it securely onto the car straight away because it will be checked before you are allowed out to qualify or to race.
Once the car has been passed by the scrutineers it is pushed or driven back to its shelter and prepared for qualifying. The bodywork is refitted, the safety belts loosened and the mirrors and helmet visor are cleaned. Finally the engine is started and warmed up before you are called for qualifying. Do not leave starting the engine until the last minute. Racing engines which start every time in the garage become erratic when handled by a nervous driver desperate to get it to fire up! Also if it is raining, or it is damp, demist the inside of the visor with some soap. Don’t use the demist liquids, which are useless, but try washing up liquid or shower gel!
There is usually a noise test before you go out for qualifying. This is a hazard because results seem to vary a great deal. Try and find out if there is to be a test (watch earlier practice fields going out), and take your car down early, so if there is a problem you can sort it out, again with help from your Monoposto friends! Usually a silencer gets a little bit quieter when hot and you will be required to rev your engine to approx 3/4 throttle… so don’t go to noise testing with a cold engine.
Taking part in the qualifying session is essential. Usually, you must complete a minimum of three laps in a acceptable time to be allowed to start. If for any reason you miss your session, ask the Clerk of the Course to let you practice in a later session, so you will be allowed to start, even if it is from the back of the grid with a ten second penalty for qualifying out of session.
The car is driven to the assembly area where it joins a queue before being released onto the track. Here the pit crew check that seat belts and helmet plus HANS are correctly fitted (tight), remove any loose stones from the tyres, and plug in the slave battery (if the car uses one) so that the engine can be started. A keen pit crew will be really busy now because they must start the car and then rush to the pit area with the tools, battery trolley and signalling board to be ready for the car as it comes round! Alternatively, some Monoposto drivers race without a pit crew.
During the first laps of qualifying, drive the car gently whilst the tyres, engine and brakes get warm, and you play yourself in, remember you need three laps to qualify for the race. At the end of each lap you should see your pit board, or on-board timer displaying the time for the previous lap. At the end of practice you will see the chequered flag, slow down and follow the marshals’ directions to parc ferme, or the paddock. You should immediately check and reset the tyre pressures, if necessary, whilst the tyres are still warm, ignoring the urge to go and chat over practice with your fellow competitors! While in parc ferme the Club Scrutineer may check all the cars that have qualified for some aspect of eligibility before they are released into the paddock.
As mentioned earlier, if you haven’t raced at the circuit before, then you must attend a new drivers briefing. Details are usually in the final instructions, if not ask at signing on. Make sure that you attend before you practice, or you could be in trouble. At some circuits there will be a general drivers briefing for all drivers, probably at lunch time. Again make sure that you attend, or you could be in for a fine and an endorsed licence.
Getting ready to race
After practice the car is checked over for faults, particular care being taken to check suspension, brakes and steering. The oil and water levels are checked and the car refuelled before the crew can relax and pray that there isn’t a change in the weather requiring a last minute tyre change! The pre-race procedure is pretty much the same as that before qualifying except that the cars are put in starting order in the assembly area, this enables the marshals to line us up easily on the starting grid. It will help everybody if you have obtained a time sheet and know your grid position.
The big moment !
Once you are on the starting grid you sit and wait for the starter’s 3 minute to go signal. This will be followed by two and one minute boards and a thirty second board. The time between boards is usually accelerated. The cars are then waved away by a green flag on a warm up lap and return to their allotted positions for the actual start. At some circuits there are variations on green flag lap procedure, be aware of any variations by reading the Final Instructions. Try to stay calm, ensure that first gear is engaged by the time the 5 second signal is given. The lights are the same as used in F1! The red lights come on in sequence then all stay on for a random time between 0 & 5 secs, When they will all go out and its Go Go Go. It is a good idea to watch the start of an earlier race if possible, just to see an example of the whole procedure.
The engine is held at suitable rpm. the lights go out, the clutch bites and engine notes rise as all the cars jostle for position. Remember to change into second, you will not be able to hear your own engine! Take care here not to let the red mist take over and come a cropper on the first corner. Remember that when you are new to racing you need to get as much racing under your belt as possible, so don’t take too many chances until you are more experienced. You will learn nothing from a spectacular spin into a gravel trap on the first lap, additionally, you will loose a signature on your license! The laps soon fly by and the chequered flag is out and it’s all over!
On returning to the paddock the field may be directed into parc ferme, where the cars are held to allow any protests to be lodged. This is a formality in Monoposto racing, because no one can remember an incident in parc ferme! So just get out of the car and exchange experiences with your fellow competitors before returning to the paddock. Once again, while in parc ferme the Club Scrutineer may check the cars for compliance with the regulations.
Raceday Check List
- Signing On:
Bring:- Racing Licence, Club Membership Card, Commentator’s sheet
Collect: Scrutineering ticket, Race Programme.
Bring: race car, signing in slip, tools to remove bodywork, helmet, HANS device, driver’s overalls, boots & gloves.
Collect: scrutineering ticket for car (attach to race car asap)
- New Drivers Briefing:
Driver must attend, make sure attendance is registered
- Noise Test:
Make sure you know result, ask.
Collect: Noise Test pass sticker
- Assembly Area for both qualifying and the race:
Car with scrutineering ticket, correctly dressed driver, slave battery (if used)
Some people take their wets (or slicks) and sufficient tools to change over in assembly area.
Suggested Equipment List
It is virtually impossible to come up with the ultimate List! Everyone has his or her own favourite items, and of course the amount of spares and tools you carry depends on what jobs you would feel like tackling at the circuit and what you have available. This suggested list has all the basic items that you would need for an average days racing. Gear ratios are not mentioned, but if you have them, then take them!
++++ HANS Device (mandatory from 2015 for single seaters built from 01 Jan 2000)
++++ Fireproof overalls
++++ Fireproof underwear
++++ Fireproof gloves
++++ Fireproof socks
++++ Fireproof balaclava
++++ Driving boots
++++ Waterproof jacket
++++ MSA Racing License
++++ MRC Club Card
++++ Plugs and leads
++++ Ignition spares
++++ Brake pads
++++ Assorted nuts and bolts etc
++++ Wire and connectors
++++ Wet tyres
++++ Tie wraps
++++ WD 40
++++ Bars Leaks
++++ Body clips
++++ Instant gasket
++++ Tank tape
++++ Insulating tape
++++ Engine Oil
++++ Gearbox Oil
++++ Brake Fluid
++++ Slave battery
++++ Chassis stands
++++ Torque wrench
++++ Wheel nut socket
++++ Tyre pump
++++ Tyre pressure gauge
++++ Pit Board
++++ Clipboard and pen
++++ Spanners *
++++ Socket set *
++++ Screwdrivers *
++++ Soft hammer
++++ Mole grips
++++ Feeler gauges
++++ Tyre lever
* To fit every nut, bolt and screw on the car