Dr Strangedavey or How I Learned To Stop Spending Money And Go Motor Racing Anyway (Part2)
Previosuly, in Startline, Simon Davey explained that to avoid insolvency whilst motor racing - even in Mono - the following tips should be followed:
1) Avoid Accidents
2) Collect All The Bits
3) Be Nice And Always Pay On Time
4) Learn To Weld
5) Learn To Use Composite Materials
Let Dr Strangedavey continue......
6) Save Odd-Shaped Bits Of Stuff
I’ve kept bits of metal and plastic for 25 years before finding a use for them. Very sad maybe, but definitely saves a lot of money, and I’ve had many a happy evening cataloguing them (alright that last bit isn’t true). I do however have three bins that I use to save bits and pieces of materials or broken components: one for steel, one for aluminium & plastic and one for any long rods or tubes. It’s amazing how much time and money you can save by starting to make a vital bracket from something which happens to be roughly the right shape to start with; rather than starting from scratch by going out and buying a largish piece of new material, which is both expensive and needs more work to get it into the final configuration.
For example Van Diemen Formula Fords have flat alloy plate engine mountings
that often break, but are then a superb source of material for any number
of mounting brackets or lightweight spacers. I’ve converted broken
wishbones into engine mountings (and I think once the other way), made
exhaust system fixings from six inch nails, and regularly recycled the
unworn sections from front aluminium skid plates to make skid plates for
the rear etc etc. Saving odd bits of exhaust system is particularly profitable
– again with the current Swift I completely rebuilt its badly bent
exhaust system with pieces from the metal bin.
7) Don’t Buy Flashy Race-Wear
I think this section must be aimed mainly at new-to-racing drivers. I have often seen people in this position going out and spending £1000+ on ace-looking race wear, and then finding they don’t have enough money to actually do much racing.
In my world there are two essential attributes for race wear. It must
comply with the regulations and it should be so comfortable that you don’t
notice you are wearing it when you are driving the car. Given these two
conditions are satisfied, there is an argument that more expensive race
wear is safer, because it is better made, or made from superior materials.
I personally don’t subscribe to this view. I think the vast majority
of expensive race wear will perform its function in exactly the same way
as the more modest versions – it just looks flashier. Mark you,
this is being written by someone who raced wearing plimsolls as footwear
for the first 12 years of my racing career, before my mechanic couldn’t
stand it any longer and cadged a pair of worn – out racing boots
This is my favourite cost-saving section by far. When I’m in the paddock at a race I keep one eye on the ground; it’s amazing what you will find. Most valuable treasure trove items are are Dzus fasters, K Nuts, and R clips, with an additional bounty of nuts and washers of all shapes and sizes. At most meetings I collect £5-£10 worth. Over the season this amounts to about 1% of my racing budget. If you think that isn’t worth bothering about, what I would like you to do is to write me a cheque for 1% of your racing budget, and I’ll bother about it for you!
More pro-active scavenging can be even more cost-effective. At Donington last year Avon were throwing away sets of Duratec slicks with only one practice and race on them. I know several Mono members who collected complete sets of free tyres. When I raced in F3 I regularly used to collect part-worn brake pads that Cellnet had thrown into the skip (probably you shouldn’t try this one at home), and I have certainly acquired several charming nose cones which less impecunious teams have ditched after taking relatively minor damage.
Best-ever (semi) scavenge was once stopping on the slowing down lap at the Bomb Hole at Snetterton to put in an offer on a written-off Van Diemen which was distributed along the banking. Clinched the deal when the wrecker bought the bits and driver back to the paddock, to the frustration of Ken Thorogood who was in the scrutineering bay, hoping to buy the wreckage. Won the Champion of Snetterton title the following year with the rebuilt car.
9) Know Why Things Are The Way They Are
There are three common reasons for why a typical racing car is put together the way it is:
If you put it together wrong it may break or you may be disqualified, both of which cost or waste money. It will certainly be slow, but that’s a side issue. Vitally, it may kill you and it will probably cost a lot of money to repair or simply put right. The absolute classic example is the number of people who do not understand how the brake balance system on a single seater works, and consequently they assemble and/or adjust it incorrectly, often making the car dangerously unstable under braking. Ask the guy who transposed the front and rear brake master cylinders on my Swift.
Lesson 1 here is to make sure you know what the rules are, and how they are applied in practice. Read the Blue Book and the Championship Technical regs thoroughly. Then go and stand in the scrutineering bay and carefully look at the cars as they come through to see how well or badly people have implemented the rules. Go and ask people about their cars in the paddock (hint: ask nicely).
Lesson 2 is to read as much as possible about the physics and engineering principles which underlie the performance, reliability and safety of a racing car. Do not mindlessly copy what everyone else appears to be doing, and do not simply invent arbitrary solutions, unless you believe you have understood why you choosing this particular way of doing it. A very good place to start is Carroll Smith’s Prepare/Tune to Win books (find out why the Traction Circle is important). Allan Staniforth’s books about the Terrapin single seater are also very good (ever used a String Computer?).
10) Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness
Preparing or repairing a racing car, especially using new bits, is very
expensive. Cleaning a racing car is not, and here I’m talking about
the mechanical bits: chassis, suspension, engine, gearbox; more than about
the bodywork. Apart from the obvious fact that a clean racing car looks
better to most people that a dirty one, cleaning the working bits has
a number of cost-saving benefits:
I guess this section is aimed mainly at newbies, but when I see the decisions more experienced people make sometimes (including myself!) I do wonder about that. There are two main ways of falling over when you buy racing car from a technical standpoint.
The first is to buy a car that is never going to be competitive, whatever you do to it. There’s a few horror shows like this in the FF1600 arena, like the ’76 Van Diemen and the ’85 Reynard. They were never any good, the works team couldn’t make them go quick and you won’t be able to either. So when you are thinking of buying a car in a given category, examine the results to see what goes well, then seek out the quick men and ask them what they think about your choice before you even go and look one. Ask more than one person as well!
The second is to buy a car which has the potential to go well, but is
such a rubbish example that the cost of fixing it will be very high. This
includes the common mistake of buying a rolling chassis, and then discovering
that many of the installation bits are missing: engine spiders, exhaust
headers, swirl pots, fuel pumps, etc etc all cost a fortune. If you do
buy a roller, then if at all possible take the engine out yourself or
stand over the seller while he does it!
12) Listen, Watch And Learn
The most general advice I can give to help save anyone a lot of money is to suggest that they constantly listen and watch what other people are doing, for good or ill, and make sure you learn the lessons without spending your own money on them!
So that’s my 12 penneth-worth. As I said, I’m sure I’ve missed a lot, and I’d be very interested to hear other people’s cost-saving advice (see 12 above…) I’m also pretty sure I’ve enraged a few people who will think I an writing a lot of b******s.
That’s fine too – see you on the track guys!
Simon's garden, yesterday
This man bought very expensive racewear. So expensive he had to sell the marrow he was carrying under his arm to the local produce show. £55 Proban stuff may be the other extreme....google it, it exists.
Jack Brabham is (one of several drivers) reputed to have said "When the flag drops the bullshit stops". He is also one of the few drivers harder to pass than Simon.
Allan Staniforth's Race and Rally Car Source Book is indispensible to the real racer.
A wire brush
"Any repetition will intensify the level of complaint."
Pix: Amazon, Sparco, TC, Internet, Edvard Munch