Before You Race
A competitor’s eye view of what happens on race day.
Worried about your first race meeting? You are not alone in that !
To help guide you along the way, we have outlined the steps working up to a “typical” race day, including documentation and scrutineering.
Variations will occur between different clubs, circuits and organisers, so be sure to read the information sent by the organisers and if in doubt, ask!
Rules – Motorsport has its dangers, and a need to ensure fair competition. The rules are there to keep it safe, fair and enjoyable.
Understanding of class, or series rules is vital for fair competition and for you to be competitive. Make sure that you know what you can and cannot do with your car, and if in doubt, ask the Series Eligibility Officer.
Three weeks before race day
You should have completed your entry for the meeting, either on line or in hard copy and posted them off to the organizers. Remember - late entries may not necessarily be accepted !!! (Most entries are now done on the www.motorsportentry.com website
You should have your competition licence, MSNZ logbook and club membership all up to date. If not – get it sorted urgently. You are not likely to be allowed to compete if the paperwork isn’t right.
Your car should be well on the way to race readiness….
One week before race day
Your potentially class-winning car should now be looking tidy and presentable, and be set up in accordance with the rules for your class. You will have gone over the car, and confirmed that all the safety check items have been checked, and done a “spanner check” on critical items or known weak points.
You should know the competition number allocated to you and have it ready, on the car. Your Trofeo Series decal should also be placed on your windscreen to identify the class you are competing in.
You should also have carefully read through the Supplementary Regulations that came with the entry form. These can contain important information on the way the meeting will be run, how starts will be made and other important facts. A good read of this information now can save a lot of confusion later!
The day before
Make sure that everything is packed, prepared and ready to go.
Preparation doesn’t just mean working on the car, but also having your licence and documentation ready, tools and spares packed and the trailer well maintained.
You would be amazed how many race weekends have been ruined by a trailer wheel bearing failure or a lost licence.
If you use race-gas, do you have enough on hand, or can you get it on race day? It pays to check!
Race day - Arriving at the meeting
The information sent to you by the organizer or available on line ( i.e. Supplementary regulations) will tell you when documentation and scrutineering start. Make sure you arrive on time.
There will often be directions as to where to park your car, what to do with the trailer, and which section of the pits each class is to use. Arriving early can allow you to get a good spot in the pits.
Do be aware that pit bays and garages at some circuits may be reserved or leased out to others. It pays to check first.
Trailers can take up a huge amount of space and are often discouraged in pit areas. If the organizer indicates a trailer parking area, it is best to use it.
Fuel storage and refueling
There will be limitations as to the amount of fuel you may hold in your pit area generally no more than 2 x 20l containers. Check the supplementary regulations for the event to ensure that you stay within the limits. A big meeting with many competitors means many fuel containers and a significant fire risk.
When refueling at a meeting, remember that you are also required to have another person, in overalls, with an extinguisher on hand in case of incident. (Refuelling in endurance events has additional requirements). Check the motorsport NZ website for the approved code of practice.
Officials of the meeting
The exact roles and responsibilities of the various officials are set out in the Motorsport Manual, and the following is a brief outline for guidance only.
Clerk of the course – Runs the meeting, makes the operational and disciplinary decisions – i.e. GOD
Stewards – Appointed by Motorsport NZ to ensure that the meeting runs according to MSNZ rules – i.e. GOD’s supervisors
Competitor Relations Officer – The official to see if you have any problems or concerns with regard to the meeting – i.e. GOD’s representative in the pits.
Scrutineers – Carry out technical inspection of your car, and will advise the Clerk of the Course if your car is/is not acceptable to race.
Judges of fact – Officials delegated to make decisions as to breaches of specific rules, e.g. noise, start line infringements etc.
All the officials are dedicated car club people, who have volunteered, unpaid, to put on a race meeting for your enjoyment. They are trained and experienced and are there to make the meeting run safely, within the rules. Politeness, respect, good humour and doing things right make for a pleasant relationship with the officials, and a successful race day.
Once you have arrived, unloaded your car and parked your, trailer, your first port of call is to documentation. This is where you “check in” with the organizers;
You will need to;
Confirm details of, and correctness of your entry
Produce your competition licence and club membership card
Produce your car’s logbook
The organizers will check off details on your entry form, look at licence & membership card, and check the logbook to see if the car is to be scrutineered. Cars are generally scrutineered every third meeting, or if the car has not been scrutineered in the last 6 months. It may also be scrutineered if it had a problem noted at the last entry, if there has been a change to the roll protection, or at the organisers’ discretion.
If your car is not required to be scrutineered, your logbook will be marked “not audited” and generally a sticker will be given to you to place on the car to show that it has been accepted at the meeting.
If required to be scrutineered, you will be asked to present your car at the scrutineering bay. Your logbook may be retained by the organizer and given back to you at scrutineering.
Competitors who haven’t previously competed in four series meetings must, under Trofeo Series Rules, have three stripes 300mm x 25mm on the rear windscreen of their car. These should be fitted before scrutineering.
This is for safety reasons, so that other drivers can recognize and allow for a less experienced competitor.
Your car must be presented at scrutineering as it will be raced, along with your helmet and overalls. i.e. no fuel containers, spare tyres or lunch boxes on board. (If you intend running an in-car video camera, this should be securely mounted for scrutineering too.)
Scrutineering is all about safety, your safety as well as that of the other competitors and officials. The scrutineer will look at selected safety items on the car, so be ready to assist with opening bonnet or boot, and showing him your safety equipment when requested.
If you pass scrutineering, you will be given a sticker to place on or near the right hand side of the rollover bar to show that your car is OK to race.
We all feel a bit nervous when someone is looking at our car and possibly criticizing our mechanical handiwork. If the scrutineers do ask you to change or repair something on the car, it will be for good reason and for your safety.
Don’t be defensive or argue with the scrutineer. The scrutineer is an unpaid volunteer, and is doing it for the love of the sport and for your safety. In any case, you don’t get to race until the scrutineer passes the car. Be nice to the man !!!
Some minor infringements may be noted in your logbook as requiring attention prior to the next meeting. Please make sure these items are attended to, if you don’t you will not be able to race and are liable to a fine !
Most meetings will do their timing by the use of a transponder. A transponder is a small “black box” which allows the organizers to record your lap times electronically. This ensures accurate lap times and saves the need for people to do timekeeping.
Timing loops are fitted at the start finish and pit lanes of the major circuits to detect the transponder as it goes by in your car.
The transponder does need to be fitted according to the organizers directions otherwise it may not necessarily register your times, and your lap records may go unrecognized !
Transponders are an expensive item but can often be rented from the organizers which can help keep costs down. Don’t lose it, or accidentally take it home after the meeting. You might be billed for it !!
Once documentation and scrutineering is completed, all drivers are expected to attend drivers briefing. The officials of the meeting are introduced, and matters of importance or concern are advised to the drivers.
If you don’t understand the briefing, do ask for clarification, because it is very likely there are a bunch of other drivers who are as puzzled as you are !
Do make sure you attend. They may well do a roll call, and it is regarded as most unacceptable not to be there. Also, make sure your pit crew don’t run your race engine during the drivers briefing!
The Clerk of the Course can impose a fine for not attending drivers briefing.
If it is your first race at a particular circuit, you will be expected to make that known on your entry form, and to attend a briefing for new drivers. It is a requirement that you attend, and is again very much with safety in mind.
Each circuit is different, and the organizers need to know that everyone on track understands what is happening. Do make sure to attend.
Time for a final check of fluid levels, torque up the wheelnuts, check the tyre pressures and give the car a final “once-over” to ensure that it is all ready for the race.
Favorite mistakes are leaving objects in the car to rattle around in the race or to be a danger in a crash, (spare tyre ?) or even not doing up all the wheel nuts. Get into a checking routine and stick to it. Perhaps make up and use a check-list?
You will get a call to go to the dummy grid for practice. You should be in your race suit and ready to go at short notice, helmet and gloves ready, and the car warmed up.
Practice should more properly be called qualifying. Your “practice” times will be used to allocate the start positions on the starting grid, and usually fastest car to the front. Getting a good grid position has obvious advantages at race time, so practice needs to be approached seriously.
Think about what cars are around you during practice, try and get positioned so that you can get in a good fast lap without other cars interfering. (Not always easy with 30+ other cars on track)
A few dollars previously spent on a testing day at the circuit is a wise investment and will allow you to get the best result from the race meeting. It will allow you to set your car up, and to optimize your driving technique in a relaxed timeframe, rather than trying to figure out problems or change things during the short time available at the meeting.
Note: You are normally required to have completed at least 2 laps of practice before being allowed to compete in a race. If not, you may be allowed to start off the back of the grid, but at the Clerk of the Course’s discretion.
With practice completed, you will return to the pits. You should re-check the car, to confirm there are no leaks or other problems, refuel if needed and make sure that it is ready for the race.
Results from the practice are generally posted on a notice board, as may be the grid for the race itself.
When called to the dummy grid, move up, and be ready to be shown into your position on the dummy grid. You will be expected to maintain this position during the warm-up lap and the start itself. (Unless instructed by an official, don’t move into an apparently vacant spot.)
You should be belted into your car with your helmet on prior to the race before yours finishing. If you are not ready to go you may be prevented from starting the race.
You will be waved away onto the track for your warm-up lap. This will give you time to warm up the tyres and the brakes, so they are working acceptably for the start.
Be careful not to surprise any of your fellow competitors with dramatic weaving or crash stops during the warm up lap. (If you want to weave to warm up the tyres, remember, use no more than 50% of the track width!) Damaging another competitor’s car on the warm up lap is not going to increase your popularity!
When you get to the starting grid, you move up to your allocated position, and obey any instructions of the grid marshals.
Keep an eye on the start line. A white sign saying “30 Seconds” will be shown when the pole position car is in place. When the starter is ready to start another sign with “5 Seconds” will be shown. The race will start around 3 to 5 seconds later.
The start of a race may be by lights or by flag. It will be specified in the Supplementary Regulations and will be discussed at drivers briefing. The normal methods of starting are a red light being extinguished, or the national flag being waved.
Shortly after the “5 Second” board, you will need to have the engine revving to starting RPM, and be ready to go. Then when the flag drops or the lights go out, you are off !
Be careful not to creep over the line at the start as you may get penalized. Some starting grids are slightly sloped, and you may need to use the handbrake.
The start and first corner are, as any motorsport fan knows, the most hazardous times in a race. To re-state the old cliché, you aren’t going to win the race on the first corner, but you might well lose it there.
Things to watch at the start;
Not too much wheel-spin, it is slow and unproductive.
Make sure there is a gap before committing your car to it !
Look out for stalled cars ahead of you !
Look out for the occasional very fast car coming from behind !
Your tyres aren’t up to full heat / adhesion yet
Your brakes may not yet be hot and fully effective
Keep a good look out well ahead and be prepared to react if an incident does occur
The handicap or reverse grid race, requires that competitors start at staggered times, slowest first, with the aim that all cars have the opportunity to be in the lead at race end.
The supplementary regulations will usually state the start procedure, and it will be mentioned at the drivers briefing.
The most common method is for the cars to assemble on the starting grid in their time groups, and as each group starts, the next group will roll up to the starter’s flag. A marshal with a red flag will usually stand in front of the waiting cars, and release each group in turn to go to the starter.
Alternatively, the starter may require the cars to stay stopped on the starting grid and he may move down the grid. Once the first group of cars is started, he then moves on to the next group and so on.
If an incident occurs, the flag marshals will display the appropriate flags.
Watch for the flags and do take note of them. Favorite foul-ups are:
Yellow – Means no overtaking. (But some miss the flag and do overtake)
Red – Race stopped, cease racing. (If shown in practice, return to pits, if shown in race, return to start grid.)
The rules on flag signals may change slightly from time to time. Check your current copy of the Motorsport Manual so you know exactly what you are supposed to do.
You can get fined, or have your licence endorsed for not obeying flag signals. E.g. overtaking under the yellow flag.
Worse, you could be endangering an injured competitor or a flag marshal going to assist at an incident.
Keep your eyes open and stay aware of the flags.
Being lapped/overtaken by a faster car
No matter how good a driver you are, there will come a time when you will be overtaken by another car. While it is the overtaking driver’s responsibility to overtake safely, it is also up to you to select your line through the corner, hold a consistent line in the corner, and not make any sudden manoeuvers that may be dangerous. i.e. no blocking
Not willingly conceding a position is what racing is all about, and when competing on level terms with another competitor, not a problem, but for a much quicker car coming up to you, it is both pointless and unsafe to try and defend the position.
Do not try to suddenly pull out of the way for the car approaching from the rear.
Be predictable, maintain your line, and let the other driver overtake in a safe manner.
If possible try to signal the overtaking driver which side you wish them to pass on. As well as signaling the obvious it lets the other driver know you have seen them.
In a handicap or reverse grid race, there is a possibility for numbers of cars to be passing at once. While contesting strongly for a position and resisting being overtaken is perfectly OK with someone of similar capability, when there are a pack of much faster cars close behind, it is hazardous indeed to try and obstruct them overtaking. Discretion is advised !
The finish - Keep concentrating - no sudden slow-ups
One lap before the finish, a “last lap” board will be displayed at the start line. At the finish of the race, the traditional chequered flag will be displayed.
Don’t brake suddenly, stop or lose concentration waving to another competitor. Any number of accidents have happened after the end of the race. Keep going at a reasonable, but reduced speed.
Be aware that the track is still operating, that there will be other cars still racing and that accidents can still happen. You need to stay aware of warning flags and for other cars that may be returning slowly to the pits after stopping during the race, also for recovery vehicles or flag marshals that may be near the circuit.
Don’t loosen your belts or remove your helmet until you have stopped your car at your pit.
Slow in the pits please!
Respect the pit lane speed limits posted at the pit entry. The pits generally have two lanes. The outer lane or “fast” lane is limited to 40 km/h. The inner lane is limited to 15 km/h. 40 km/h seems very slow after a race, so do take it easy.
There are likely to be people working in and around the pits, as well as other cars coming and going. Speeding in the pits is a danger to all concerned.
Withdrawal from the meeting
If you are going to withdraw from the meeting during the day, please make sure you advise the secretary of the meeting. This will help the accuracy of the results, and the officials won’t be looking out for your car unnecessarily.
If your car is involved in an accident on track it must be re-scrutineered to confirm that it is OK to continue racing. The car may only return to racing at the discretion of the clerk of the course.
Learning from others’ experience
The old saying goes, that experience is what you get, right after you needed it.
There is an easier way…
The drivers and others associated with the Trofeo Series have accumulated many years of knowledge about the cars and the New Zealand motorsport scene. New drivers are encouraged to contact a committee member or other competitor for information or assistance.
Committee members’ contact details, click here.
We are happy to help and to answer questions
Remember… the only silly question is the one you didn’t ask, that got you a DNF !