Our first run as rookies was a comedy of errors when it comes to STOP WATCHES. We were near the start line when
both doors came open and two guys reach in and cinch up our harnesses nice and tight. Little did we know that
they had unintentionally bumped my navigator's stop watch and so it was ticking away BEFORE we left the line.
Fortunately we had taken Blue's advice and had a backup which I kept around my neck and started right off
the line as planned. Unfortunately I didn't realize the lanyard around my neck was too short to get over my
helmet so I couldn't remove it and hand it to my navigator. So for the entire 90 miles I was reading off
the times while trying to concentrate on my driving - a real goat rodeo. But we adapted and finished our first
race successfully. So do not hang your backup stopwatch around your neck. Do not let the course workers
bump your stopwatch or course notes before you leave the start line.
Another good story...last May we were running the 140 mph class, but off to a fairly slow start because we had been
waiting for many hours in the hot sun and were not feeling entirely on our game by the time we got started.
BRING WATER! Bring SOLAR SHADES for your front windows! There is no place to get out of the sun once you
are staged (or break down). We drive a convertible with the top up and windows down (didn't want shattered
glass in case of roll over). We were driving between 155 and 165 for a good part of the course to make up time
lost in the beginning as we eased up to our target speed. After the narrows, I accelerated back up to 160, we
were only 2 seconds off target and my navigator was fighting the wind blowing page 2 of the course notes
around so I thought only 8 miles to go so I'll just put up the windows to help her out. WRONG! The air pressure
change blew out my rear window from the canvas top and we lost 4 seconds from the confusion trying to assess what
had just happened.
****Tape down your course notes on Styrofoam clipboard.
****FOCUS 100% on your driving and DO NOT get distracted for any reason.
That stopwatch story reminds of one of the things that happened to us. We set the stopwatches on the dash, in the sunlight.
Normally that's not bad, but if you have the LCD type screen, the screen will "burn out" and takes 15-30 minutes to return to normal.
Basically ran with only 1 stopwatch that event. We run with three, one kept by the driver, and two by the navigator.
The navigator uses one for splits and the other for the overall run; that way s/he doesn't accidently reset the stopwatch when doing splits,
but if he does, he has a second stopwatch. The overall stopwatch is stuck to the dash with Velcro, the other is on a lanyard
around the navigator's wrist or neck. That way the navigator doesn't get them confused.
...and advice from experienced racers
- You may have touched 130 mph for a short time on the track or even on a road, but to sustain high speed
for 90 miles is a different matter. You really need to understand that the safety rules are there to help
you appreciate that difference, and preparing your vehicle for safe autobahn style driving will result
in a really enjoyable experience.
- Respect the energy you will be carrying
- Keep a high visual horizon
- Be smooth - no sudden movements
- Think through emergency scenarios ahead of time
- Tires, tires, tires!
- Check air pressure about two weeks ahead, monitor for slow leaks, add some extra air the night before and
then bleed it down to the right amount on the Grid
- Replace valve stems when replacing tires, and make sure the stems are not pinched
- Don't look over at your navigator - it really hurts to crash
- Don't forget your driving gloves
- Don't forget those metal valve stem caps
- In an emergency, clutch in, ease off the throttle, nothing else - just coast to bleed off speed; no
braking, no downshifting, steer straight down the road
- The best advice I got when I started was to get good tires (and wheels), dial in the suspension, get all
your safety equipment installed, then worry about more power
- Start your watch or other timing equipment at the start line! It's okay to be a few seconds late in
actually leaving the line, but start the watch on time
- Read the road and look for wind direction
- Take an ACTIVE role in your car prep!
- Drive within YOUR limits! Don't pick a class that you will be worrying about. I know that I still have
'butterflies' in my stomach when I leave for grid as well as a few the night before. It just shows that I
respect these events and the speeds that I run. Once I am gridded and look the vehicle over, I feel confident
and the butterflies almost disappear.
- Don't do any major car work within 30 days of the race - give yourself some time to drive those new nifty
mods for a bit to work out any kinks.
- Another lesson: if you realize you have blown it - don't try and make up time in the Narrows :-)
- Most common cause of accidents: Inattention and tires
- Know where the dips are (see pace notes for some info). One racer says: I decel right before them and
make sure I am throttle down when I hit them at a nominal speed. I'd rather have my suspension unloaded
than bottom out when I hit and have the car get weird on the rebound.
- Put your gloves and headsock on your dash before takeoff..Murphy says they be just out of reach once you
belt in..same goes with closing the door before you strap in.
- DO NOT cool yourself with water on clothing when wearing Nomex before a run. It may steam cook you in a fire.
- A "Hats Off" device can be cheap insurance
- You can duct tape stopwatches to your steering wheel.
- If solo, you can use a motorcycle roller strip, or print the course notes on a clear, adhesive-back
projector slide (known as a clearview); stick it to the windshield next to the driver's a-pillar. Be sure to
sit in the car and check the view; when angled on windshield it's different.
But..it's a great heads up display!
- I feel this little bit of info. can help some people. When we started this practice, we started
getting on the podium. As you know, getting within a second, 1/4 mile from the finish line is skill.
Hitting the finish line exactly on time, is a lot of luck. We have always used mile marker for best
We tried odmeter, GPS, etc., but always went back to mile markers.
Our secret is a 10 second count down to the finish line. As you know, the finish line comes very quickly at 140 MPH.
The driver must check his speed, his time and try to find the electric eye at the finish line.
This is a lot of things to do in a short time. If the navigator counts down with his fingers and verbal, this allows the
driver to check his speed and look for the electric eye, without also checking his stop watch.
Anyway, I hope this little bit of advice can help someone (but not in my class, Ha!Ha!)
- My advice to rookies would be, Make a thorough pre race check list and then don't forget to USE IT !!
I made a long list my first race, most items I took care of Sat. aft. in Ely. A few had to be left for race day.
I got out to the start area, got all wrapped up in the excitement and totally forgot the list !
Two of the items almost cost me a DNF. Rookie mistake.
- Every problem I have had mechanically has been due to last minute items without proper road/track break-in. :-)
Do NOT change tires/rims just before the race, do NOT install a 600+ HP supercharged motor just before the race,
do NOT try and make up time on the entry to/through the Narrows... I'm sure I have more embarrassing stories
- You can start your watch early (1 minute, or 10 seconds) and just remember the difference on the course
- Get to town early, practice at legal speeds, view the course videos many times
- Buy a Camelbak with a 100 oz pouch and attach the Camelbak to the back of the driver's seat.
I bought one for my first ORR. I can fit food and a first aid kit in there too.
- Another tip to new folks is avoid getting disqualified. This happens because you went too fast or
TOO SLOW AT THE FINISH. The fact that you don't win any prizes or know your speed and other data
related to your participation, is not the worst part. Going back to qual school is an experience that can try
your soul. Not only did Blue and several of the rookies give me a bad time but the spectators standing around the
Andretti driving school even joined in. My disqualification was a result of my youth and over
exuberance but that did not soften any hearts in officialdom.
- Practice, practice, practice! My Navigator and I ran all over practicing. We used 70 as a tech speed and 65 as a target speed.
Work the communication out. Learn not to chase the speed indicator. The Navigator has the hard job.
If you follow his directions you will finish well. Have a plan to get your car home!!!
If your transmission eats itself what will you do. Mine did last year. Can you load your car on a trailer if its not drivable?
- Look far down the road
- SA: There is an extremely important philosophy in the fighter pilot world known as "SA".
SA stands for situational awareness, and it means having a grasp of all that is going on around you.
This also transfers over to driving in an ORR event.
Actually it should be the way a driver operates any time he or she is behind the wheel even when going to the grocery store.
SA in ORR means keeping track of your gauges.....how are the oil press and water temp etc. doing? Know your speed at all times.
Like Dale said, don't get DQed for going too fast or too slow.
Check that rear view mirror from time to time. Is there a car closing on you from behind?
Be aware of the weather conditions and how it can affect you. "Feel" the car....are you starting to feel a vibration?
Yes, the driver's main focus should be on driving, looking as far down the road as possible,
but don't get "tunnel vision" and neglect all of those other things that you should be keeping track of.
Be aware and take in as much information as possible.
This will help you to make the right decisions when necessary and will greatly reduce the chance of surprises.
- Suggested list of ORR Priorities from your start time until after you pass the finish line (in order):
Keep all tire contact patches on the paved course and moving in the course direction
Never exceed your tech speed
Never drive below your minimum speed except within one mile of the start line or as dictated by safety or by course officials
Achieve a course time that yields an average speed of +/- 10 mph of your target speed
Get as close to your target time as you can