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 tenderfoot question: why do I need a "crew"? 
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Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:06 pm
Posts: 43
Location: MA, Boston Metro-West
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Last year I bought an old sports racer that is being restored for the purpose of giving vintage motorsports a try. I've never done any type of automotive racing (just a few autocrosses and a handful of track days). The car's not yet done, but I hope to use it for the 1st time at the May VRG driving school in W Virginia. If everything is ready early, I'll also try to do the VSCCA school in April (Pocono) if everything is ready. My family thinks I'm nuts and they have zero interest in motorsports, so I'm trying to figure out if I can do this as a solo hobby.

Question: do I need a crew?

The car should be sorted out and have a little running in time on a track (by the restorer) to find and fix loose ends. Assuming the car is sorted out ready for tech inspection, I plan on trailering the car down myself. I've got all new safety equipment (as does the car), which I use at a Skip Barber school last summer. The trailer has a winch for loading/unloading, and I'll bring a small set of spares and tools (which I know how to use). I have a list of stuff to bring (thanks to VRG folks like Frank Grimaldi). If the car breaks, I don't intend to fix it at the track. So, do I really need a crew/assistant?

Do any of you do vintage racing solo?

Thanks, John Feng

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John Feng
Massachusetts


Mon Jan 06, 2014 2:22 pm
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John:

I would say that many race "solo". You just need to be very organized...checklists really help so you don't forget anything. That being said, sometimes the school can be a little overwhelming because you are learning stuff really fast and your concentration should be on that learning, not looking after your car. So if you could get some friend to help you for that it would be ideal, but not essential. The more reliable your car is, the less you will have to worry about it during the school. So make sure you have the car all sorted BEFORE the school. Don''t treat the school as a "test & tune" for your new car.

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Mack


Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:34 am
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John,

I have raced without a crew for 20+ years. But I agree with Mack -- find someone to help you with your School event. Too many students end up missing valuable classroom time, because they are fettling the car. Even just simple things like refueling, checking tire pressures, whacking the knock-off's, all take time -- which you do not have when you're doing a race school. Your "crew" for the school doesn't need to be an ace mechanic, but they should at least know how to get the car ready for your next session on the track. And it's good to have someone watching over the driver (you!) a little bit, to make sure you are drinking fluids, getting a little something to eat, and remembering to take your gloves with you to the false grid, double-checking that you've tightened the tie-downs when you load up to leave, and other stupid stuff like that. Of course, it's even better if you can find someone who is mechanically inclined, just in case something breaks.

When I took my first Driver's School, my car ran pretty well but I remember two problems: fouled plugs (too much choke when I started the car on a cold morning) and a broken throttle cable (even though it was new). Fortunately I had spares with me and fixed both problems, and didn't lose much time in the classroom. I would bet that the average student with a newly-restored car ends up having at least 3 problems during the weekend.

As time goes on, your need for a crew member will lessen. It would be great to have someone with you for your first few events, not as essential as for the School, but certainly helpful until you gain some experience. Like any activity, things will start to become easier once you have 3 or 4 race weekends under your belt.

As Mack says, checklists are really important. After 20 years, I still use a "packing list" when I load up for a race weekend. I have seen people forget to bring their helmet or driver's suit (ask Mack about that!), or their log book, or the key to the cut-off switch. You should also have a checklist for pre-race checks at the track: fuel, check oil, check overflow bottles, tire pressures, torque lug nuts (or knockoffs), wash windscreen and helmet visor, etc.

But long term, as you gain experience, you won't need a crew if your car is reliable and well-prepared. I have even run hour-long enduro's with no crew.

By the way -- don't kid yourself that you don't intend to fix the car at the track. Believe me, it will happen! Something will break on Sunday morning, an hour before your feature race, and 3 other people will offer to help -- including your closest rival on the track. You've towed the car 300 miles from home and spent $1000 on the race weekend, and you won't want to give up the main feature race just because the fuel pump quit. I know you said you're having the car professionally prepared and shaken down, but there will be things that go wrong anyway -- maybe even at your first event. So I recommend that you go into it, mentally prepared to work on the car if necessary.

Good luck, hope to meet you at an event in 2014!

Mark Palmer


Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:31 pm
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:oops:

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Mack


Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:04 am
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I found that those at the event that have entries in the same class or group are extremely helpful in keeping your car ready for the track. MAKE FRIENDS, fast. Introduce yourself to the"Small Bore Bastards", usually have spares for A series BMC equipped racers and love to muddle around others problems. Can free up class time for you, time you do not want to miss.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:08 pm
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John,

I've been solo for over 10 years now, but I do paddock with some really good friends I have made racing and they always help out when needed. "Sure we can do an engine swap in 2 hours" - been there, done that!!!

An option for you to try for help at races is that many of us now have teenager sons that have been around our cars for most of their lives that are willing to help "crew" and just posting a "want ad" here could easily get you the extra hands you need, espcially for the school in May.

My 16 yo plans to take the school and my 13 yo loves to help people out (for a nominal and highly negotiable fee). I'd take him any day but I'm not willing to pay his asking price - hahahaha.

Good luck and hope to see you in May.

Keith Lawrence
Pittsburgh PA

PS - where do you live, lots of local help can be found for first tow, event weekend prep and etc. Can never be too prepared.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:55 pm
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Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:06 pm
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Location: MA, Boston Metro-West
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Keith,
thanks for more good advice.
I'm 15min due west of Boston, in Sudbury, MA. Everyone I know who races (save one) has KTR support them. KTR is a big, professional race prep/restoration shop in Ayers, MA. Great place with great service, but you pay for it.
I might ultimately give in had have them store/support, but I've always been a "self sufficient" type and want to give the solo plan a chance to succeed. The one guy that doesn't use professional support is Frank Grimaldi (purple Camaro), but he's special because of his 40 years of experience and the size of his extended family (all of whom seem really supportive of his addiction).

John

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John Feng
Massachusetts


Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:43 pm
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John:

One of the satisfying things about amateur racing (at least for me) is the preparation and development of one's own race car. When you do it yourself you learn a hell of a lot. There are a number of books out there to help you learn to do it right (the Carroll Smith series comes to mind as well as the factory shop manual for your car). Now with the Internet, the sources for information are limitless, but you do have to separate the wheat from the chaff. When Frank Grimaldi started out he wasn't an expert.

Plus there is a lot of help available in the paddock and in this Forum. Go for it.

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Mack


Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:30 am
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I've only been able to attend one VRG event since we revamped our 240Z into something that now meets the rules and specs for a vintage racing vehicle. That said as someone who instructs at 10 or more HPDE a year and goes it alone I know something about the pre-event prep, loading the car and gear, getting to the track, unloading it all and getting in and out of the car between students.

If I had the money I would have someone prep the car and help me at the track but since I doubt that will ever happen, it helps to have a good friend for actual race days. Before the car was set up for vintage events we could run it for hours on end and just stop to add more gas or swap drivers. Now the engine minus the fuel injection and ECU is a roaring beast with a limited bearing life and out on the track I have people trying to pass me anytime I stop concentrating or even when I am concentrating.

So plan ahead, make a checklist or three, be prepared to have things go wrong because you forgot something and starting making friends at the track.

I'm over in Bedford, MA not far from you.

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John Jeffery
www.baddogparts.com
1972 240Z


Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:01 am
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Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:06 pm
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Location: MA, Boston Metro-West
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Hi J. J.,
I've got a couple of friends over in Bedford (Jaguar XK120 guys). Pricey neighborhood. I'm in Sudbury, only 15-20min away via backroads. I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee and see your car (and checklists).

I've heard how much more tempermental race cars can be over dual purpose street/track cars.
The Elva that's being restored for me should be pretty conservative and thus hopefully reliable.

There's not a lot of stuff on this car which is adjustable beyond carbs and ignition. The restorer has decades of race experience (long time VARAC member up in Ontario, CA) and has convinced me to rent time at a local track for several days of debugging. He's also willing to do one event as crew if I cover his food and lodging and travel (which means gas to me). That also sounds like a good idea.

Do you store/maintain/trailer your car yourself?

John

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John Feng
Massachusetts


Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:06 pm
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