Everyone likes to watch what happens at the big race, but just as interesting might be watching the extreme automotive maintenance that happens between races. If you admire race car drivers for their skill and experience, you must also respect pit crews and their dedication to the craft, and their love of cars.
Paragon Competition Racing Team’s Post Race Ritual
Paragon Competition Racing Team from North York Ontario returned May 2015 from the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America which is a series of five races run on Laguna Seca raceway in California. This race is the largest single manufacturer (Lamborghini) race in the world.
Joe Chan is a professional race car driver whose career was recently detailed on Eligible Magazine How To Be a Professional Race Car Driver. Over the years, Joe has competed in hundreds of races and has won several titles and currently races a Lamborghini and runs a specialty automotive racing parts supply business more or less to keep his hand in the game and satisfy his lifelong need for speed.
The Paragon Competition racing team is now servicing their high performance automobile, a 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Super Trofeo. Their trucks and trailers which carry the car and the equipment follow one week behind the personnel.
Debriefing the crew chief and engineer, Joe Chan likes to gather specifics about what happened at each race. He likes to get his key people together in one room right after after the event, while every detail is still fresh in his peoples’ minds. The team puts new information against previously recorded data collected from past races. After scrutinizing the findings, Joe goes over what they need to fix on the car, and what spare parts and consumables need to be stocked for the next match, and any new logistics that need to be prepared in advance. Only then do the guys get physical with the car.
Pit Crew Strips the Race Car
Immediately after the crew removes the photo grade sponsors’ logos and any other branding or comfort items found inside the car for safe keeping. Then the car is thoroughly cleaned. The exterior of the vehicle is caressed and inspected, and the body is searched for dents or any new abrasions.
Joe writes, “We strip the car down to its shell. In our [Lamborghini] series the engine and transmission is sealed so the task is to clean and inspect everything around the engine and transmission sub frame which is stripped-down accordingly. Then we recalibrate and reassemble all of the components. Dampers are rebuilt, and bearings are all repacked and re-installed on the car.”
Radiator System Check
Some time is spent cleaning and checking the radiator. A leaking or plugged radiator that won’t cool an engine can quickly debilitate an expensive race engine. The team inspects radiator hose clamps and the hoses themselves for damage or small leaks caused by abrasion.
Brakes Are Moisture Collectors
It’s not uncommon to bleed the brakes during this work over especially if the car was washed in which case bleeding the brakes is done to remove moisture which may be trapped in the system. Brake caliper piston seals will degrade faster than other components and are frequently replaced.
Once the race car’s engine is exposed, the crew flushes all liquid content. Then they get busy cleaning the moving parts inside the engine. Unlike other racing teams, Joe actually uses his sponsor’s products. “At this point the car gets all new fluids, from head to toe. The engine is flushed with Bluechem oil system cleaner, as well as the Transmission, which is flushed with the Bluechem Transmission Flush to ensure the surfaces are varnish and contaminant free. Then we top up with fresh fluids. When we service the fuel system, we clean the injectors with Bluechem Fuel System Cleaner.”
Joe maintains using these admixtures is the most effective way to clean inside the car and make it ‘like new’. It may seem odd to use Bluechem fuel system cleaner after every single race when consumers are only advised to use the product every 30,000 km, but it makes more sense when you understand how the admixture removes carbon, gum, varnish, and other operationally caused contamination from the entire fuel system, and lubricates and protects the entire fuel system for each ‘maximum’ performance on the racing schedule.
As part of the regular maintenance, the crew will perform a compression test on all cylinders, and the results are recorded to ensure the engine is operating at peak performance, otherwise it too will be dissembled, cleaned and examined and rebuilt with new clean parts.
Inspecting and Adjusting Race Car Suspension Systems
Below the frame, team inspects the shock absorbers. These highly specialized cylinders are always removed from the car after each race and examined in fine detail. Joe writes, “An alignment and corner weighing is performed on the car to insure all four corners of the vehicle are balanced. Suspension components may have shifted or moved during the race, so the toe and camber settings are set back to operating specs”.
Ever wonder why the tires are delivered to the racetrack wrapped in plastic bags? The racing team keeps them clean and out of direct sunlight. The soft rubber in these tires will slowly degrade and harden up if they sit for too long in open air, and direct sunlight speeds up this process. Tires are the only real link between the car and the road so of course they’re looked over and graded and stored as necessary. In some races the tires are provided to all teams equally, directly from the sponsor.
Near the end of this regular maintenance session the crew performs the Nut and Bolt Test. This is when the guys go around the car and check and re-torque every nut and bolt, and lock wire all of the key pieces before the crew chief sign offs and the car is put back on the truck ready for the next race.