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Race Car Preparation

    A race car which has been properly prepared in the shop has many advantages but some racers tend to overlook this very important element of racing.  It's far too common to see racers wash dirt from the previous race from the car, load it on the trailer and drive off to the next race.  Let's look for a moment at what happens when a car is not properly prepared.  The first clue is usually the first session on track when something does not perform correctly.  This may mean an early retirement from the session, sometimes an embarrassing flat tow back to the paddock and then a frantic spurt of work to get the car ready for the next session.  This process sometimes snowballs and continues throughout the weekend with frustrating results.  Such race weekends are rarely either successful or enjoyable.

    A secondary result of improper prep is the additional parts and supplies which are inevitably used or used up.  These can be as minor as gasket sealer and safety wire or more expensive, such as brake pads, wheel bearings or ring-and-pinion assemblies.

    It should be obvious that a third result is that a driver's finishing position will be adversely affected by the poor performance of the car.  Considering all these negative attributes, it's a mystery why so many choose to ignore proper attention to all the details on a race car which can ruin a weekend.

    It is unfortunately impossible to catch every single item which could cause a problem.  One of our cars won a race once, because the leader had a terminal on a battery cable break handing the lead to us.  You would have had to be in the right place at the right time to find that little pending disaster!  We weren't as fast that time but we were better prepared and inherited the win.  Unforeseen calamities pop up occasionally, but the goal is to cover all the bases to eliminate as many potential failure points as possible.  Below are photos of a few items we have caught after the fact and some we have prevented by careful preparation.

For our vintage racing friends:

We have a lifetime of experience in open wheel racing cars.  From Formula Ford to Indy cars, we have raced them when they were new and, now once again, as vintage and historic cars.  We have the knowledge and experience to restore your treasured car, prepare it properly, transport it to the track and support you in your enjoyment of it. 

Some of the cars we have been privileged to run include Can-Am, GTP, Formula Atlantic, Formula Super Vee, Indy, Formula Ford, Formula 5000 and several GT cars.  Our experience has helped our drivers to win numerous races and three Championships. 

You have honed your business skills to a high level and conduct your business with a high degree of professionalism.  Racing is a very technical sport.  Shouldn't you trust your racing car to people who do the same?  We are currently accepting new clients for the 2010 season but we may fill up soon.  Please contact us to discuss your plans and how we can best help you.  It's time to turn to the pros.


We recently had a Van Diemen Formula Continental come in to our shop for the first time after having been prepped by someone else.  The owner complained that the front rotors had become quite loose and noisy.  After disassembly, we found the drive pin slots in the rotors to be severely worn as were the mating drive pins themselves.  The rotors actually wobbled considerably side-to-side.

These pads were new only two race weekends earlier.  It seems the wobbling rotors were at least partly responsible for increased pad knockback which increased brake pedal travel and, of course, made pad wear more rapid than it should have been.  If this situation had been caught earlier the car would have performed better and, at the very least, new pads would not now be required.

This Formula Atlantic car came into our shop just before the first race to which we accompanied it.  The very first session on the track, this magnesium rocker arm mount broke sending the car off the track.  Fortunately, it was a relatively slow turn and little damage was done.  We welded it back together (at the track) and stiffened it with external plates to prevent further disaster.  We stiffened the one on the other side just for good measure.  The car won its race that weekend and has given no problems since.  See the Track Support page for a photo of this car, Stephen Page's March 80A, in the race after this repair.

This very long bolt secures the pivots of the front rocker of the same car.  Considering the consequences of the broken mount, we were not eager to go through something like that again.  The bolt threads into an the magnesium mount at the rear and needed some means to secure it.  Safety wire was the answer.  Every critical threaded fastener on a race car needs some form of positive lock - safety wire, lock nuts, cotter pins or (red) Loctite.  Lock washers are not good enough!

Everyone knows that new dog rings make a gearbox shift easier.  Dog rings can be worn prematurely like the one on the bottom by poor shifting technique but also by improper gearbox setup. This can affect selector forks and gears, too.  A poor gearbox can fool a driver into thinking he is not a good shifter and also affect his driving performance.  We look for tell tale signs of improper setup with each gear change to catch it before it becomes expensive - and before the driver loses confidence in himself.

Some parts hidden in the depths get little attention until they cause problems.  We like to check these items any time they are accessible to ensure they don't bite us at the track when we have little time to deal with them.  When the gearbox comes off for any reason the clutch plates get checked like this twin plate from a Formula Atlantic.

Here is the infamous and troublesome Van Diemen slave cylinder unit . . .

. . . which has now been replaced by the Tilton slave.  A very valuable upgrade if you like to have a clutch pedal at a race!

As you can see, race car preparation involves much more than just bleeding brakes and charging the battery when required.  Race cars are complex machines  and each part must work properly in order for a race weekend to go well.  Many people busy with jobs and family just do not have the time to devote the attention to these items that they require.  Fortunately, at Metcalf Racing, taking care of all of these things for our clients is our job.  To discuss your car and its particular needs, email us now.  We can help you have a more successful and enjoyable racing experience.