To win, your driver needs to be up on the wheel all through the race. Proper cockpit layout will allow your driver to be there at the end. All components in the cockpit area should be precisely located and as much time as needed should be utilized to place your driver in position “A”. Designing a cockpit layout that functions in a seamless fashion will help your team to avoid crashes, make more passes and find Victory Lane on a regular basis.
Many states have banned hand held cell phone use while driving. Even at highway speeds the distraction factor in holding a cell phone causes poor driving and accidents. We have all seen cars on the highway driving in an erratic fashion due to cell phones. Why is the car in front of you is doing 48 miles an hour in a 60 mile an hour zone? As you blast by the car, traveling at an unexplained slow speed, it is easy to spot the cell phone causing the distraction. It was a little disappointing, this morning, when I drove by our local sheriff jamming up traffic on I-5 while talking on his cell phone going 48 miles an hour in the middle lane. The speed limit on that section of the freeway is 60MPH. Unbelievable!
If a simple cell phone causes street drivers to lose focus and drive erratically, then it follows that race drivers performing at the highest level could easily lose positions or find more wrecks due to a poorly laid out cockpit. Working to place cockpit items properly, takes more time than money. Even if you have to move cockpit items multiple times to find the perfect locations, your efforts will be worth the work. Drivers are so constrained, due to tight cockpits and safety devices, that a premium must be placed on everything they need so they can stay focused on racing instead of fumbling around and becoming distracted.
Steering wheels should be mounted close to the chest to give drivers increased leverage on the wheel resulting in more control and reduced back strain. Mounting the Steering wheel on the perfect angle and directly between the driver’s shoulders provides improved longevity. An adjustable steering column mount easily slides side to side on the dash bar making it simple to get the location right both left to right and up and down. Adjustment is so simple that teams can re-adjust until the steering wheel is in the perfect location. Adding a steering spacer can be the final touch in finding a comfortable wheel position for the driver.
Steering Wheel Spacers
Steering Wheel spacers quickly bolt on giving your team a simple way to locate the steering wheel perfectly. If your driver ate one too many burgers, your crew can install a different thickness spacer quickly. Keeping a variety of spacers of different thicknesses on hand is a good idea.
Adjustable throttle pedals allow for easy fitting helping your team to locate the throttle in perfect location. Mounting the seat leg support properly gives the driver a natural place to rest their leg. Battling centrifugal force for the entire night has worn out more than one driver. Driver comfort and position in the car are paramount. Leg angles, with pedals in a comfortable position, keep your driver fresh. A slightly bent knee gives the driver throttle control for a smooth drive off the corner. A floor mounted pedal can be precisely located to fit foot position and angle. The easy adjustment of a billet hanging pedal allows for quick adjustments in the shop or right at the track.
Switch Panels and Brackets
Switches that are in easy reach of the driver can save a motor. On those nights when the engine faces a problem, a well located ignition switch can save thousands of dollars. All switches should be within easy reach and located so the natural reaction of the driver can quickly slap the Red Aircraft cover in an instant. Gauges should be positioned so all information is gathered with a quick glance. At race speed, any distraction that takes the eyes off the action can result in a torn up car. Spending the extra time to find perfect viewing angles can save an engine and can reduce accidents.
Brake Balance Adjuster
This brake balance adjuster has an easy to operate handle that is designed for adjustment when wearing fire resistant gloves. Your team can mount this version right out of the package – wide mounting holes allow you to mount it with out the need for dis-assembly.
Brake Balance adjusters are a great tool for dialing in the set up. Often, drivers are dialing in brake bias adjustments at race speed. An ergonomic positioning of the balance bar adjuster allows the driver to focus on driving instead of blindly searching for the adjuster handle. A balance bar with a smooth action and handle that is designed for race gloves is a must. Regardless of the type of racing, fireproof race gloves are mandatory – whether it is a track rule or not. Racing without fireproof gloves is a game of Russian Roulette that should never be played. We race for fun and safety needs to be continuously in the forefront of every member of your racing organization.
Radios are smaller today – using the right size box protects your investment. The clamp on this model rotates so you can mount on a roll bar within easy reach of the driver. Radios should be mounted so that the driver can operate the controls. If turning on the radio is forgotten – the driver should be able to easily reach the controls. A rotating clamp keeps your radio level regardless of the bar angle.
Radios should be located so the driver can reach the controls. More than once I have seen cars where a team member needs to turn on the radio as the controls are out of reach of the driver. Too often, the race starts only to find out that the crew forgot to turn the radio on. Driver’s should be able to easily reach the volume control and on off switch. Changing channels is a reality so make sure your driver can easily reach the radio controls.
Drink bottles that are big enough to hydrate your driver for an entire night are a good idea. Anti-Siphon bite valves keep fluid in the bottle when it is most important. Be sure to sanitize the drink bottle and the end of every race night. The last thing your team needs is to have your driver ingesting a science experiment created by leaving fluid in a hot car to ferment.
Drink bottles with an anti siphon valve ensure that drivers get needed hydration even if the hose falls. An anti siphon valve is a simple solution – if the hose falls the driver can simply grab anywhere on the hose to get an easy drink. Drink bottle fluid seems to always end up all over the floor at the hottest races of the year. Be sure to use a sports hydration fluid that supplies the driver with needed nutrition during practice and throughout the race. On a hot race day drivers fuel their calorie burn with plenty of adrenaline. Assign a crew member to clean the drink bottle right after the race. Poisoning your driver with a moldy drink bottle is a bad deal. Feeding your driver liquid that is better suited for a science experiment is not exactly the best way to prepare to win.
A side view mirror and a rear view mirror need to be located so that the driver can see the entire envelope around their car in an instant. With your driver strapped in at the shop, verify that there are zero blind spots. A crew member can quickly walk around the car to verify that your driver can see everything directly with their eyes or with a rapid glance to the mirrors. Adjust and remount mirrors as needed to eliminate all blind spots. Mirrors are a safety device and while spotters play a great role – the buck stops with the driver and clear vision is needed at all times.
Safety in the cockpit should be given the highest priority. Sealing up every crack keeps carbon monoxide out of the cockpit. A fire resistant shifter boot seals out fumes and debris and is a must have item for fire protection. Fresh air is a must and a cooling fan supplying outside air through the helmet maintains the health of your driver. A window net kit should be installed so the window net is stretched tight inside of the roll bars and an easy to grip handle should have free and clear access. 1/10ths of a second matter should your driver need to get out of the car. Spend the time on safety. Treat your driver like a family member – because they probably are at your family reunion.
A fire extinguisher is a high pressure cylinder. Can you imagine the chaos, in the cockpit, if a fire extinguisher were to come loose? With the contents of the fire extinguisher being randomly sprayed about, visibility would be zero at race speed. Breathing would be difficult and the mess is difficult to clean up. A billet fire extinguisher mount solves the problem and allows for a mounting location that provides instant access. Spending ample time on fire protection is a responsibility for any team at every level of racing.
By covering the basics of proper cockpit layout, you will improve driving focus and driver safety. Many of the covered topics may seem obvious yet, every time I am at the track I see numerous examples, from multiple teams, where proper time has not been spent on the obvious. Just about all racers have more time than money – spending the time needed for proper safety and driver comfort will actually gain you time. Proper effort placed into your cockpit layout will save you dollars that takes only a little time to spend.