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Racing Tips

Greater Pittsburgh Soapbox Derby

 

 

The following information has been provided to help soapbox derby racers gain a better understanding on some of the ways your cars can become more competitive. Drivers can make all the necessary changes to improve control and speed of their car and it will only improve you chances for winning by about 5%. The driver controls 95% of what it takes to win a race. The driver needs to no where to drive the car on the track, make as little corrective steering moves as possible and keep a low aerodynamic position in the car. One extremely small mistake by the driver can replace all the advantages made by setting the car up correctly.

 

 These are only some of the many things done to make cars more competitive. Most all secrets to racing derby cars can be obtained through involvement with soapbox rally racing held during the spring and fall of every year.

 

- Wheels should be taken off car and cleaned after each use. Wheels can be cleaned while on spindles as long as spindles are cleaned and lubricated afterwards. Rotate wheels and spray brake fluid or lighter fluid in bearing as they rotate. This will clean all dirt and oil residue from the wheel bearings. Allow the bearing to dry for a minute and then rotate the wheels again and add a lightweight machine or honing oil such as WD-40 to the bearings to prevent rusting. Prior to racing the wheels should be cleaned and oiled again because the oil will turn sticky after long time storage. If you dont clean wheels before racing, your first run down the track will warm the oil and make it fluid again which then places the faster wheels on the competitors car during the second round, so make sure you clean your wheels before final inspection and impounding of cars.

 

- Alignment is critical. Make sure it is perfect and within 1/64 of an inch. Tighten all nuts and bolts holding alignment so it wont come loose during race day do to vibration and mishandling of the car.

 

- Spindles should be polished and lubricated on your car. Although the wheels rotate on bearings, the heavy vibration of the car on the asphalt road will cause the bearing collar to slip on the spindle. If the spindle is clean, polished and lubricated with light oil the collar can slip on the spindle. For every amount of slippage on the spindle the wheel is gaining distance on the track. Slippage on a 900 foot track may only be an inch or less but that can mean several inches to several feet of travel distance on the track that hopefully your competitor is not gaining. Spindles can be polished with rubbing compounds (by hand only) or by using 3000 grit or finer emery cloth.

 

- Steering needs to be adjusted to allow comfort for the driver and to prevent unnecessary wheel movement. The steering cables need to be tight enough to prevent the axle from bending but to provide good tension on both sides of the steering column. Any slack cable can cause the wheels to wobble slightly causing a decrease in speed. Steering straight will also become more difficult for the driver if the cables are too loose.

 

- The front lock nuts on the kingpin need to be tightened enough so the steering will not wobble but will allow ease in steering ability. Nuts too loose or too tight will make steering jerky and difficult causing decrease in speed.

 

- A tight rear kingpin is a necessity, however do not over tighten. Akron allows no more then 180 inch pounds of torch on this bolt. This bolt will be checked at rally races for over tightening. Danger is the bolt could shear off causing loss of rear axle. (NOT A GOOD THING)

 

- New rule in 2001 is to allow the installation of bushings for the kingpins of all divisions. Strongly recommend installing these bushings. The kingpin bolt wears on the wood floorboard as cars are assembled and disassembled and through general use. The bushings also prevent the washers from getting pressed in to the wood floorboard causing the steering to come loose and axles to move over time. The bushing will firm up the front and rear axles and prevent wearing of the wooden floorboard.

 

- The turnbuckles on the steering cables need to be secured from movement during race. The turnbuckle has a stop nut that needs to be good and tight once steering is adjusted. Highly recommend installing a second stop nut on opposite side of turnbuckle. The buckle can move even with the wire wrapped around it. This can cause steering wheel to move left or right in order to make the car go straight and can make it difficult on driver to steer straight.

 

- Wind drag can win or loose a race. Highly recommend installing foam in the front and back of stock cars and all around the cockpit of superstock cars, unless the child is large enough to fill the gaps around the cockpit. Foam is always needed on the front of the cockpit.

 

- The bottom of the car is loaded with exposed hex bolts. These create a wind drag from air moving under the car. It may be only a slight help, if any, but the hex head of the bolts can be turned so a point of the head is facing the front of the car to increase aerodynamics.

 

- Make sure the shell of the car is not hanging below the bottom of the floorboard or is not too high on the floorboard. Both of these will cause wind drag and become less aerodynamics slowing the car.

 

- The weight nuts should be tight, but allow nut to be removed easily for weight changes. This is for safety of the driver and it will actually add strength to the floorboard. Loose weights can move and effect breaking and steering actions along with come loose during an accident. If you use a tool to tighten wing nut, you better have the tool to loosen them during the race.

 

- For long term storage, store the car by supporting it in the center to allow the ends to flex downward. This will cause less bending in the spindles when car is loaded with driver.

 

- Driver needs safety glasses to prevent dirt from blowing in eyes. Many races are lost each year because the driver became distracted. The eyes are in line with the cowling and all dirt is funneled directly into the eyes.

 

- Electrical tape should be used to help secure the drivers helmet adjustment straps inside the helmet. Many races are lost each year from the drivers helmet not being adjusted properly and from the adjustment strap coming loose during the race. A loose helmet will either flip up causing wind drag or drop down effecting visibility and control of car.

 

- Tape an extra wheel pin and wheel washer on the inside the cars body for safety. Many fall out and get lost during the loading and unloading operations.

 

- Recommend a simple tool box with at least the following inventory to maintain your car before and after the race:

 

Cleaning fluid and lubricating oil
Emery paper for spindles
Wrenches 7/16, 1/2, 3/8
Allen Wrenches
Regular and Philips screwdrivers
Electric screw driver, spare batteries and charger
Wax and rags
Rags for waxing and for cleaning
Metal file
Wire cutters
Spare car parts (i.e. wheel washers, wheel pins, shell screws and keepers,
Electrical, Scotch, Clear package style tape and duct tape
Tape measure
Utility knife
Pencil or marker
Glue for foam

 

 

 

Local Race Director Brian Brain
412-207-2681