Expectations at Tech

A helpful guide on avoiding common tech inspection failures. Brought to you by Matt, Head Tech LDRC

Expectations at Tech

So, you’re getting ready for the track and you think you’re ready to run an endurance race. When thinking about prepping the car, most teams focus on car maintenance. Checking and changing fluids, inspecting CV boots, and examining the suspension are all important, but it’s pointless if the car doesn’t pass tech and you can’t go on track. As you roll in with your trailer and negotiate for some paddock space, you’ll probably have a number of things on your mind. Two of those things should be getting the car and your driver gear through tech inspection.

It’s very worthwhile to pre-tech your car yourself before showing up because you’ll likely find something. Tech inspection at the track typically takes between 10 and 30 minutes, meaning that’s all the time it would take you to go over the car and check the critical safety gear. You might be surprised how often teams get caught at tech with expired, damaged, or improperly installed safety gear. The short amount of time it would have taken in the garage to spot these issues is now going to cost you more precious time at the track to hunt down parts, reinstall them and get back in the tech line. If you’ve got enough time before a race, order new stuff and install it. If there’s not enough time, feel free to reach out to LDRC, because our partners and other racers often have spares and may be able to bring whatever you need to the track. We are more than willing to work with you to get you on the track safely. When it comes to race cars that have been parked for a while, the “dust it off and show up to the track” never passes tech. Not once. A little preparation can go a long way to passing.

The simplest things to look over are the expiry dates and condition of safety gear. The number one reason most cars don’t pass tech is for outdated window nets, but they are incredibly easy to check. For most cars, you don’t even need to crawl inside; just reach in, grab the net, and check the dates. Almost all safety gear either expires or has a recertification window. Typically, SFI rated gear is good for 2 years from the date of manufacture and FIA certified gear will get you up to 5 years. There are exceptions to this, and some gear can be recertified, so you may need to do some research, consult the manufacturer, or reach out to LDRC if you have any questions. Seat belts/harnesses, window nets, seats, fuel cells, and fire suppression bottles all have expiry dates or recertification windows that are easy to inspect, but a pain to remedy at the track. As a guide, the LDRC rulebook includes helpful tables that outline the various standards for safety equipment and their lifespans.

Safety equipment, like many other aspects of race cars requires maintenance. While not as frequent or as involved as changing a ball joint or flushing some fluids, a little basic maintenance and inspection can go a long way for the equipment that is supposed to save your life when things go upside and all else fails. Do a quick scan along harnesses and windows nets for abrasion wear, make sure the pressure gauge on the fire suppression bottle is in the green, check fuel lines for cracking, and make sure the harness mechanism releases smoothly. Fire suppression system maintenance is extremely important to do because if you’re in a situation that requires its use, things have gone badly and fast. It’s a good idea to disconnect the bottle and blow some air backwards (into the discharge nozzles) through the fire suppression lines to clean out any dust, dirt, debris, spider webs, etc. that accumulate and block lines and nozzles. You might think that the high pressure of the bottle going off will push out any dirt, but that isn’t the case. Next, you’ll want to check over the mechanism for setting off the bottle. The most common application is a pull handle with a cable that runs to the bottle. These cables can get snagged, bound up, pinched etc. very easily and the cable sheaths require very large radius bends. First, try disconnecting the cable end from the bottle and pulling the handle. The action should be smooth and require little effort. If it’s not, there might be a snag or dirt in the cable sheath that needs to be remedied. The fire suppression system is an aspect of race cars that you hope to never need, but when you do everything needs to work flawlessly the first time.

Also, feel free to ask questions to LDRC before a race or the season; the LDRC staff are racers too and can help. They’ve done video call pre-techs for many cars, given advice on installations, discussed cage builds over the phone while it’s being built in the background, and driven out to inspect a race car before a new team’s purchase.

Once at the track, you’ll want to find the Tech & Registration Tents. Here you can have your car and driving gear inspected, get your tech stickers, and register yourself and your team. Depending on the time, there can be a lineup at tech. There’s often little or no line when tech first opens so it’s in your best interest to get there earlier rather than later. Be prepared for the car to be opened, viewable, and started. Tech wants to see the car in a “race ready” condition. This means all the required equipment is present and installed, it’s able to be started and driven, and everything works. The inspector is only able to inspect what they are presented, so if your window net is in your trailer or belts are on the passenger floor, you shouldn’t expect a pass. If any tools are required to open the hood, truck, paneling etc. bring them to Tech with the car. If it takes two people to remove the hood, bring a second person. Aside from checking certification labels and expiry dates, the tech inspector may crawl all throughout the car to examine and measure all 65+ items on their checklist. Some items are as simple as ensuring the car has tow straps/hooks, while others require more advanced inspection, such as measuring roll cage tubing wall thickness. Expect the inspector to want to start the engine and to gain access to the battery, under the hood, fire suppression nozzles, fuel, and more. If the equipment cannot be inspected, it cannot pass tech. This applies to safety equipment labels as well. If the sticker on the fire suppression bottle is facing the floor or buried up against the firewall, the bottle will need to be removed or rotated for inspection. Lastly, it’s important a team member stay with the car during tech as the inspector will likely have questions or need help locating certain items in your car. The car might have safety equipment that currently passes but may need replacement before the next event. The inspector will be taking notes on any issues, quick fixes, and replacements required for future events, and it’s a good idea you do as well. You can be sure that for the next event, problematic items will get extra scrutiny.

If the car passes tech, congratulations and welcome to the grid. Make sure to get all of your drivers’ gear inspected, register for the event, get any wristbands, and sign any outstanding waivers. If the car has failed tech, there’s no need to pack up the trailer just yet. Cars can fail tech for a large assortment of reasons, but the most common are exposed positive battery terminals and expired window nets. The tech inspector will explain to you why the car does not pass and what can be done to fix the situation. If you think Tech has made a mistake, feel free to discuss it with the inspector, but please don’t argue. They’re human and can make mistakes or miss things too. However, this is not the time to pull out the bag of excuses. “This car passed with So-and-So last weekend”, “I’m the tech for Such-and-Such”, or “I race in XYZ Series and they never check that,” are not going to get you anywhere. The inspectors have heard it all and it doesn’t change the fact that the car has still failed. In fact, saying “but this car passes Tech at XYZ” may result in a harder and more thorough inspection. For example, in 2020, a window net that expired in 2008 had “just passed tech two weeks ago” elsewhere. In 2021, a fire suppression bottle that needed recertification in 1998 had “passed tech for years” at another series.

Often times, the issue can be very simple and can be fixed in a matter of minutes. If parts or safety gear are needed, you might have to start making friends in the paddock. Between LDRC’s friendly sponsors, partners and teams, you might be able to find what you need. Some tracks even have local performance shops on site that sell or service what you need. While this can be a weekend-saver for some, it is best to come prepared rather than rely on the hope that someone will have what you need. The staff and teams at LDRC are often willing to help find what’s needed as we want to see as many cars make it to the track as possible.

Somethings may not be in the rulebook but are still safety issues. While the rulebook mainly lays out the required and accepted safety equipment, the condition of the car also matters. You might have a great seat, thick mounting brackets, and big strong bolts holding it all together, but the floor it’s all mounted to is rusting apart. Your fuel lines might be cracked, damaged, dry-rotted, and falling apart, or mounted in unsafe locations like near heat sources or against sharp edges. These issues will also fail the car in tech and will need to be remedied. The tracks themselves may also have certain rules, like sound limits, which are outside of the standard LDRC rulebook. These rules still need to be followed.

Not every team passes tech the first time, but it’s not usually a weekend killer. In 2021, 63% of cars had at least one tech issue initially, but they all made it out on track eventually. Tech is there to make sure everyone is as safe as possible. In every form of racing, accidents happen -especially in endurance racing. We all want our race cars to go on the trailer in the same condition they came off, however, that’s not always the case. At a minimum, we want everyone to be able to walk away and know that their safety equipment did its job.