Your First Race Weekend
How not to go in blind.
Lucky Dog Racing Canada provides a novice meeting via Zoom prior to the race weekend. The meeting will cover some safety items, driving etiquette, a little bit about the race circuit, and pretty much anything else you need to know to survive the weekend. This is a great time to ask questions. For most of us, the tracks are not in our back yard, and getting the whole circus there is half the battle. This might be the last chance to make sure you have covered your bases before you set off. Even if you don't plan on hitting the track in the next year or two, it would be a good idea to get on the mailing list and attend some meetings. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask Chuck to put you on the list.
As nerve wracking as your first event may feel, everyone has been new at some point, and the majority of your competitors will be willing to help. There will be moments when everyone seems to know what is happening except you. Over time, the regulars may forget that something second nature to them has been glossed over in your introduction to the program. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Generally it's a good idea to arrive as soon as possible on Friday. If it's the first time your car and/or gear is being inspected by tech, you want to leave yourself enough time to repair anything you may have overlooked. This series is very fortunate to have a vendor of safety gear on site, so if you have forgotten something, talk to them before you hit the panic button.
Once tech is out of the way, it's a good time to set up your pit stall. Get to know your neighbours, you will likely have to coordinate pit stops with them at some point to avoid getting in each other's way. Your tools and canopy are generally safe overnight, just keep everything tarped and tied down so it isn’t blown halfway down the pit lane when you get back to it in the morning. Saturday can start off a bit hectic, so it's best to have everything staged Friday night.
Saturday morning will start with a drivers meeting, after which it's time to pull your car into your pit stall and be ready to grid. About 5-10 minutes before race start, the pace car will park at pit-out, and cars will begin lining up. If it's your first weekend and you would prefer to observe from the back, you can join at the end of the line. The pace car will lead the field through a couple of pace laps to confirm everyone's transponders are working, before releasing the pack for some green flag racing.
A few things to keep in mind when you're out there. If you are being passed, the expectation is that you maintain your line, and the passing car is responsible for making a clean and safe pass. There is nothing wrong with giving a point-by to let them know you see them coming, but resist the urge to pull off the racing line. Also remember that if a car is in your mirrors that wasn't there a minute ago, it is faster than you. Driving defensively will only slow both of you down. Let them by and see what you can learn by following. If you are the passing car, remember that by the end of the race this car will likely not even be on the same lap as you. There is no point dive bombing an unsuspecting competitor when you have several more corners over several more hours of racing.
If your team manages to make it to the end of the race in one piece, and you see the checkered flag, be sure to give the corner workers a thank-you wave on your cool down lap. They have been sitting in the elements for over 8 hours so that you can go out and play. Likewise, be kind and patient with all of the staff and volunteers. You need them to keep showing up or you don’t have a race weekend. They are all happy to answer questions, but barking at them because something didn’t go your way isn’t going to help anybody. We’re all here to have a good time.
In summary, be respectful on track, ask lots of questions, and be patient with yourself and everyone else as you figure things out. It’s a great group of people and you’d have to try pretty hard to not have a good time.