Beyond The Redline: 5 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Off-Season

Welcome to the winter season, known by racers as the off-season. Unless your hobby is ice racing, chances are your favorite sanctioning body doesn’t have any events on the calendar for January. Some tracks are covered in snow while many racecars are sitting stored in trailers stuck in a snow bank. It’s okay. There are still plenty of things to do in regards to racing. It is the off-season, but a true racer is never really “off.” It’s time to get to work.

1. Make Certain You Read All The New Rules for the Coming Season

 

Rules change, and those who can adapt to the new rules can find ways to win. Those who ignore the new rules will often find themselves with a car that won’t pass technical inspection at the first event of the year. It pays to pay attention. The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) is kind enough to highlight in yellow in their rules any changes that changed that calendar year.

It is crucial to be familiar with every line of the rule book that defines your specific class. This applies to autocross, road racing, and even lawn mower racing. During the off-season it is a good time to get acquainted with the rules again. Not just your class rules but also the General Competition Rules (GCR). Everything is digital now. Pay particular attention to those rules which have been changed since the previous season. There may be rules that have been changed that make your car more competitive in your class, and the last place you want to find out about the change is at your first race.

Those who are paying close attention to the 2019 Honda Challenge rules recognize that block guards are finally allowed which should help reduce head gasket failures in the class.

Generally rules are updated annually and it is your responsibility to be familiar with them it. It is also very advantageous to be familiar with the rules as often times a rule update can improve performance. For example, for the 2019 season, NASA added rule 7.1.12 to the Honda Challenge rules which allows for block guards. This is good news because block guards assist in keeping head gaskets on Honda engines. Anyone who has raced Hondas can tell you they pop head gaskets as easy as popping the top off a can of Coors Light. This new rule will result is fewer blown engines.

2. Get Your Gear Together and Inspect Closely

Driver safety gear needs to be inspected for any issues and determined if each certification is still current. This helmet has a 2010 SA Snell rating which means it is good for one more year.

The off-season is a great time to go through your safety gear. First inspect all gear for signs of wear and tear. While those may be your lucky Nomex socks, if there’s a hole in them it’s time to replace. Check your visors to see if they need replacement.

The other side of the coin is that you safety gear is eligible for the upcoming season of racing. Utilizing the current rule sets with different certifications assigned to different pieces of equipment will help you determine if you need to update your safety gear. Racing helmets are certified by Snell ratings which you can read about in great detail here. Other pieces of equipment, like HANS devices, window nets, and racing belts, are certified by SFI or FIA standards.

Like a lot of safety equipment, HANS devices aren’t certified forever. According to the SFI label on this HANS, this one was recertified in April of 2013. For the 2019 season, it will need to be recertified as the certifications are only good for five years.

NASA Club Competition Rule 29.1.1 details how head and neck devices are certified. “The SFI Foundation keeps a list of 38.1 approved devices on their website. If the device is not on this list it will not fulfill the use mandate. As of April 1, 2012, all devices that have an SFI certification and are more than five (5) years old should be sent back to the manufacturer for recertification per SFI 38.1 specifications.” The process for recertification isn’t complicated, simply mail in your HANS device and pay a $25.00 inspection fee. They will determine if any components need to be replaced, take care of the recertification decal and ship back to you. You can have your HANS device re-certified through any of these official service locations.

3. Take Good Care of Your Sponsors

Sponsor Care Package: a t-shirt, a copy of a newspaper, some stickers, and some autograph cards. If you include the envelope and shipping this care package my cost the team about $40 total, but the return on that investment can be thousands of dollars in products from a sponsor for the next season. This is a well-worth-it cause. Personally, I hate paying for racing stuff.

If you are lucky enough to have sponsors or other industry partners who help you with your expensive racing hobby, the off-season is a great time to remind them why they should continue to work with you. During the off-season, I take the time each year to send a care package to all of my sponsors. The package usually has event coverage and feature stories that came out during the previous season which mentions the sponsor’s name, a team t-shirt with the sponsor’s logo, some autograph cards, stickers, photos of the car with their logo on it, etc. I take the time to write a professional business letter thanking them for their partnership and talk about the team’s plans for the next season. I have found that this follow-up at the end of each season is the actual thing that helps keep sponsors supporting our team year after year.

4. Inspection of Your Infrastructure

When things aren’t as hectic as they can be during the racing season, it is time to do maintenance on infrastructure items like race trailers. Clean them out, re-stock tools, pack bearings, inspect tires, and make sure the trailer is ready for the next season.

Racing seasons can get absolutely out of control. Cars get bent, motors explode, and all attention is focused on getting the car back on the track so you can win the next race and earn crucial championship points. What that means is that infrastructure items, like trailers, motorhomes, radios, cameras, all get ignored for an entire year. The off-season is the time to pay close attention to those crucial infrastructure items that need some love.

Radios get beat up at the track. Batteries get lost, antennas get broken, and radios are generally mistreated constantly. The off-season is a great time to check out each radio, order new replacement parts, and fix any problems.

Time is certainly the biggest enemy of any racer. There is generally never enough time to do everything that needs to be done before an event. Take advantage of the bad weather during the off-season. Spend some of this downtime looking at rules, ensuring your gear is up to speed, remind your sponsors why you are awesome, and take care of infrastructure items that take care of you all season long. Once all of these off-season items are handled, then when the sun peeks out from the clouds you will know you are ready to go fast and win more races!

A good off-season can turn your racing season into a success. Take the time to get your ducks in line so you can hit the finish line first.

5. Take Care of Yourself

It’s easy to let your fitness slide over the Holidays, so make certain you’re in fighting shape before the first race of the season. And just as important, make sure you still fit in your driving suit! That’s not something you want to discover when suiting up for the first race.

About the author

Rob Krider

Rob Krider’s mantra is “Race Anything, Win Everything” and is a multi-champion driver who currently competes in the NASA Honda Challenge series.
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