Blind Luck

When you get into racing, it’s not long before you begin to realize the value of a good set of spare parts. That’s one of the benefits of racing the same kind of car for a long time. You begin to accumulate an appropriate inventory of spare parts. Still, it always seems like a matter of blind luck to have what you’ll need.

Either way, just having them on hand provides some measure of comfort. I’ve begun accumulating a set of spares, too. Some come to the track with me, which is why the trailer seems to get heavier and heavier. In addition to the car, I’m pulling around a secondary set of suspension parts, starters, alternators, etc. Some stay at home tucked into the rafters of the garage and out in the shed.

Take last month’s racing, for example. On the first lap of a three-hour enduro, as I came around Buttonwillow’s Riverside turn and into the braking zone for the Bus Stop, I saw a car spinning, half-on and half-off the track right at the track-out point after Bus Stop. Since that’s where I was going to be in about a second, rather than turning in, I got on the brakes and took it off straight and got it slowed down enough to turn outside of the spinning car. Then I got on the gas so I wouldn’t get stuck in the silt and found that Buttonwillow has a dirt track in that section of the infield, which launched my car a couple of times and tore off the chin spoiler, grille and ripped the lower lip of the front fascia.

We finished the enduro and I drove the car on the trailer to bring it home. Luckily, I had a spare front fascia. The old one was just ripped, so after I replaced it with the spare, I stitched it up with a drill and some zip ties, so I still have a spare.

I did not have a spare grille or belly pan or tow hook — or radiator as it turned out — but considering the hang time, I figure I got off cheap. No suspension or frame damage.

However, as critical as it is to have spares, it seems no matter how many you have, there’s a good chance you will need something you don’t have. I’m reminded of some of the stories we’ve run in Speed News about what teams have broken, what spares they had and, often, those they did not have.

For instance, I remember a team at Thunderhill had lost an outside mirror at night during the 25-hour race. They didn’t have another — nobody did — and had to finish without one. Another car’s clutch pedal broke, and somehow they found one. Another team’s alternator died and they didn’t have another. And I can recall just as many instances where a blown engine ended a team’s race as I can remember teams going through two and three engines to finish the race. Having a spare engine is one thing, but having two spare engines shows serious planning.

Just last race, friends of mine were looking for spares. One wanted an oil cap. I didn’t have one. Another wanted the bearing cap that presses in the front hub. I couldn’t help him. Then as another buddy of mine was futzing with a fuel injector, he lost the little plastic spacer that goes between the fuel rail and the cylinder head. I told him I didn’t think I had one, but I’d look. Turns out I had three. That’s not serious planning — just blind luck.

But it did the trick. He raced the rest of the weekend, and I still have two spares in my trailer. I’ll probably never need them.

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