Six Little Bolts

Not all that long ago I was putting the finishing touches on a Spec Miata, one of which was bolting on the hub for the detachable steering wheel. I remember being struck by how small the bolts were.

Those six little bolts were tasked with sending the driver’s inputs to the front wheels. In fairness, yes, the hub is held on by a hefty 21 mm Nylock nut, and the steering shaft is thicker than my thumb, but the bolts that hold the steering wheel to the quick release are so tiny it’s amazing they’re up to the job.

Everything else that connects the steering wheel to the front wheels is heavy duty hardware, a lot of which is thick steel and iron.

There is another set of bolts that hold the differential carrier to the aluminum housing. Here again, the bolts used are relatively small, but the job those bolts do is incredibly important. They help put the power to ground. That’s probably why there are 10 of them.

It brings to mind the old proverb, “Many hands make light work,” and you can see it play out in automotive engineering, businesses and systems and other instances, like a NASA event, for example.

The presence of one corner worker at each turn helps keep all participants in a NASA event safe. A few workers on grid maintain order and keep things running smoothly. One person in the starter stand lets everyone on track know critical information on track conditions with the flags we all know and love — especially green and checkers.

A handful of tech inspectors ensure the compliance of hundreds of cars at each NASA event. They keep an eye on HPDE cars so they’re safe to take on track and ensure that racecars are prepared to the letter of the rules and are built to protect drivers if the worst happens.

In other ways, the presence of series leaders helps keep individual series and classes running smoothly, acting as liaisons between drivers and NASA regional directors, race directors and the NASA National Office.

The NASA Championships also work on the same principle. A cadre of NASA National staff and folks from regions all over the country put together the event. They tend to details on everything from making sure every champion has a bottle of champagne to spray — or sparkling cider for underage drivers — to sourcing hats, souvenirs, livestream broadcasts, and ensuring tech has all the tools and equipment to ensure parity.

Those many hands at a NASA event are the equivalent of those six bolts holding on the steering wheel, or those 10 bolts that hold the differential in the housing. Many hands make light work, and it works for event planning in much the same way it works in automotive engineering. They might be relatively small with regard to the job overall, but when there’s enough of them, they are more than enough to get the job done right.


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