Staying organized amid mass chaos is key to success in extreme endurance racing. Running a two-car team with limited resources and a single pit crew also adds to the complications of keeping things on task. A simple white board with some colored markers can help everyone on the team stay on the same page and see that nothing gets missed. Our team got creative with the Brother P-Touch label maker and some pinstripe tape. This board ensured we didn’t miss a single detail on a pit stop, told everyone what their job was and indicated when the next stop would be.

Every time I watch an F1 race on television, I am always amazed at the number of crew members standing in the paddock staring at monitors. Those big race teams have all the cool toys. Well, NASA race teams can have something similar, and it isn’t as difficult as you might think. Building a “command center” for a pit area is actually pretty easy with a few components.

These days nearly everybody has a beat-up flat screen TV that was replaced by something larger and better for their living rooms. Take that old unused TV screen and use it to keep your crew informed about what is going on at the next endurance race.

For the 25 Hours of Thunderhill race last December, Keith Kramer designed a portable board that could be assembled at the track to hold two flat screen TVs separated by a white board. We used one television to show the Race Monitor app, which kept the team informed about lap times and class standings. We used the other television to show the crew an Excel spreadsheet, which kept track of fuel mileage and a number of other wear items that needed to be tracked during the long race. We used the white board in the middle of the command center to list the tasks that would be completed during the next pit stop, things like driver swaps, fuel, tire changes, windshield cleaned, etc. The white board also listed when the next pit stop would take place so crew members would know if they could take a nap or hit the rest room before things got busy in the pits again.

The Race Monitor application is a fantastic way to keep track of the progress of a race and to watch a driver’s pace. Some teams have drivers that crew chiefs need to slow down. Others have drivers that need to be awakened via the radio and told to press harder on the happy pedal.
The Race Monitor application is a fantastic way to keep track of the progress of a race and to watch a driver’s pace. Some teams have drivers that crew chiefs need to slow down. Others have drivers that need to be awakened via the radio and told to press harder on the happy pedal.
Using an Excel spread sheet is great for keeping track of fuel mileage and tire data. Our team nerded out and had an extensive spreadsheet that kept track of everything from fuel use to driver’s drinking water replenish times. However, the spreadsheet is only as good as the data you put in it. Crew chiefs have to be diligent about updating the spreadsheet after every pit stop. If they don’t, the data is old and worthless.
Using an Excel spread sheet is great for keeping track of fuel mileage and tire data. Our team nerded out and had an extensive spreadsheet that kept track of everything from fuel use to driver’s drinking water replenish times. However, the spreadsheet is only as good as the data you put in it. Crew chiefs have to be diligent about updating the spreadsheet after every pit stop. If they don’t, the data is old and worthless.

The command center, which was run by the crew chief, kept everyone on the team informed about what was happening, when it would occur and what each person’s job was at every moment. This enormous amount of information is crucial to a team’s success. A lot goes on during a long endurance race and having all that information centralized is great for keeping a tight and organized pit crew. Plus, it makes your team appear professional, even if it is just a piece of plywood, a junk flat screen, a laptop, and a fold-up table. If it works for Sebastian Vettel and Team Red Bull in F1, it can work for you too in NASA.

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We have found that our master control center becomes the hub of the pits. Everyone crowds around and offers opinions regarding vehicle maintenance, pit stop rules, and strategy. All of these ideas can be written on the pit board and implemented. It is a great place to bring the team together.
We have found that our master control center becomes the hub of the pits. Everyone crowds around and offers opinions regarding vehicle maintenance, pit stop rules, and strategy. All of these ideas can be written on the pit board and implemented. It is a great place to bring the team together.
To make the whole pit board command center work, there a number of items that are very important. One is power. Televisions, and printers don’t work on batteries. Laptops can run on batteries, but not for a long race. A good power source will keep things running all night. A cheap printer is key for printing “to do” lists for the crew between sessions. Having multiple televisions, one for Race Monitor (lap results) and one for the team database (fuel consumption, etc.) makes things easier. A simple fold-up table and a couple of chairs and you will be styling like the engineers on an F1 team.
To make the whole pit board command center work, there a number of items that are very important. One is power. Televisions, and printers don’t work on batteries. Laptops can run on batteries, but not for a long race. A good power source will keep things running all night. A cheap printer is key for printing “to do” lists for the crew between sessions. Having multiple televisions, one for Race Monitor (lap results) and one for the team database (fuel consumption, etc.) makes things easier. A simple fold-up table and a couple of chairs and you will be styling like the engineers on an F1 team.
Image courtesy of Rob Krider

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