Every good race driver or race team manager will tell you that to be successful you need to read the rulebook very closely. Really good teams read the rulebook like an attorney reads the law. By understanding the rules clearly you can better prepare your team for a race and ensure the team doesn’t earn any unwarranted penalties. Rules are there for a reason, and the most important reason is safety. I’m not advocating teams look for loopholes in the rules, I’m only suggesting that teams read the rules and learn how to streamline their own team’s methods to work in concert with the rules so their team can be as fast and efficient as possible.
Our team’s fuel jug table is a perfect example of understanding NASA rules and regulations and working with them to create fast pit stops. First let’s look at the rules. NASA Endurance Racing Rule 8.9.4: “No fuel will be stored in the hot pit lane or on the hot pit wall. A crewmember(s) must be in physical control of any fuel cans on the wall or over the wall at all times.” Rule 8.9.5: “Fuel is not allowed over the wall until the car comes to a stop. This includes fuel jugs or refueling rig hoses. Fuel cans cannot be placed on top of the wall until the car comes to a stop.” These rules were created for the obvious safety concern of keeping cars from coming into a hot pit lane and colliding with containers of combustible fuel. Nobody wants that situation. The rules were also developed to keep people from jumping over the pit wall in a hectic pit stop situation and knocking over a fuel jug, thus spilling gallons of combustible fluid all over the pit lane. Nobody can really argue that these aren’t a necessary and reasonable set of guidelines.
However the rules create a pain in the rear for racing teams who are trying to complete quick pit stops. Anyone who touches a fuel can over the wall must be in the same safety equipment as a driver. Even if a team waits until the car comes to a stop before placing the cans on the pit wall, then a crew member has to physically hold on the can until it is ready to be used to fill the car. Or a team has to keep the fuel cans on the ground and have crew members reach down across the pit wall to lift the heavy can of gas up and over the wall. Either of these options require too many crew members and way too much pit stop time.
We fixed this problem with about $30 worth of plywood, some wood screws and a couple 2x4s. By building a small table that was the same height as the pit wall we made it so technically, the fuel jugs are not on the pit wall, but they are easily accessed by crew members during the pit stop. It is a very simple solution which allows for quick pit stops, keeps the fuel in a safe location behind the pit wall and keeps the NASA officials happy. It is a cheap win-win solution.