Organization and planning are two things that can make a real difference in a team’s performance when the unexpected happens — and this is racing so definitely expect the unexpected. I have seen a number of cases where drivers will put their main focus on enhancing the performance of their car, a bigger sway bar or a stickier tire, but they completely forget to enhance the performance of their team. This is especially critical in endurance races, where it takes a lot more than just the driver and a sticky tire for the car to finish first. It takes a well-prepared crew.
Most racers in NASA have only a volunteer crew. These thrown-together ragtag groups of people usually consist of family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers. In most cases these folks are not mechanics. I know it is hard to believe, but not everybody spends every waking moment thinking about racing. So when these ragtag groups of volunteers are thrown into a dynamic racing environment, and “unexpectedly” in the middle of a race the car needs to be fixed, they probably won’t have a clue how to get you back on track. In the heat of the moment you will be strapped into the driver’s seat screaming, “Get the 14 millimeter end wrench out of the back of my pickup!” FYI, nobody can hear you through your helmet.
I have a solution for you. Get organized. If you spend a little time organizing your gear, labeling your toolbox and writing out step-by-step instructions on how to repair things, then your pit crew (consisting of your girlfriend and the guy you met in a car forum online) can get you back on track faster. By having things placed for ease of access and by running your pit crew through a few mock pit stops you will be surprised how much smoother things will go when the unexpected invariably occurs.
The best part about getting organized is it doesn’t cost very much, other than cost you some time. So next weekend, bust out your word processor and your label maker (duct tape and a Sharpie works too) and spend a day in the garage ignoring the car and working on the team’s organization instead. Then when you are at the track and you have the cobbled-together volunteer team in attendance, run them through a mock exercise on how to fix an issue. Remember, a new sway bar can get you a couple of tenths of a second per lap, but having your pit crew ready and your tools organized can save you minutes upon minutes of time.