The best way to ensure you have every spare part you might need is to keep the parts together in one complete package. And to make it easy to move, put that package on wheels so it can roll around. Just bring the entire car.

Every racer has a sad story to tell, the one where a $2 mechanical part kept them from winning the race, or worse, the championship. I’ve heard this sad story at every level from Spec Miata to ALMS.

There is nothing more frustrating to a race driver than sitting in a paddock at a racetrack searching around for a spare part to get their car back into the race. This is always a difficult situation. First and foremost, racetracks are nearly always located in faraway places, separated from communities so nobody shuts them down for noise. This means that getting a spare left front CV joint for a 1990 Honda CR-X can be difficult. If that CV joint is needed within the next hour, then it is nearly impossible.

The key to finishing a race is to have lots of spare parts. The trick is to know exactly which spare part that is going to be. If you can see into the future, good for you. You should probably use that talent somewhere else instead of motorsports. A lot of teams know what the weak component of their cars are and keep spares of those parts. Ford Focus racers buy front wheel bearing sets by the dozen. The real problem occurs when you are involved in an incident, and there is damage to repair. If the damage is on a part of your car that does not usually give you any trouble, like rear suspension components, then chances are you don’t have a single spare. End result: you are parked. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Learning from your previous failures, you might start to amass a ridiculously heavy parts bin. This thing has every nut/washer, spacer, plate, whatever you can think of that you might need. Except that your dirty, oily, mess of a parts bin almost never has the one part you really need. The $2 part, the one that will help you win the race. How is that possible? Murphy’s Law, that’s how.

- Advertisement -

Here is the answer. Keep all of your spare parts together, in a tight little package on wheels so it is easy to move. You guessed it. Bring an entire spare car known as “the parts car.” I have never regretted bringing a parts car and I have never been in a situation where we had a parts car with us that we didn’t steal at least some parts off it. A parts car is an absolute must-have component to a successful racing team.

The parts car idea isn’t just for teams racing older, cheaper cars. We can pick one up on Craigslist for $400, but I’ve seen Porsche GT3 teams with a plain white street legal spare sitting on jack stands just waiting to be plucked apart. That is an $80,000 parts car — and odds are good the part necessary to win the race is worth about $2.

The only reason this Nissan Sentra SE-R is still running at sunrise during the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is because of the sacrifice of another Sentra. It is pretty tough to find a salvage yard open at 3 a.m., or an eccentric adjustable bolt for a rear suspension at AutoZone. The only way to have these parts available is to bring them along — on another car.
The only reason this Nissan Sentra SE-R is still running at sunrise during the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is because of the sacrifice of another Sentra. It is pretty tough to find a salvage yard open at 3 a.m., or an eccentric adjustable bolt for a rear suspension at AutoZone. The only way to have these parts available is to bring them along — on another car.
Left in a wet paddock with portions of front suspension stripped away, this little car has lost its dignity. This one was driven to the track, stripped and left with no chance of being driven home. There is a rumor that the next part this car donated was its license plate. The parts car was towed home and the race car was driven on the street home. Again, just a rumor.
Left in a wet paddock with portions of front suspension stripped away, this little car has lost its dignity. This one was driven to the track, stripped and left with no chance of being driven home. There is a rumor that the next part this car donated was its license plate. The parts car was towed home and the race car was driven on the street home. Again, just a rumor.
Which component is the team going to need to finish the race? Is it the tiny plastic piece that connects the throttle cable to the throttle body? That’s pretty important. There is no way to truly know what spare component you need to bring with you. Bring them all.
Which component is the team going to need to finish the race? Is it the tiny plastic piece that connects the throttle cable to the throttle body? That’s pretty important. There is no way to truly know what spare component you need to bring with you. Bring them all.
Which part are we going to need? It might be the axle or the inner tie rod. If I could see into the future to know what spare parts to bring, I would be placing bets at a horse track instead of hanging around a racetrack.
Which part are we going to need? It might be the axle or the inner tie rod. If I could see into the future to know what spare parts to bring, I would be placing bets at a horse track instead of hanging around a racetrack.
You can scavenge a junkyard for rear suspension parts. The problem is whether you bring everything you need to a race. Was it the lower control arms that bent, or the radius rod, or that one bolt you didn’t get?
You can scavenge a junkyard for rear suspension parts. The problem is whether you bring everything you need to a race. Was it the lower control arms that bent, or the radius rod, or that one bolt you didn’t get?
Image courtesy of Rob Krider

Join the Discussion