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.
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.