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What to Know Before You Go Racing
Get the scoop from early Ford guru Kevin Sittner on getting your ride ready for racing
You've seen the videos on YouTube of wheels and other major parts falling off at the worst of times. This is almost always due to poor maintenance or too many people working on the same car. The best place to look over a car is on a lift, but tall jackstands will do the job. You should put a wrench on every single bolt and nut from major suspension components to electric fuel pump mounting hardware. Cars experience a lot of vibrations and things may loosen over time. Spending an hour looking it over before each road course or autocross event can save you a tow home. Preventative measures include using locking nuts and safety wire, but factory hardware can only be checked. This is a good time to pump some grease into all zerk fittings and inspect every component for damage or wear. Whether it is you or someone else, assign this task to one person, or have two people go over the car separately so there's no question if everything was done.
Rollerize Your Engine
Being an engine is hard work, and nothing takes the load off like replacing as many metal-to-metal contacts with their roller counterparts. The easiest and cheapest thing to do is to get rid of those stamped rockers from the factory and replace them with roller-tipped rocker arms. This is an opportunity to reduce friction at the valve end and increase performance with a higher-than-stock ratio. Swapping from a flat-tappet to roller camshaft, be it mechanical or hydraulic, can dramatically improve performance and durability. Despite the higher spring rates, roller lifters reduce wear on the camshaft. Roller cams are billet steel rather than cast, giving them their higher price and longer life. Flat-tappet cams have the potential to fail in even the first hour of runtime. The engine oils being sold today don't have the same components like zinc and ash that helped protect non-roller components. For those who are weary of the maintenance of solid lifter cams, today's top manufactures have anti-pump-up hydraulic lifters that can rev up to 7,200 rpm.
The roller theme can be applied to the bearings as well. If you're starting from scratch, you can over-bore the cam journals to accept roller bearings. Anything you can do to relieve the engine of friction is helpful. In the same way, lightening rotating parts lessens engine load and allows more power to get to the ground. It also allows the engine to accelerate and decelerate faster. On big tracks, downshifting is an important part of slowing down and the faster the engine slows down the better.
A clutch's material has huge impact on the driveability and holding power. The most street friendly material, organic, doesn't have the holding power that a more aggressive material might. The tradeoff is that a more aggressive material may not be traffic friendly. Many companies like McLeod design clutches to have maximum holding power with the least amount of pedal pressure, which makes them great for a street/track application. A street car with 500 horsepower or less can easily get away with a Kevlar or Kevlar/organic combination disc that will be smooth on the street and tough on the track. Higher output cars or ones that will see more track than anything might use a sintered-iron disc. This material is not intended for street use, but can tolerate a lunch run or two as long as there's no stop and go. It's prone to chatter if overheated, but is right at home on the track.