Your first race

Okay! You have made it through your driver training, obtained your race license, and procured a car that has passed “tech”. Congratulations! You are ready to race. Most of what I can share with you now has already been stated elsewhere on this site. All I will add to this is that your job at this point is to survive, learn and finish in one piece. If you can buddy up with some friends who are experienced racers, do so. Your first race weekend can and will be a somewhat overwhelming experience. Surround yourself with as much support as you can.


Towing a race car

One item that people don’t usually consider right away when they first think of going racing is that they will need to have some way of getting the car to the track and then back home again at the end of the weekend. While I do know some people who actually drive their race cars to the track, by and large I don’t think this is the recommended approach.

To begin with most competitive race cars are a long ways from street legal and while it may be fun to drive a race prepped car on the track it is, for many reasons, no fun at all on the street. Additionally one needs to consider the inevitable fact that there will, at some point, be damage to the car that will render it un-drivable. The downside to this should be obvious in that you will now have to come up with an alternate way to get both you and your car home again.

Enter the tow vehicle and trailer. There are several pieces of advice I can give you here. The first and perhaps most important piece is this: Don’t scrimp on the tow vehicle or trailer. Buy the best that you can afford and then spend a little more to make sure. This will be cheaper in the long run. The last place you want to find yourself at the end of a long race weekend is broken down on the side of the road because you decided to “save” a few dollars here.

When considering a tow vehicle there are a couple of key issues that you need to keep in mind. The first is towing capacity and the second closely related item is the vehicles payload capacity.

Towing capacity is easy enough to understand and most trucks and heavy duty SUV’s will clearly state this in their sales literature. It is simply the amount of weight that this vehicle can safely pull. It gets a bit more complex when factoring in the vehicles payload. Payload is also clearly stated in the specifications section of a vehicles owner’s manual or sales literature but is often overlooked and seldom fully understood by the perspective buyer.

Payload is basically the difference between the curb weight of the vehicle and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Curb weight is how much the vehicle weighs all by itself with a full tank of gas. GVWR is the total amount of weight the vehicle can carry plus the vehicle curb weight. Put another way it is the total weight of the fully loaded vehicle. The difference between these two numbers (GVWR minus Curb weight) is called payload. Anything you put into the vehicle including passengers, baggage, tools, spare parts, coffee cup, etc., counts towards payload. Keep in mind that the weight of the trailer on the trailer hitch (usually about 10% of the weight of the loaded trailer itself) counts toward payload. Any more weight than the GVWR specifies and the vehicle is loaded beyond capacity.

To make this clear let’s look at an example. Suppose you buy a 1⁄2 ton SUV with a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds and you think to yourself well this is perfect because I have done some calculations and my loaded trailer only weighs 6,000 pounds. Great! Well maybe yes, maybe no. If you didn’t look closely at the payload capacity you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.



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