We’ll be bringing you regular features all about Jazeman’s racing, from aerodynamics to fitness training, race car safety to pit stops.
Here’s the first of our features, a look at racing terminology.
The A to Z of Racing Terms
Do you know your ‘Paddock’ from your ‘Parc Ferme’ or your ‘drag’ from your ‘down force’? It seems that motor racing has evolved its own unique language through the years, and here we take a quick look at the terminology you might hear if you were to take a stroll down the pit lane…
Aerodynamics: It’s all about airflow. Race cars need to ‘cut’ through the air as smoothly as possible, so the aim is to design a car with good aerodynamics – take a close look at the new British F3 car and you’ll spot quite a few winglets and curves which are all helping to make the car stick to the ground and go faster.
Apex: This sorts the men from the boys, it is the middle point of the inside line around a corner at which drivers aim their cars, if they hit the apex then they will carry more speed round the corner and hopefully set a quicker lap time. If you’re at a race it’s always good to watch different drivers going through the same corner, you’ll quickly see who’s at the top of their game.
Bargeboard: This is the piece of bodywork mounted between the front wheels and the start of the sidepods, you’ll spot this on the new British F3 car, but it’s a very different shape than the one’s you’ll see on an F1 car. What do they do? It’s all about aerodynamics and making the car go faster.
Chassis: This is the driver’s office, it is the main part of a racing car to which the engine and suspension are attached, and it is made from a high-tech material called carbon fibre. The chassis has to protect the driver, so it must undergo strict crash tests to ensure it can withstand heavy accidents, and we’ve seen just how strong these are on a number of occasions in F3.
Chicane: creates an‘s’ shape on the circuit, they are a tight sequence of corners in alternate directions, a quick right-left or left-right turn, enough to make any normal person dizzy. Mobile chicane is a term describing a driver (usually a backmarker) who does not move out of the way of the front-runners quickly enough when about to be lapped (despite repeated showing of blue flag) and who thus creates problems for the driver behind.
Downforce: air pushing downwards and over parts of the car it travels forwards creates a suction effect, keeping the car firmly on the circuit. It’s often said that a Formula 1 car creates enough downforce to be driven upside down. It’s true theoretically, but wouldn’t be possible in practice – it would be a bit too dangerous!
Drag: The aerodynamic resistance experienced as a car travels forwards. It is friction which is created by the car and will slow it down, so all the engineers’ efforts are concentrated on increasing downforce and minimizing the drag. It’s a balancing act, with the laws of physics and the skills of the Carlin engineers, being central to optimizing the performance of the car. Clever stuff!
Exhaust: not to be confused with ‘exhausted’ which might describe how the drivers feel after a long Feature race, but the exhaust on the car is the area of the engine used to guide waste exhaust gases away. Look at the new F3 car and you’ll see that the exhausts exit on the sides of the car, rather than the rear – these are chimney exhausts, and as with everything on a race car, the design is aimed at increasing the aerodynamic performance.
Flat spot: The term given to the area of a tyre that is worn heavily on one spot after a moment of extreme braking, it can cause vibration through the car so badly that the driver might need to pit. It’s a driver’s nightmare, but you’ll often see it happen, especially when a driver is a bit over-exuberant on the opening lap!
G-force: A physical force equivalent to one unit of gravity that is multiplied during rapid changes of direction or velocity. Drivers experience severe G-forces as they corner, accelerate and brake, up to 4g and that’s every lap. If you’ve been on a very fast roller-coaster, you’ll have felt forces at around this level, but only for a few minutes, not the 40 minutes of a Feature race distance.
Handling: The performance of a car while racing. The way a car handles is determined by tyres, chassis, suspension, geometry, aerodynamics and other factors.
Horse Power: Not to be confused with a four legged creature, but a unit used to measure the strength of an engine. The new F3 car will have a maximum of 210 bhp, with a top speed of around 250 kmh, that’s pretty quick!
Installation lap: A lap done on arrival at a circuit, testing how the car feels and making sure everything feels as it should. When you’re watching the cars during practice you’ll see the cars go out from the garage and come straight back in, or complete one ‘flying lap’ and then return to the pits. It is also a term used when a car has a new engine installed, so the initial lap is its ‘installation’ lap, which will be taken at a moderate speed to check all the systems and that the engine is performing correctly.
Jump start: When a driver moves off his grid position before the five red lights have been switched off to signal the start, sensors will detect premature movement, a jump start penalty will be given and a telling off from the stewards probably follows after the race!
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Lollipop: A small sugary sweet on a stick, often used by team members to alleviate stress. It is also an object held in front of the car during a pit stop to inform the driver to apply the brakes and then to engage first gear prior to the car being lowered from its jacks and sent back out on track. It may look a simple job, but there’s plenty of pressure on the ‘lollipop man’ – one small mistake and the driver could be exiting the pits into the path of another car.
Marshal: The men in orange, also known as course officials who oversee the safe running of the race. Marshals have several roles such as; acting as fire wardens, helping to remove stranded cars/drivers from the track and waving safety flags. They are often voluntary staff, and many circuits depend on their work to be able to run a highly professional race event..
Marbles: Not small glass balls, but small bits of rubber which are worn off the tyres during the races. If a driver runs over the pieces, they tend to lose control, as if it were on a carpet of marbles.
Nomex: The fire-resistant material used to make race suits, gloves and boots as a safety precaution. I wear one of the latest M68 Bioceramic vests under my overalls, which is a nomex vest with a special bioceramic coating that has various health benefits.
Oversteer: Often heard by the driver when he complains about the cars handling, when a car’s rear end doesn’t want to go around a corner and tries to overtake the front end as the driver turns in towards the apex. This often requires opposite-lock to correct, whereby the driver turns the front wheels into the skid. We see plenty of this in F3, as the drivers take the car’s to the edge with their fiercely competitive natures.
Paddock: An enclosed area behind the pits in which the teams work and rest during the race weekend. It’s the real heart of the action and if you have access you’ll be able to watch all the teams up close, as they prepare for racing action.
Parc ferme: No, the local park isn’t closed for the day! The French term ‘Parc Ferme’ refers to a designated fenced-off area into which cars are driven after qualifying and the race, so that the stewards can check the cars comply with the regulations, it is also where the team and drivers celebrate a race win before the official podium ceremony.
Qualifying: Generally, the first big event of the weekend. In British F3 all the cars will run together during the session. The quickest lap of each driver is used to determine the grid for the third race and the second quickest lap of each driver will be used for the first race grid. The second race has a reverse grid from the results of the first race.
Retirement: Not only is this an expression for a driver who has finished his racing career, it’s also a term used when a car drops out of the race because of an accident or mechanical failure.
Slipstreaming: A driving tactic when a driver is able to catch the car ahead and duck in behind its rear wing to benefit from a reduction in drag over its body and hopefully be able to achieve a superior maximum speed to slingshot past before the next corner.
Telemetry: This is usually shown by graphs with wiggly lines; it is a system that gathers data related to the engine and chassis which can be downloaded on to the engineer’s computers in the pit garage. The technical boffins analyse the data and then discuss it with the driver. The information is used by the engineering team to try and make the car go faster and is used by the driver to try and race quicker!
Understeer: Where the front end of the car doesn’t want to turn into a corner and slides wide as the driver tries to turn in towards the apex. It’s the opposite of oversteer, and has the opposite effect, and you’ll always find a driver will prefer to drive a car which is more prone to one than the other. You’ll rarely, if ever, hear a driver say that his car is perfect, he will always suffer under or over steer!
Wings: Located on both the front and rear of the F3 car, wings are adjustable to affect the traction and balance of the car. Unfortunately unlike plane wings they don’t help the car to fly; in fact, they have the opposite effect as they keep the car grounded by using the air going over the top, to push the car down to the ground.
Yellow: The colour of the flag used at the side of the circuit to indicate danger, such as a stranded car or an accident. Drivers are not allowed to overtake in an area of a yellow flag and must slow down.
Zzzz’s: I need plenty of these after a race weekend, as it is physically and mentally draining. Plenty of sleep is essential to keep your mind alert and your body in the best of health.