Murphy’s Law states that if it can happen, it will. And Racer’s Law says, if it can stop working or fall of at the worst possible moment, it will. Combine those and you’ve got the worst fates that can befall your racecar. Every time we get ready to punch the pedal when the yellows go out on the tree or the flag drops, there’s always that nagging thought, “What if X goes wrong?” Most of the time, it’s just anxiety, but sometimes, things you dread end up happening like some sort of waking nightmare, like discovering you’re in class not wearing any pants (which is actually possible after partying hard enough).
Here’s a look at five terrible things that can happen to your race car whether you’re on the track, testing and tuning. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and checking twice can really save your bacon.
5. The steering wheel comes off.
Did you remember to lock the steering wheel on? One of the problems with having a removable steering wheel is the potential for it to not lock onto the shaft properly… and that can lead to some really hairy situations. 2012 NMCA Champion Jeff Lutz ran into this very problem at Drag Week 2013. While you might think, okay, grab onto the steering shaft – that doesn’t quite work as well as you’d hope. Watch this clip and take a look at how Jeff handled it.
4. Your aerodynamics fail. At speed.
Spoilers and air dams aren’t just for the fast and furious crowd to try to look cool – at speed, they can be the thing that’s keeping you on the ground. When you get lift occurring under the car, sometimes all it takes is a gust of wind to send things radically awry – as happened to Dennis Bailey’s Mustang back in 2010 in this clip.
But aerodynamic failures aren’t limited to just drag racing – or Mustangs. Catastrophic aero failure happens in all sorts of racing, and boy, is it something to behold.
In this clip from the mid 90’s, Racing Beat takes their RX-7 to the Salt Flats of Bonneville, the car gets a little sideways in the top end, air gets under the car, generating lift, and the car acts like a helicopter, flying into the air before finally getting back in touch with Mother Earth.
It happens in Road Racing, too, as the Mercedes CLK-GTR found out more than once. A little air under the car goes a long way. Maybe the car just wanted a closer look at the trees.
3. You lose a wheel. Or all of your wheels.
Did you remember to torque down your lug nuts? Or, did you torque them so hard you pulled them out of the hub? Yep, something as simple as lug nuts and studs can cost you the car. Losing one wheel makes sense, as we see in this clip from the 2005 Australian Super Nats and can lead to some make-out time between your car and the Armco.
Or, you could be like this guy, who manages to lose not just one, but all four wheels, giving a whole new meaning to “four off.”
2. You done blow’d it up.
Most of us have experienced an engine failure at one point or another in our lives, but some of us blow up bigger and harder than others. Sometimes, all it takes is a little carelessness or a little too much boost to scatter bits of your car everywhere. Nitrous backfires in particular are spectacularly violent, and more common than you’d think.
Of course, a big enough failure can send parts a lot bigger than the hood flying, as Robert Height discovered at Z-Max dragway
during a 4-wide run a while back.
1. You wreck the car before it ever sees the track.
There is literally nothing worse for a racer than having something happen to the car before you can get your finished work to the track. It’s a lot like doing a Doctoral Thesis and losing your computer and all your backups in a terrible fire. Whether your car gets wrecked on the way to the track or god forbid someone steals your trailer with the car in it, there’s nothing that sucks more than having all that work go to waste with no reward. And one of the ways your car can get wrecked is as simple as taking it for a test and tune at the local dyno… Remember, sometimes you really need to strap the car in like a 3-year old in a carseat to keep it from getting away from you, as this unfortunate Lancer Evolution discovered.
Worst case scenario, the car, best case, at least tires and maybe a diff, like this Camaro.
So, before you hit the track, take the time to doublecheck everything, or you could end up being “that guy” on YouTube.