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Tic, Tech, Tow
When it comes to competing in the legend car international racing, INEX is the sanctioning body who sets all the rules, specifications, and guidelines for the legend cars.
There are a couple of differences in the legend cars. One is the body style. The driver can choose either a coupe or a sedan body. Another difference in the cars is the windshield. some drivers prefer the clear plastic windshields where other drivers like the net style windshield because it allows the air to flow through the car. But the most significant difference in the cars is the engine. Drivers can choose either a 1200cc engine which the race teams can work on or the 1250cc engine, which is a sealed engine reducing the amount of modifications that the race teams can do to the engine, making the racing more even.
All the race cars in the NELCAR Legend Series go through a pre-race inspection prior to racing in a qualifying heat. So how does a car pass pre-race inspection but, fail the post race inspection? Stephen Miller, one of the INEX inspectors, explains how, “Pre race inspection primarily involves safety issues such as tire wear etc. Post race inspections can be more technical involving issues that could give a driver an unfair advantage such as ride height, wheelbase or weight.”
While the cars are sitting in the line-up waiting for the feature event the tech inspectors walk pass the cars marking the tires with yellow chalk. Stephen tells us why, “This is a way to be sure the rear differential is locked. If the marks still line up after the car has been on the track it’s locked. If they don’t, that’s an indication that something is amiss and warrants further investigation.”
I asked Stephen if after the race, when it comes to post race inspection is there a plus / minus tolerance when inspecting the cars? “There can be. Some inspections are done using “Go or No-Go” gauges while others are done with scales or other measuring devices with tolerances.”
When a car fails inspection, who determines the severity of the infraction and what penalties are applied? Stephen states, “Again INEX, the organization that sets all specifications and rules also determines what the penalties for infractions will be.”
When a car fails tech, can the driver / team dispute a findings and penalties? “Yes, there is an appeal process in place if a driver / team feel a penalty was issued in error.”
Occasionally race cars do get damaged during the race and won’t pass post race inspection because of the damage. Is the driver still penalized? “If a car is found to be out of spec and fails tech, the team is given 5 minutes to find a reason for that failure and bring it to the attention of the inspector. So if for example, a bent shock due to an on-track crash has caused the car to be out of spec that can be excused by the inspector and no penalty assigned.”
NELCAR being a touring series travels to many different style race tracks, like the Seekonk Speedbowl where the drivers have the steering wheel constantly turning left the entire way around the track, to racing at Unity Raceway, “Maine’s Toughest Track”, where the drivers have to race the race track as well as the other cars on the race track. Then there is the road course at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the 1.6 mile race track, where the cars are making left and right turns, long straight a ways, and almost 90 degree turns. So are there different rules at different tracks? “No, the teams may set a car up differently (such as camber), but the specifications are the same at all tracks.”
When it comes to the rules and regulations regarding the actual racing on the track, those responsibility are associated with the track officials and the NELCAR race director.
Stephen emphasizes, “The important thing to remember is that the main reason for tech inspections is to be sure that every team is on the same level playing field. That places more emphasis on the drivers’ abilities as opposed to the ability of the cars.”