Life at Speed

Gearing Up

  • David Richert, Author
  • Professional Race Car Driver, Richert Racing

In my last blog we looked at how a typical race weekend progresses, but what about the preparation and all the race gear I need to have ready to go.

Preparation is always the key to having success on a big race day. There is normally so much going on that it can be a logistical nightmare when gearing up for a race day.

The race team itself will normally take care of all components related to the race car, from tires to fuel to any other maintenance or equipment necessary. For myself as a driver, preparation is limited strictly to the physical equipment I need for myself as well as what goes on inside my head…which can be a dangerous place to venture

Safety is always a top priority as a driver and we are kitted out to the max! I start with long underwear, both top and bottom as well as a pair of socks. This is all made of a fire retardant Nomex material to provide protection in case of any fire. Then comes the race suit itself which is made of the same Nomex material except 2 or 3 layers of it.

The shoes I wear are extremely comfortable for driving but not so much for long walks as they have a flat bottom with thin sole to provide excellent feeling and grip on the pedals…the shoes are also made of fire retardant material.

Rounding out the list of items I need to make sure I have on hand are my earplugs, balaclava and race helmet. Earplugs are extremely important as the car would be too loud and uncomfortable without them, so this seriously hurts concentration if you forget to put them in. The balaclava and inner liner of my race helmet are also made of fire retardant material to continue the layers upon layers of protection in case of a fire. Having this amount of protection will be vital in case of an incident; however, on a hot day it feels like a sauna in all of this gear.

It is also important to make sure you have selected the correct visor for your race helmet. Tinted or mirrored visors are essential when driving in bright, sunny conditions but they are horrible if it’s a dark, rainy day. Sometimes it can be a difficult situation when a sunny day suddenly turns rainy as you are venturing out onto the race circuit without a clear visor on your helmet. Vision is everything, so a tinted visor in the rain is always a problem.

Once all my gear is ready to go then I focus on ensuring I have mentally prepared for the race. This normally involves pouring over technical data from the car to see where I can improve my driving, or even watching onboard videos of laps around the circuit. Sometimes to ensure maximum focus it’s necessary to sit down in a quiet place, close your eyes, and then mentally drive your way around the race circuit complete with each throttle and brake movement as well as gear change in your mind.

I don’t think I have any superstitions when it comes to preparing for a race but I did notice one strange thing that I tend to do. I always step into the cockpit of the race car from the left side. It seems very weird to think about it now, especially because I have no idea why I do it that way and it’s not tied to any superstitious thought of great results, but for whatever reason it just feels more comfortable this way.