Monday, April 30, 2007

Pitbox positioning

I've been thinking about pitstops lately, after watching the dynamics of a pitlane unfold in V8 Supercar racing.

For motorsports that require pitstops and have either pitstop windows or frequent full-course cautions, the possibility of a busy pitlane is to be expected. In these situations, is it better to be at the start, middle or end of the pitlane?

Initially I decided that a position at the start of the pitlane is the most beneficial. The biggest factor in deciding this is that right of way always goes to cars already travelling down the pitlane. If a car is coming, a stopped car must wait for it to pass. The crew member in charge of releasing the car will (should) always err on the side of caution. The car at the end of the pitlane will have the highest likelihood of having to wait for cars that have already stopped.

But hang on a moment.... The car in the first pitbox still has to wait for cars when it wants to leave - only this time it's those that have not yet gotten to their pit. Oftentimes cars will bunch up at pit entry, making departure for the car at pit-in even more difficult.

One good thing with having that first pitbox is that you're guaranteed not to be blocked in by a car that has already stopped in the pitbox before yours. This can make or break a race.

One other consideration: just like safety-car periods, pitstops always have a greater potential for gain for those at the back of the field. The worst place to be (in theory) is first (although obviously first is the place you always want to be anyway LOL!)

So what is my answer? Well, I'd say on-track strategy ultimately plays a much bigger role, and that hitting the pits when there's not much traffic is the ideal situation. Not always possible, mind you, especially if it's a usefully timed full-course caution period, but in V8 Supercars for example, I'd always choose to wait for the third lap of the pit window than the first. The biggest collateral gain with that is that an empty pitlane is a safe pitlane, and that's surely an important consideration that often gets ignored. Witness the chaos of a NASCAR pitlane during a caution period, and think about how many more stories you hear about NASCAR crew members who get injured than crew members in other forms of racing...


patrick said...

Getting rid of mandatory pit stops and pit windows would be a nice start. They've ruined DTM racing.

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Bobby said...

NASCAR has come to the point on pit stops there are speed limits on pit lane, "commit line" violations, and an "equipment must be on half closest to car" rule on pit stops.

To make it even harder, most teams don't even use their own mechanics. They are usually hired gun intercollegiate or semi-pro level athletes fresh from college. Andy Papathanassiou, a former lineman from Stanford, was the catalyst for the change.

Today, all NASCAR teams have a full pit box and pit car (usually an older retired car) to practice pit stops, and a full working weight room the calibre of any top professional sports team.

Fifteen years ago, a pit stop was 18-19 seconds. Today, a four-tyre stop with petrol is worth 13-14 seconds.

Even the bloke who holds the jack has to be strong enough to get the trolley jack to raise the car in one pump of the jack, drop it, and run to the other side and do it again.

Found this site on athletes on pit lane: