Build it Neat

Andris Laivins, crew chief for CJ Wilson Racing and owner of Laivins Race Cars in Austin, Texas, has turned more than a few road cars into racing machines. There are obvious goals in such an undertaking, primarily speed and reliability. But there are some objectives to which car builders should pay attention that are often overlooked. High on that list is making the car easy to work on.

“My philosophy is to keep the car as simple as possible,” Laivins says. “So if there’s something on the car that’s not necessary or required by the rules, it’s better if it’s not there at all. If you have to unbolt something to get to something else, it slows you down. And it makes the car heavier.”

Not only does taking the unnecessary parts off the car make working on it easier, it removes weight as well. A car may already be under minimum in that regard, but it’s always nice to be able to put the weight back in nice and low in the passenger footwell, rather than someplace where it will raise the center of gravity.

Making parts accessible and easy to work on could mean the difference between making a qualifying session or going into the race at the back of the grid.

“When we’re putting together a car for the first time, we spend a lot of time thinking about how it will be worked on in the future,” he says. “That may mean that we choose different hardware for something because it uses a wrench that’s easier to use when you’re in a hurry. Or maybe we drill access holes so you can use a socket to get to a bolt rather than using a wrench and turning it a quarter turn at a time. It even comes down to things like how you route the wiring in the car and how you lay out hoses. The shortest path from point A to point B may not be good if that hose or wire is on top of something else that you often have to change.”

While a racer’s ability to make these types of modifications and adjustments may depend on the rules of his or her selected class, whatever one can do to make the car easier to work on is a worthwhile effort.

“We just think about the regular work that gets done on a car and try to make it easy to get to those parts. Just as an example, if there’s a shock mount that you’re constantly removing because you’re constantly working on the shocks and the factory part has a welded-in stud, reaching the nut on the other side is always difficult…. We may take that stud out and put in a bolt so you can reach it the other way,” Laivins adds.

Think ahead to working on the car… not just what makes the car fastest, but also what makes working on the car fastest. Less downtime means more time to think about going faster.