The evolution of the species
What’s fascinating about pit stops is that there are so many ways that they can be made better, as there are so many different parameters to play with. For the pit stop academics, it’s like a three-dimensional chess game.
One important consideration is the order in which the wheels are changed. An effective order means that the distance a mechanic travels around the car is less than the total perimeter of the vehicle. What tends to work best is starting at the front-right corner and finishing at the rear-right – although there are different ways to do it, depending on the circumstances (and regulations).
It’s an incongruous thought, but the two mechanics changing tyres can easily be compared to competitive ballroom dancers. To be effective they must work within close proximity of each other without colliding and increasing wait times. The most well-drilled duos are an artistic joy to watch when completing their pit stops.
Reducing transportation and waiting in a pit stop can be as simple as having tyres conveniently pre-placed where the rules allow, together with the use of pre-made mounts, so the mechanic can grab the wheels from waist height. Ergonomics and physical fitness play an important part: mechanics have to be fit and flexible enough to work with ease and so reduce the time spent moving.
The same applies to driver changes, as the drivers too become temporary members of the pit stop crew. The driver getting in and the one getting out need to help each other and avoid getting in each other’s way. This can only be achieved with rigorous practice, following an established system.
A well-executed pit stop is an art form, which in an endurance race can contribute to a win as much as the drivers taking to the track. Although in recent years the rule makers in the Blancpain GT Series have focussed on reducing the variance of pit stops due to rising costs (by introducing minimum pit stop times) the stops still form a pivotal part of an endurance race.
Let’s say that finishing a tyre change early enough allows a team to lose an average of no more than four-tenths of a second on each occasion compared to the minimum pit stop time.
Over the course of a 24-hour epic, made up of 26 pit stops, that could warrant an additional advantage of over 10 seconds. In the past, numerous 24-hour races have been won by less than that…