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Lessons from our Race

We just held our local pinewood derby race. Although I have been leading the race for many years, every year I learn or re-learn something new.

1. Don't use white or yellow glue to attach weight to the bottom of a car (even in weight holes).

I already knew this, but some folk at our workshop didn't, and they glued in several weights before I realized it. During the race, four cars lost weight out of the bottom. The problem with white or yellow glue is that it is water based, so it shrinks as it dries. For bottom weights, use epoxy or hot glue.

2. No matter how many times you tell people to add weight to the cars and lubricate the wheels with graphite, people generally don't do it unless they come to a workshop and you help them.

We had several really slow cars due to lack of weight and/or lubrication.

3. Kids do want their cars to be fast, and they expect their parents to help make it so.

Slow cars leads to upset kits (see above).

4. Even the most time proven timing systems can have glitches.

Our timer (Microwizard K2) and software (Grand Prix Race Manager) has always worked well. But this year there were two glitches. In one case, the timer showed a tie for first, but the software showed the tie as broken -- this is not supposed to happen. After looking at the log in the software, this was clearly a timer problem. In another case, a boy kicked the timer (accidently) and it reset. We saw it happen, but thought nothing of it until the heat results were all wrong. We re-ran the heat, but in the future we will know to take action before the race is started.

5. Adding oil to graphite-lubricated wheels is a bad idea.

As one family found out.

6. Good weighting, lubrication, wheel/axle prep, and alignment continue to be the keys to winning.

The two fastest cars were aggressively weighted with tungsten, had highly prepped and lubed wheels (weight-reduced) and axles, and were well aligned.

The next two fastest cars were aggressively weighted with tungsten, had highly prepped and lubed wheels (not weight-reduced) and axles, and were well aligned.

The next fastest group of three were aggressively weighted with lead and had well prepped and lubed wheels and axles.

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