The Sprint Car Cockpit sure isn’t built for comfort. Just getting into the cockpit can be an effort, requiring the driver to manoeuvre through the chassis bars, the wing, crash bars, seat, torque tube, steering box and more! To make entry a little easier the steering wheel of a Sprint Car is a quick-release type, meaning it can be removed.
Once in the car, the seating position is upright, similar to sitting in a dining chair. Braced back hard into the seat by the 5-point harness, the driver has limited movement. Vision is poor, the high bonnet of the car and the front wing, obscure sight of the front of the car and the driver is usually unable to see the front wheels. Rock screens are used to prevent rocks and other debris from entering the cockpit, also reducing vision. Wrap-around seats and neck restraint devices such the HANS system, mean that the driver has virtually no peripheral vision. To make vision even worse, Sprint Car driver’s use plastic strips called “Tear-Offs” or “Tearaways” on their helmet visors. The idea of the tear-offs is that when the driver’s visor is filled in with mud, the tear-off can be removed, leaving a clear view. For an A-Feature race a driver might need around 20 tear-offs.
Sitting above the driver’s knees is the power steering box, most cars are fitted with knee guards to protect the driver in a crash. The driver straddles the drive line, which is encased by the torque tube. A hoop around the torque tube is used to keep it from causing injury to the driver in the event of an accident.
A Sprint Car is only fitted with two pedals, the brake on the left and the accelerator on the right. The accelerator pedal is usually fitted with a hoop that the driver’s foot slips into so that it doesn’t come off of the pedal when bouncing over ruts. Sprint Cars don’t have gearboxes so there’s no need for a clutch pedal.
The dashboard of a Sprint Car Cockpit doesn’t have heaps of fancy digital gauges, the racing’s frantic enough without having too many distractions. Usually a car will be equipped with only a tachometer, oil pressure and water temperature gauges. An oil pressure light is commonly fitted to alert the driver if the oil pressure has dropped to dangerous levels, indication a possible problem with the engine. An ignition switch, usually a simple toggle switch is all that is required to start a Sprint Car, no keys or starter motors here. A fuel tap allows the driver to turn the fuel off, this is a simple on/off valve.
Controls available to the driver in a Sprint Car Cockpit are fairly limited. The shifter allows the driver to put the car into and out of gear and is linked to the rear end by a cable. Shifters come in all sorts of different designs, but their objective is the same, to make sure the car is locked into gear and to easily take the car out of gear. The driver is able to adjust the wing angle using the wing slider valve, this allows the driver to adjust the handling of the car to suit the track conditions. Some cars are fitted with adjustable shock absorbers, which can be adjusted by the driver from the cockpit. Brake bias can also be adjusted by the driver, although not many cars are fitted with this feature.
So, as you can see, a Sprint Car Cockpit isn’t a lounge chair, it’s cramped, even uncomfortable, but once strapped in, you’re ready for the ride of your life!