Anyone who’s ever competed in a Pinewood Derby race knows the fun and excitement that comes from building and tuning up what they hope will be a winning racer and then finding out if all the effort put into the project actually pays off. While winning isn’t everything, it certainly beats losing! It’s our hope that each derby racer builds a competitive car and has a great time showing it off to their friends on the night of the derby.
To do this, certain rules and regulations must be followed. These rules are set out by the officials running each local area race and may change from one place to another. It’s important to comply with local rules so you don’t get disqualified. It’s also important to follow certain common-sense racing guidelines such as the proper weighting of your car and use of lubricants. Let’s look at a few factors to help you avoid failure.
• Weights – with maximizing your car’s speed as the #1 goal, and knowing that gravity is the source of power you’ll be utilizing, the adding of proper weights and their precise distribution are critical. With Pinewood Derby cars required to be within the five ounce weight limit, you’ll want to add just enough weight to come as close to five ounces as possible without going over. Most weight should be added to the car’s back half, although some may be required in the front to maintain balance. Your weights should be well-secured and not protrude beyond the car’s surface, which would increase wind resistance and drag. You’ll need an accurate scale to assure your car’s weight falls within the 5-ounce requirement.
• Axles – the better your car’s axles are lubricated, the faster it’ll go. This includes polishing your axles to a fine finish and using a quality lube such as Monkey Jam or one of the many graphite products available. Even finely-polished axles will still have microscopic scratches on them and a great way to improve car speed is to imbed graphite into these small blemishes.
• Rule Breaking – each car running in a Pinewood Derby race will be weighed and thoroughly inspected by race officials prior to being allowed to compete. Breaking any of the rules will be grounds for disqualification, so make sure your car conforms to the local requirements. Common infractions include cars that are too heavy, have been built using illegal kits, or lubed with illegal types of lubricant.
• Have Fun! – while winning is an important motivation for most Derby competitors, it certainly shouldn’t be pursued at the expense of having fun with your car-building and racing project. Working with a parent can add to the fun you have and also to the amount of pride both you and your parent will enjoy in a job well done.
• Lube – we already know that proper lube is important and many quality types are available. In order to increase your car’s speed, lube must be used and in the proper amounts – not too much and not too little. Make sure the lube you choose is legal in the local Derby in which you’ll be competing.