Let's face it--most of the energy put into a race car has to do with making it go faster, and most of the thought about trailering that race car from track to track has to do with how comfortable and cool your trailer can be made. Does the trailer have enough tool space, a welder, a lounge? Perhaps this year you've added a refrigerator, a stereo, air conditioning, or other creature comforts.

But how much time should you devote toward ensuring you have an efficient and safe tie-down system for your race car, tool bins, and spare parts? If you are like most racers, the answer is "not much." Yet every year trailers jackknife, cars and tools are thrown about or off the trailer, unnecessary expenses are absorbed, and in some cases, disasters happen. Many of these cases occur because the race car and trailer were not properly tied down, and most can be avoided with just a little thought and effort.

According to Mike Galvin of Featherlite Trailers, his company performs tie-downs for only about 5 percent of the trailers it sells. Most racers are do-it-yourselfers and will install their own fasteners, tracks, and straps. To avoid a potential disaster, it is important for racers and crew members to know the basics of a tie-down system.

Safety First
There is probably no thought worse than hauling your precious race car to a race, encountering a driving situation that requires an emergency stop, and seeing your own race car pass you on the right--without a driver in it. Race cars and equipment do fall off trailers, and in just about every case, these accidents could have been avoided by practicing proper tie-down procedures.

"Most people don't consider that a trailered race car is a rolling dynamic load," says Virgil Brown, president of M & R Safety Systems. "Developing a tie-down system with the proper hardware and strapping method is crucial to maintaining control of the car and equipment when an emergency arises. It isn't often that emergency situations occur, so people sometimes neglect proper tie-down procedures. But when that situation arises--and it does for every racer--your tie-down system is your best friend."

Properly tying down a car and equipment starts with balancing your trailer for proper tongue weight (percentage of weight on tongue). That will be determined by the trailer type and your load. While different manufacturers have their own recommendations, a good rule of thumb is as follows: for a single or tandem axle trailer with a bumper pull, 10-15 percent tongue weight; for a fifth wheel or gooseneck, 15-25 percent. Of course, 18-wheelers are in a category of their own, and weight distribution, while important, is not as critical as with a small trailer, where the load is a much higher percentage of the overall weight (see sidebar "Guidelines for Proper Loading").

When a trailer slows down, the race car and equipment want to keep going. The race car is particularly vulnerable to dynamic movement because it is on wheels. That is when the straps and anchors of the tie-down system do their job. A proper tie-down system for a race car incorporates four tie-down points and straps. However, only two of the straps are usually called upon to handle the weight and security of the car at any one time.

"When a truck and trailer stop, the front straps of the tie-down system relax while the rear ones are in tension doing all the work," says Brown. "The opposite occurs during acceleration. In a jackknife situation, much of the load is lateral--again changing the load on the straps. Therefore, to properly calculate the working load of the straps, you must consider that only two straps are holding the car, not four. We take the weight of the car, say 3,000 pounds, and multiply it by 3.3 to arrive at a safe working load. Therefore, 3.3 times 3,000 equals 10,000 pounds. And if two straps are holding down the car, they must have the strength to hold more than 5,000 pounds each. That's why we use straps and anchors rated for 6,600 pounds on a 3,000 pound car."