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The New York Second

FEATURE BY MAT COCH
26/04/2012

There is a little known unit of time called the New York second. According to author Terry Pratchett it's the time between the traffic lights turning green and the cab behind honking.

Patience in traffic is often at a premium as we all try to out wit our fellow road users, weaving in to what we predict will be the 'fast' lane - not that there ever is one - or darting off in to side streets to avoid bottlenecks.

Generally the only pressure on us is getting home before our dinner gets cold (or ends up in the dog), or picking the kids up from school on time. There are rarely millions of dollars on offer if we reach a destination first.

Much the same principle applies in motor racing, with the added incentive of fame, glory, women and money. The eyes of the world tune in to watch the fastest men in the world not only drive fast but try to outwit one another. Motor racing is the challenge of driving cars as fast as possible, and if one can at all manage it, faster than everyone else.

In modern racing that means swapping old tyres for new at a certain point. When the best time to do so is calculated in advance based on factors like tyre wear, track position and the current race scenario. Jarno Trulli was also once a factor of those equations.

Pit stops are par for the course these days, and that is no slight on Pirelli. The Italian company, which I've been critical of in the past, has created a range of tyres which adds to the spice of the race. As a result each race is a comparative vindaloo and I am not ashamed to admit that they were right and I was wrong.

However what I don't believe I am wrong about is pit stops. They are needed and break up the race, but is there any reason they need to be such a critical factor in its outcome?

The FIA recently took the decision to ban the use of helium at pit stops because it added expense and, since everyone was doing it, little else. There was no advantage and so it was rightly banned.

Pit stops are much faster now refuelling has been outlawed, of course. Where once the men on the wheels could take their time while the fuel went in they are now the deciding factor for a good or bad stop. It's all over in a moment, a couple of New York seconds perhaps, and creates one of the most tense moments of a mechanic's job.

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