What are all those little yellow lights on top for anyway?
Staging could best be defined as locating your car in the proper location on the track and initiating the countdown process which culminates in either a green or red light... and the red light really sucks!
What the cool lights mean:
Staging Beams (not illustrated) - Two little beams of light just off the ground which shine across the track, these beams trigger the pre-stage and stage lights on the christmas tree when broken by your front tires.
Pre-Stage Light - The pre-stage light is illuminated when your front tire interferes with the first of the two beams, the pre-stage beam. This the start of the staging process. From this point on there ain't no turning back.
Stage Light - 18 inches down the track from the pre-stage light is the beam that triggers the stage light. This light is turned on when your front tires break the second beam. When this light comes on your car is basically staged and ready to go... But wait, there's more! It's never that simple. I'll explain in a minute when we discuss a couple of types of staging.
Amber lights - These are the middle three lights that "count down" once the starter flips the switch. They are spaced .500 of a second apart on a sportsman tree which is the one you will be using. The two types of tree's are "sportsman" and "pro" trees. The sportsman tree counts down, while on the pro tree all three ambers flash on together, followed by the green light .400 seconds later. This is why a .500 reaction time is perfect on the sportsman tree and .400 is perfect on the pro tree.
Green light - the go light. Usually, if you see this light you've probably already lost the race. The key here for most cars is to leave as soon as the last amber lights up. It usually takes about a half second for you to react and your car to respond to that action. If you leave on the green your reaction time will be at least a full second. The green light is triggered .500 of a second after the last yellow. A common misconception here is that the clock starts when the green light flashes on. It ain't so. You can sit on the starting line for an hour after the green light comes on, the clock won't start, but you're reaction time will really bite! It ( the clock) doesn't start until you move past the beams.
Red light - This light stinks! Anytime you see it, your day is over. It means you rolled out of the lights before the green came on. That's it, it's done.
There are two ways (At least) to stage, Shallow staging and deep staging.
Shallow staging is accomplished when, after breaking the pre-stage beam, you creep forward until your front tire just breaks the stage beam. The instant the stage light comes on you stop and hold your car there. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it increases your MPH by giving your car an additional foot or more of track before you start the timing clocks. Believe it or not this makes a measurable difference. Secondly, if you're having a problem redlighting, it'll give you a little additional time before starting the timer. This effectively increases your reaction time. The other end of this spectrum is deep staging. I prefer to shallow stage because more than once I've crept foward just a tick and rolled out of the second beam and red-lighted. To me red-lighting is the worst way to lose a race, ain't nothing you can do about it once it's happened. Better safe than sorry.
Deep staging is risky business and not all tracks allow you to do it. Basically it involves rolling foward, after you've lit the stage light, until you roll out of the pre-stage light beam and the pre-stage light turns off. The risk here is going too far and redlighting or decreasing you're reaction time to the point a red-light is inevitable. Either way you lose. Best leave this one till you've got a lot of runs under your belt. During time trials is a good time to practice this art form.
Ok, you've followed the rules, you look really cool and ya' got your Chevelle staged... But, I've forgotten something important and that will be the next topic.
Next up - Dialing in