What’s In My Pack?

What's In My Pack?

By Mike Kojima

Dora the Explorer has a magic back pack that holds just about anything she might need.  I have a back pack too, except it's not magic or cool.  I often wish it had the ability to come up with stuff I need, like a spare engine, corners of a car, a frame table and other things for tricky situations when I am out in the field.

Believe it or not, over the past few years, I have gotten several requests to do an article about what sort of stuff I take in my backpack when doing race support for various teams.  My tool kit which I bring, usually has a bunch of suspension tuning tools because suspension set up is what I am usually getting paid to do.  Most of the time I am working the Formula D circuit where I am the engineer for the Falken Tire team.

Being the Engineer/chassis guy also lends itself to being a spotter.  A spotter is the guy in the observation tower who talks to the driver via radio and coaches him about his line, angle and style.  Being the spotter is also useful because I can see what the car is doing and how it's reacting.  By watching the car and talking to the driver, I can make decisions and radio the crew to make changes to the car.

Drifting is very dynamic and the course changes quite a bit during the day, probably more than any other motorsport due to the sheer amounts of rubber being laid down throughout the entire course.  Because of this, the top teams are continually tweaking the cars trying to get the most performance out of them and to compensate for changing grip levels.

We change tire pressure, shock settings and even sway bar bar settings continually during the course of the day.  We constantly monitor tire temps, air temp and ground temp.  We also occasionally look at data from our Motec data acquisition system.  I get all of this info via radio and or text message and advise the team on what to do.

Being a spotter means that I am usually stuck in a stand somewhere for a major part of the day, far away from our big rig's lounge full of snacks, coolers and other conveniences.  In the event of a rare emergency where one of our cars crashes and it's all hands on deck for a 5 minute competition time out, I might have to run 1/4 mile or more and help with a flog to get the car running again.  The things I carry in my pack might seem random but they reflect these necessities.

So let's take a look and see what is in there.

First you might want to know what's in my pockets.  The work related stuff I carry starts with my phone.  I have really poor eyesight so instead of your typical iPhone I carry a Samsung Note II, the hugest phone you can get.  It's large display really helps and the smart stylus helps me use the touch screen when my indiscriminate sausage like fingers have trouble hitting the tiny buttons.  I have some useful apps like Palmer Dash command which I don't use for cars with stand alone ECU's but is cool for cars that use the OEM ECU when paired to a PLX Kiwi Bluetooth dongle. My phone has a few other apps useful for spying and even setup like level and angle finder apps.  One Formula D team is known to use radio scanners to spy on other teams and we have been victimized by them before.  Thus sensitive setup data is sent via text messaging and sometimes we send some false stuff or speak in code over the radio if we think we are being spied on.  Hehehe.
My daughter asked me the other day why all FD crew people carry knives.  I told her pocket knives are really handy.  We always have to cut tape, vinyl, open boxes, cut zip ties, wires and other stuff.  I find that Spyderco knives with combination blades half regular and half serrated are the best for me.  You can do fine or course cutting with them.  Sometimes I carry cheapo Spydercos made in China which are a hell of a deal for $35 bucks with a quality 440 stainless steel blade, positive lock and strong plastic handles.  Lately I've been rocking more baller Spydercos like a Wayne Goddard collaboration model or this Spyderco USA Maxinx 2 which I have become particularly fond of.  This knife is pretty trick with a super tough and long lasting Crucible CPM S30V alloy blade.  This is a vacuum degassed, high carbon anti corrosive steel, probably more esoteric than necessary for a pocket knife but hey if you are willing to pay for aerospace steel, why not?  The knife has a G10 handle and a super fast low friction but strong lock which is just as fast as a switchblade but legal.  It also has jimping and scalloping which helps if you have to use the knife with gloves on or oily hands.  This thing cuts zip ties and wires like butter and hasn't needed sharpening yet.  When traveling to places where my knife might get taken away by authorities, I carry the cheapo Chinese Spydercos. The Chinese Spydercos are made in Syderco's own factory in China and are amazing deals for the money in a semi disposable work knife application.
My backpack is a Falken team issue deal I got when I was with them at Pikes Peak.  My previous pack was a KW Suspension one that I really liked and I used it until it fell apart.  I also had a Nissan Genuine accessory bag but it was too small for what I needed and now my daughter Christa uses it as her spotter's bag.  Christa's job on the team is as Statistician.  She tracks speed, scores and styles.  The Falken bag is a really nice one made by Ogio and it is holding up really well even though it is battered from 3 years of hard use and international travel.  This bag has gone all over the world with me, from Europe, to Japan to the Middle East.


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