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Origins of the terms ‘box’ and ‘pit’


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#1 Tim Murray

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 08:04

There’s an interesting discussion going on in the S.Q.T. (Stupid Question Thread) in Racing Comments about the origins of the terms ‘pit’ and ‘box’ for the places where cars stop for replenishment during races. See this post for the start of the discussion there.

I believe that the term ‘pits’ first came about at the 1908 Grand Prix de l’ACF at Dieppe, where the organisers chose to site the replenishment depots immediately in front of the main grandstand at the start line. To avoid blocking the view of the first few rows in the grandstand, a long trench was dug in front of it and divided up into compartments for each team, where the fuel, spare tyres, etc were kept, along with a few team personnel.

I first became aware of the term ‘box’ in 1973, when during the Nürburgring 1,000 Km sports car race Arturo Merzario disobeyed Ferrari team orders by refusing to pit in spite of being shown the ‘BOX’ sign on his pit board for several laps.

So in which language (and country) did the term ‘box’ originate, and when was it first used?

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#2 stuartbrs

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 11:02

I`m fairly certain we have covered this before on TNF (and yes, I should search)... but my memory says that "Pit" was originally a horse racing term... my memory, is often not something to be trusted though :) 



#3 Sterzo

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 11:12

As usual, can offer only hazy recollection which is probably misleading, but here goes. I believe that there was an occasional reference in England in the fifties, (and so probably earlier) to the pit box. Probably a colloquial expression reflecting the crude nature of pit buildings in those days. Somehow that word was picked up in France (and obviously Italy, seeing the posts above). Maybe for a racing team dealing with multiple nationalities, it's an easier word to pronounce than peeet or pisztsz.

 

We need input from the anciens mécaniciens on the forum...



#4 kayemod

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 14:24

This doesn't help with the origins of the terms, but I was told by someone currently working in F1 that they changed from "pit!" to "box!" because the first term could be easily confused by a driver to mean something else, though I've never been too sure what "pit!" could have been confused with, that wasn't explained at the time.



#5 StanBarrett2

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 15:47

I think in Holland we have always been quite straightforward

 

Pits Stop = Pits stop

Pits straat  = Pits Lane

Pits boxen = Pits boxes

Pits Poezen = Grid Girls



#6 Dave Ware

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 15:54

We need more of the latter.

#7 Doug Nye

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 16:27


When the Dieppe circuit was first selected for the 1907 Grand Prix de l'ACF, its replenishment depots were sited beside the main grandstand on a by-pass road on the outside of the circuit not far from the Fourche, or hairpin, on the N25 Dieppe-Eu road - that hairpin being the closest part of the circuit to Dieppe itself.

 

Entrants were permitted remote tyre depots around the circuit, but only the main grandstand depot could be used for fluid replenishment, i.e. fuel, oil and water.  

 

For the 1908 race, once the circuit had again been selected by the ACF Committee, the landowner of the original grandstand and pit area raised the rent prohibitively.  So the ACF promptly found somewhere more economically priced, in this case after the Fourche, around 1km down the N320 road towards Ancourt and Envermeu, Londinieres etc.  

 

A lavish new grandstand was erected on the outside of the circuit to ease access for spectators, the road in front of it being widened to accommodate 'the pit' area, which accommodated depots sunk in a 5-feet deep trench, or pit, sub-divided into sections for each entrant.  Spectators even at the lowest levels of the grandstand were thus provided with a clear view over the heads of those team members staffing the pits.  On the opposite side of the road, the infield side, facing the grandstand were the timing box and associated public score board.  

 

Below - the 'clearview' replenishment depots in their pit...

 

GPL-BRANGER-2-PITS-AND-GRANDSTAND-1908-G

 

Gustave Caillois' Renault being refuelled at Grand Prix racing's prototype 'pits' (a partially restored image) - there's the scoreboard on the right...

 

GPL-2-BRANGER-1908-GRAND-PRIX-PITS-GUSTA

 

 

Branger Photos from The GP Library

 

DCN

 

Edited by Doug Nye, 28 April 2019 - 18:15.


#8 Nigel Beresford

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 17:21

This doesn't help with the origins of the terms, but I was told by someone currently working in F1 that they changed from "pit!" to "box!" because the first term could be easily confused by a driver to mean something else, though I've never been too sure what "pit!" could have been confused with, that wasn't explained at the time.

 

Well, sort of...

There have been occasions when a driver misheard a request from his team to "Repeat" what he just said over a poor radio connection and thought that he was being told to "pit". Consequently the use of "say again" is encouraged, rather than "repeat". This is also why, in my experience chez Penske, drivers were told to "Pit this time" rather than merely told to "Pit". Even over a poor connection or lots of wind noise, that three-word beat always got the message across. Of course, "Box" doesn't really sound much like anything else in racing terms, hence its virtually ubiquitous use in Europe, but it isn't nearly so widely used in the US (though we did use it on the Penske Porsche ALMS program, since that was what the drivers were used to).



#9 cpbell

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 20:55

 

When the Dieppe circuit was first selected for the 1907 Grand Prix de l'ACF...

Wonderful photos as usual, DCN - thanks indeed for posting them!



#10 Michael Ferner

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 21:47

Box, or more precisely, Boxen (plural) is also the universal term in German. A TV reporter once told the story that even English teams use the German word "box" instead of pits for precisely the reason outlined above (avoiding confusion), but failed to explain why he came to regard it as a German word in the first place - which it certainly isn't. The most authoritative work on German orthography says it's of English origin, and mentions equestrian usage first, then general storage and auto racing. Back to the land of the Brex... sorry! Over to you on the other side of the Channel...

#11 404KF2

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Posted 28 April 2019 - 21:59

Puits de ravitaillement.  Refuelling wells.  Clear?



#12 2F-001

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 06:29

re. the possible regional or linguistic origins discussed above... the first time I became aware of the term 'box' for 'pit' was when watching an in-car film of Steve Soper... racing in DTM... for Bigazzi...

none of which helps at all!


Edited by 2F-001, 29 April 2019 - 06:29.


#13 BRG

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 15:12

I thought it was 'Box Box, Box Box'?  That's how it is always said on the radio.

 

Or is that just because drivers are so dim that they need to be told four times?



#14 StanBarrett2

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 15:30

I thought it was 'Box Box, Box Box'?  That's how it is always said on the radio.

 

Or is that just because drivers are so dim that they need to be told four times?

One for each wheel !



#15 ray b

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 17:44

I think box comes from the painted lines now used to limit the work area

as in put it in the box

 

so here is a history question

 

when and where  was the first outside the lines penalty in a major race ?

 

why were painted pit box lines introduced ?

 

and why one space for two cars in F-1 ?



#16 Bloggsworth

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 19:13

I believe pit originated with cock fighting, the cock-pit being the pit, a hole dig for the purpose, in which the contest took place.



#17 john winfield

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Posted 29 April 2019 - 20:33

Somewhere in the house we have an old card game called 'Pit'. It has its own box.  Does this help at all?

 

 

https://www.google.c...MfJgjytWzXq2UM:



#18 Rob G

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Posted 30 April 2019 - 00:15

I believe pit originated with cock fighting, the cock-pit being the pit, a hole dig for the purpose, in which the contest took place.

 

Ironically, when someone calls over the radio to "box box, box box," he often sounds like a clucking chicken.



#19 john winfield

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Posted 30 April 2019 - 09:17

Ironically, when someone calls over the radio to "box box, box box," he often sounds like a clucking chicken.

 

That'll be Superhen.



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#20 doc knutsen

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Posted 30 April 2019 - 21:08

re. the possible regional or linguistic origins discussed above... the first time I became aware of the term 'box' for 'pit' was when watching an in-car film of Steve Soper... racing in DTM... for Bigazzi...

none of which helps at all!

 

The term "Box" was certainly in use at the 1958 German GP, when I clearly recall "Bitte  die Boxen raumen" being repeated over the loudspeakers, urging the sportscar teams to leave the pits in order to let the Formula One teams take over for their practice session. Not sure if I got the "raumen" spelling right, it means to evacuate or to  leave...and in between they kept playing "Sail along silvery moon" which must have been a popular tune at the time.

Jeeze, the things that stick in the mind at age nine...



#21 Alan Baker

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Posted 01 May 2019 - 08:19

Maybe the term originated in the theatre, where there is an orchestra pit between the audience and the stage, just like, if you take the track to be the stage and the pit crews to be the orchestra, the arrangement at Dieppe!



#22 thegforcemaybewithyou

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 08:11

You can hear Box in this 1938 video of the German Grand Prix around 1:23 into the video.

 



#23 Bloggsworth

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 11:03

A lot of motor-racing terminology derived from the gentlemanly sport of horse-racing, there's a good chance that "Box" is where you put te horse/car before and after the race, as in Horse-box.



#24 Vitesse2

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Posted 09 June 2019 - 19:01

Box, or more precisely, Boxen (plural) is also the universal term in German. A TV reporter once told the story that even English teams use the German word "box" instead of pits for precisely the reason outlined above (avoiding confusion), but failed to explain why he came to regard it as a German word in the first place - which it certainly isn't. The most authoritative work on German orthography says it's of English origin, and mentions equestrian usage first, then general storage and auto racing. Back to the land of the Brex... sorry! Over to you on the other side of the Channel...

That well-known Norfolk lexicographer Martin Brundle has just told his Sky TV audience that he's sure 'box' comes from German because he once saw 'Boxenstop' on a German hotel room wall ...