What Does Race Driving Teach You About Setup?

Uncategorized Oct 18, 2020

Race driving is a confidence game. As you get more experienced in racing, you get to be highly confident in your ability to control the race car, racing consistently up to the capability of you vehicle and your level of skill.

This might easily give you the impression that your racing skill could help you with setup - help you work out what is happening and how you could improve the set-up of your car.

Could not the highly skilled and experienced racing driver say what's needed to make the race car faster? 

But our experience with grassroots racing clients is that this is not the case. For example, it is not possible for the driver to say in isolation, just by driving the car, whether the springs should be stiffer or softer. (Spring/Suspension stiffness is perhaps the single biggest contributor to improving the grip and performance of a non-aero race car.)  

Racing drivers respond to the race car as they feel it in the moment. How else can we explain the fact that in testing, drivers can get on the pace so quickly after a change is made to the balance of the car? It only takes a couple of corners for the experienced racing driver to get up to speed. 

There's good support for this idea too, when you consider that most improvements to the set-up are made in the workshop, away from the race track. This applies to grassroots or pro racing.

Good driver feedback at the track is of course vital. But you have to start with a baseline set-up where either the team technical person and driver, or the driver only on a one man team, fully understand the starting set-up and the options available to adjust the car.  You can't depend on your car preparer, mechanic, car builder or supplier of suspension components to tell you everything you need to know.

This flow chart summarizes the thinking and procedures needed to set-up the race car as per my new E Book "The 7 Little Known Hacks...".


It's a step by step process to build your knowledge and know-how. The 7 Hacks describe the 7 key areas you can study to get the mindset and knowhow you need to deal with handling and set-up problems in grassroots racing.

Many racing drivers in grassroots motorsport automatically drive around handling problems without recognizing there is an issue, and/or that they can do something about it. (Driving for a professional team supported by race engineers you would expect the driver to be on top of any issues with the car.)

Balance is another thing grass roots racers rarely get to grips with, whether it’s a problem with identifying the improvement desired, or purely the mechanics of fixing it.

Mark Webber wrote in his book "Aussie Grit" that in his early career, he used to drive around handling issues. "I felt that I should be able to get the job done with whatever equipment I had been given." All that changed when he drove for Mercedes in his first professional drive. They taught him that setup was a fundamental part of racing cars.

Thirty plus years ago, vehicle dynamics engineering, simulation, 7 post rig testing, K and C compliance testing etc etc did not exist in racing. But now there is an absolute divide between what is required in pro racing and the needs of club racing/grassroots racing/junior categories.     

So, realistically, as grassroots racers without access to the any race engineering capability, the only way forward is for us is to get a handle on setup ourselves.

What we do with setup today is basically the same as it always, but with more structure and a better understanding of what is happening. No longer just a mish-mash of ideas. 

To give you an outline of how you can get an optimized setup and the vehicle dynamics know-how you need to do that, I’ve released my new E Book “7 Little Known Hacks – Your Pathway to Race Car Handling Mastery.”

For nearly twenty years, we have continued development of these insights and procedures in suspension setup for grassroots racing. No longer is setup a mystery. No longer are your setup decisions based on guesswork or what others are doing.

The 7 Hacks are 7 key learning points in our on-line training programs in suspension set up:

 Check out our new E Book:

"7 Little-Known Hacks - Your Pathway to Suspension Set-Up Mastery."

The "7 Hacks..." are seven little known insights into race car handling.  A unique overview of handling that could transform your understanding of what’s required to do your own suspension set-up.

We take a deep dive into how race car handling actually works.