Does Driving the Race Car Teach You About Setup?

Uncategorized Oct 18, 2020

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...".

But would you need to have that level of understanding about how the race car works? Could not the highly skilled and experienced racing driver say what's needed for the car to make it go faster? 

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 vehicle at the limit of grip. This can easily give you the feeling that your racing skill should help you with setup - help you work out what is happening and how you could improve the car. But this is not the case.

Race driving ability and set-up know-how are almost mutually exclusive.

The talented racing driver is highly skilled in going quick around the race track.

But clearly, driving ability does not depend on knowing the ins and outs of how the race car actually works. The driver just responds and utilizes the level of capability the car has at the time, without reference to how it is happening, or how it could be improved.

As a result, most 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.)

It’s not possible, for instance, to tell how much extra grip might be left in the set-up, just by driving it. Not possible to say we should have X spring rate or Y toe out setting etc.

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:
“A Physical Understanding of Race Car Handling” and
“Get More Grip and Better Balance”.

 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.

GET THE E BOOK HERE