our car isn't too tight, we will just roll through the turns with a
slightly greater steering angle and maybe never know we are tight. But,
if we are too tight, we will need to input excessive steering angle and
we may just over do the adding of front grip from the increased steering
angle and change from a car that is tight to one that is loose. Here is
We go into the turn
and feel the tendency to not turn. We quickly apply more steering input
and keep adding until the car responds. But the motion is so quick that
we inadvertently over correct and add too much front grip just as we are
ready to accelerate. Now with more front grip than rear, the car goes
from tight to loose and with the power applied, very loose off. This is a
very common occurrence.
To change mid-turn balance, we can do one of the following:
• Raise or lower the rear moment center by moving the Panhard bar or
J-bar up or down. For leaf spring cars, we can raise or lower the actual
spring, but that is not easy. Metric four-link cars also have a tough
time changing the rear moment center height and must rely on other
methods for changing the balance.
Change rear spring rates. Softening the rear spring, will increase the rear roll angle and
will tighten the car, as will softening both rear springs. The inverse
is true, stiffening the spring and
loosen the car.
• Softening the front springs will help the car turn, but to a lesser degree than making rear spring changes. Spring
split at the front also has less affect and has more influence on entry
characteristics than on mid-turn. More on that later.
Installing larger or smaller sway bars will have an effect on handling.
The stiffer the bar, the less the front will want to turn. So, to help
cure a tight car, we can go to a softer sway bar.
Increase or decrease the cross-weight percent. As we make changes to the
cross-weight, we affect the handling of the car and we can easily make
the car neutral in handling by making cross-weight changes. But, this is
not the ideal method by any means; it's just the easiest.
The reason this method is not ideal is because for every car and
combination of springs and weight distribution, there is an ideal
cross-weight that matches up with a dynamically balanced setup and is
related to the front-to-rear weight percentage. If we knew this magic
number, we could just dial it in and then make spring or moment center
changes until the car was neutral and then everything would be just
Increase or decrease stagger? This is never an acceptable way to tune
the handling of your race car. For every turn, there is an ideal stagger
that will allow the car's rear wheels to roll around the radius and not
influence the direction the car travels from following that radius.
Once we have set up the car to be neutral in both handling and dynamic
balance, we need to evaluate the entry handling. If our entry is without
issues, meaning it is straight ahead, not tight or loose, and no excess
steering input is needed beyond the normal transition from straight to
left turn, then we are good to go.
all of the alignment issues have been sorted out, there should never be
entry problems, but there are influences that could affect entry
stability and balance. Here are the top ones to consider.
• A. Rear alignment is the number one cause of entry problems
Either by misalignment of the rear tires or by rear steering of the
rear end, a car can become tight or loose on entry and that can
translate to mid-turn problems. The truth is, you should have checked
and corrected any rear alignment problems long before you came to the
track. Rear alignment and rear steer are not tuning tools.
• B. Shocks affect entry
Shock rates that restrict movement of one or more corners of the car
can negatively affect entry.
• C. Brake bias changes affect corner entry
There is an ideal brake bias that will allow maximum braking of each
set of tires based on the loads those tires carry. Different cars with
different centers of gravity will require different brake bias. front to rear, rear to front
your brakes so that wheel lockup occurs simultaneously at the two ends
of the car under heavy braking. We do not want the brake bias to
influence entry handling characteristics. Never try to correct a tight
car by increasing the rear brake bias or fix a loose-in car by
increasing front brake bias.
test your bias settings, try this exercise. Try entering the corner with
sufficient speed and with a soft application of the brakes and feel the
entry balance. If good, proceed to the next step. If not, refer to
steps A. through C. above. Once the car is neutral without heavy
braking, then enter the corner at speed with the normal brake pressure
that would be used in the race or in hot laps and see if the handling
changes. If so, tune the brake bias to be neutral.
• Setup changes to solve corner entry problems?
We never want to make changes to our spring rates, sway bars, weight
distribution, or moment centers to try to solve entry problems. When we
do that, we will certainly change our mid-turn handling in a negative
way. We should have already tuned the car so that the mid-turn handling
was balanced correctly.
There is an
exception to the above rule. We can initially plan out our spring
selection so that our entry transition is best for the type of track we
will be running. For flatter tracks, running even spring rates across
the front, or a rate opposed to the rear spring rate,
will help the transition into the corner. It is best to make that choice
before you go to the track so you won't need to make changes after you
tune the mid-turn.
• Throttle modulation on entry can help solve problems with abrupt release of the throttle
If we quickly jump off the throttle and into the brakes, we can upset
the car to where it affects our entry speed and stability. It can also
cause us to slow too quickly and attain a slower speed than is necessary
to maintain through the entry portion of the turn.
is a real phenomenon that occurs with a number of drivers. The practice
of early release and later application of the brakes helps with the
transition from acceleration to braking. The method is one of the
primary tools taught by Mike Loescher in his driving school at Finish
Line Racing-and it works. Many entry problems simply go away with an
improved entry strategy.
Corner Exit Handling
Most of the time, solving the mid-turn handling will solve corner exit
problems. If we were tight in the middle, we would most likely be tight
off or tight/loose off. If we were loose through the middle, then we
would be, well, loose off, of course.
process of increasing mid-turn speeds means that we have also increased
our exit speeds, or the speed at which we begin to accelerate. This is a
big deal and the reason why we spend so much time perfecting the
mid-turn balances and trying to increase speed through that portion of
The ways some tracks
are laid out contribute to corner exit problems. A flat track offers
less grip than a banked track because the lack of dynamic down-force
created by the banking to help provide more overall grip. So,
we need to enhance bite in other ways.
Loose Off Condition-Rear Steer
To solve loose off If we know we are good through the middle, then a
loose off condition can be solved with the application of rear steer
that happens only upon the application of power. Basic rear steer from
chassis roll does not help us because it will change our mid-turn
There are ways to utilize
the rotation of the rear end, if using a lift arm or pull bar, so that
the motion of the rotation of the rear end causes the rear wheels to
move fore and aft to create rear steer to the left to tighten the car
off the corner.
process out and try to arrange the components on your car to utilize
this process. If definitely works. If you must run a solid third link or
other type of rear suspension where the rear end can't rotate, then go
to the next step.
can increase the cross-weight percent on exit to tighten your car off the
control will allow the rear tires to maintain their grip on the track
surface and help to provide better acceleration. Once we lose grip in
the rear, we must back off the throttle until we regain grip before we
can continue to accelerate. By exercising throttle control, we may feel
like we are giving up performance, but in reality, we are providing the
most acceleration possible.
control is defined as the modulation of the gas pedal through a range
of motion, never moving quickly from one position to another, in order
to keep the tires in contact with the track surface. The rate of change
in throttle position must be altered depending on your position on the
track and through the corner, so the driver must develop an educated
Many drivers report that
they never got past half throttle over the course of an entire race they
won. This means that they were working from off throttle to half and
many points in between. It is the developing of efficient throttle
modulation that is one of the most effective tools you can use to
promote bite off the corners.
The above suggestions may at first seem like a bit few compared to all
of what we know about chassis setup, but remember that we have
supposedly already solved the critical issues facing our race car. We
have aligned it, checked the moment center design, checked for binding
in the suspension, added adjustable shocks, and done all of the other
maintenance things we know we should.
last thing to do is run the car. If you're just learning these
things, take good notes and concentrate on what is happening. And when you do get the car all dialed in, be sure to
maintain that good setup
You Might Have A Handling Problem If...
• If you see excessive heat or wear on one tire versus the other tires, you might have a handling problem.
• If you are more than a half second slower than the fastest car on the track, you might...
• If your car starts out the race fast and then trails off, you might...
• If you have to wait longer than your competition to get back into the throttle, you might...
• If you bought that $25,000 cheater crate motor, run illegal fuel,
soaked your tires, and installed traction control, and are still getting
beat, yes my friend, you might just have a handling problem.