Tire Pressures and Swaybars D@mm!t

People often tell me I’m “Living the Dream!” and while I’ve been lucky enough to get away without having a normal 9-5, I also have to cope with a fair share of over-emasculated opinion holders who ultimately think they know what they are talking about but really don’t. It’s not uncommon for these situations to become a bit more challenging with the gender-game at play. I’ll never forget the time I was working with one of my regular clients at a race track, when I was approached for advice by someone I didn’t know, but who apparently knew me.  This conversation would ultimately test my patience in a substantial way—yet again validating the lessons my mentors taught me.

He proclaimed he had seen me race, was impressed that I could turn down such fast laps and went on to explain that he was using me as a benchmark for lap-times. Personally, I thought this was surprising given that I have a slightly slower car (Miata vs BMW). Considering displacement alone, his car clearly had the advantage. It was then he proceeded to ask me advice regarding setup for his car.

After hearing his story and having seen a few of his sessions in the past, I noticed the driver had trouble with under-steer and likely didn’t know any better. I suggested a couple solutions, however I disclaimed without having driven the car it was only my best educated guess. Without going into great detail in this post, my suggestions essentially implied he needed to get a better baseline on the car to see how setup changes effect his driving and also determine how much of his driving habits might be causing the handling issues (also the higher lap-times). From his explanation, it sounded like the car was setup as what I term a “push-machine” and he simply kept it that way because the previous car owner drove it that way also.

The conversation went downhill FAST, like an out of control skier. It was this point forward I was treated like a little girl who knew nothing about driving. He discredited my suggestions regarding what should be done for him to extract good handling. Time and time again he defended his setup choices with tire pressure and temperature stats (which revealed a problem).

It became clear he had all of this down by some characterized science. I may not have 20-years experience running Indycar, but I have been able to work with some very good driving talent over the years—each of them showing me how NOT to do things so I don’t waste my time. As someone who makes part of my living at the track, I try to share what I have learned with others so they too don’t waste their time. It doesn’t make sense to drive 10-years poorly when you can spend 3-years driving great!

It was at this point that I was not going to get anywhere positive in this conversation and dismissed myself conveniently to make a phone call, but left him with a few basics if he was going to continue to use me as a pace bench-mark:

** Solid baselines are important, check your setup regularly with an expert.

** If your tires are crowning, it’s game over. How can you make your pace last an entire race?

** If your car is pushing, it’s game over. How else can you get to your apexes and stay on throttle through the exit?

** Just because something was done a certain way by someone else, doesn’t mean its the right way.

** Always evaluate your driving after sessions. Don’t assume you’ve driven a perfect lap just because you’ve recorded all your tire pressure data and it looks “good”.

** Always know what “good” means.

And last but not least….

** Don’t ask for advice if you aren’t willing to take it. Or you’ll end up like these guys…




Posted on 12/04

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