From time to time we like to consult with the experts in the field of stock car racing as to their opinions and expertise on subjects of interest. This month, we talked with top shock technical experts and offered some questions and solicited their opinions. Our panel of five shock experts and the companies they support are in alphabetical order: Afco Shocks, Bob McDowell; Integra Shocks, Brian Dougherty; Ohlins Shocks, Christer Loow; Pro Shocks, Jeff Sandt; and QA1 Shocks, Corey Flynn.
1. Overall, we see the average racer becoming more and more educated as to how his/her chassis works in all areas. Share some examples of this that you have seen.
* Afco - Racing schools like RaceWise have been touring the U.S. giving racers a first-hand look into how the mechanics of their chassis actually work. Subjects cover everything from weight distribution and transfer to shock selection. Personal consults are available to help teams properly set up and tune their chassis.
* Integra - The biggest difference we have noticed is the type of questions that are being asked. Instead of just asking "what happens if I add rebound to my left rear shock," racers now ask more detailed questions regarding the interaction between different chassis adjustments. For example: A racer will ask "if I increase my left rear shock rebound to tone my hike down, does that permit me to raise my left bottom four-link rod on the chassis in order to turn on the gas better?"
* Ohlins - When the racer has started adjusting the shocks and noticing the effect it has on the performance at the track, he or she will start working with the adjusters and learning how to adjust them to achieve, for example, more bite or corner-entry speed.
* Pro - No, for the most part they aren't better educated. A few have become better educated but, the vast majority aren't.
* QA1 - On the dirt, I've definitely seen racers make more consistent, educated adjustments to their chassis to compensate for track changes. If the track moves from tacky to dry and then to rubbered up, racers understand what and when to change on the chassis to stay up front. Understanding how the bar angles, tire stagger, and caster and camber changes will effect their chassis is very important, and racers have taken the time to figure it out.
On the asphalt, I've seen racers take the time to plot out their roll center, perform and understand caster and camber curves, and take the time to understand how the chassis will react at its dynamic stages.
2. What are the current trends in racing shock design related to both dirt racing and asphalt racing?
* Afco - We see a two-fold trend, some teams want to have more adjustments in their shock program, while other teams like the ability to bolt on shock packages without the adjustability.
* Integra - Over the past several years, nearly all of the top touring teams have upgraded their shock packages from the "twin-tube" design to the more consistent "mono-tube" design. We have found that most drivers prefer the "feel" they have when running the twin-tube, but need the consistency and reliability that a mono-tube offers. This being said, a base valve is often incorporated into the design of the mono-tube shock which allows for higher compression values without additional gas charge. Because of the many variations in track configurations and surfaces, teams also have stressed the need for shocks that provide a wide range of adjustment on compression and rebound.
* Ohlins - The trend is that the racers are putting higher demand on the performance of the shocks. One way of achieving higher performance is by avoiding the use of a restrictive small-diameter hose to the canister, which hurts the performance of the shock.
* Pro - Currently the only trend relating to both dirt and asphalt is the use of adjustable shocks, both single- and double-adjustable.
* QA1 - On-the-car adjustability is one trend that has really taken off over the past couple of seasons. Having a wide range of rebound adjustment in certain corners is a quick way to help correct an ill-handling race car. Base valve technology is a trend of which we're also happy to be a flagship member. Recently launching a steel rebuildable and revalvable base valve, monotube brings high-dollar technology to a racer on a tight budget. Our trend of racer rebuildable and revalvable is becoming very popular with the tight state of the economy. This feature allows the racer to have less shocks in the trailer but be able to build any valving combination he or she wants.