Some of you might wonder why we get so darn technical. I realize that some of the tech we put in CT might go way over some of our reader's heads, but in every article, there is something that might spark a thought in your head to where you go, “Wow, that makes perfect sense,” or “Hey, I never thought of it that way.”
We have Jim McFarland's Enginology column that goes very deeply into the functions and mystics of racing engines and a lot of the information and discussion is complicated. But when I read it, I try to understand the flow of the progression and I get in touch with the overall theme.
Then, as I read along, things start making sense. I was not always a chassis guy, I actually worked with engine builders when I was in my early and mid-teens. I cleaned the carbon out of piston grooves, measured crankshaft and rod bearing clearances with plastigage (yes, it was on the market way back then), and assembled the valvetrain, adjusted valve lash, and bolted down heads on rebuilt motors.
Most of you have a cursory knowledge of the simple things that go into engine building and chassis setup. In my current field of knowledge, the one I profess to know the most about, but not all about, I try to pass on the information I have been blessed to have attained.
I know I fail to make things as simple as they need to be at times. It's hard to translate sometimes. It's much easier to tell how to measure caster and camber, or tire circumferences and toe than to explain moment centers and the dynamics of a race car.
But what I wished our readers would do is what I do with Jim's Enginology articles, read along and follow the gist of the story. Try to understand what your car really needs and wants. Because that is what all of this engine and chassis tech is all about anyhow. It is finding exactly what the car, be it engine or chassis, wants in order to perform at its best.
Once we get that theme firmly in our minds, we can then open up our thought processes and apply the tech. For example, moment center location is not so hard to understand. Generally speaking, the farther left and lower the MC is located, the softer the front end is going to feel to the car.
The more right of centerline and higher the MC, the stiffer the front suspension is going to feel to the car. It will also feel those ways to the driver. Race car dynamic balance is also easier to understand if we think in terms of what the car feels and wants. The more the rear suspension wants to roll verses the front suspension, the tighter the car will feel. And the more the front suspension wants to roll verses the rear suspension, the looser the car will feel.
What the car wants is for both ends to want to roll to the same degree and then all is right in the chassis department. I used to compare that to two circus clowns in a horse outfit. If they move together and the back one follows the front one, all is well. But when one goes right and the other goes left, they look like, well, clowns.
It is the same for chassis and engines. When we give our motors what they want and need, then they run efficiently and produce the most power that the displacement and fuel mixture flow will allow. For the chassis, when we make it happy with a nicely balanced combination of moment centers, spring rates, and more, it will respond with the fastest and most consistent lap times and much better tire wear.
I'm personally going to try to keep making my writing more understandable and easier to follow as I get into the more technical areas of chassis setups. I'm also going to cover some of the more basic principles of chassis preparation and setup that are not too hard to understand, but at the same time are critically important.
All I ask of you, the reader, is to try to get a feel for why the particular article is written in the first place, where we might be going, and why, and then get out of it what you can to improve your car's performance. And then, if you have questions about the parts you don't fully understand, my email and snail-mail addresses are listed on the following page.
If you have comments or questions about this or anything racing related, send them to my email address: Bob.Bolles@sorc.com
, or mail can be sent to Circle Track, Senior Tech Editor, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619.