Brake technology has progressed over the years, and we like to keep abreast of the developments and trends related to racing brake systems. A popular format is to send out questions to brake experts and then relay their comments to you. So read on to learn some interesting tales about how brakes can improve your performance.
We developed a list of 10 common questions racers might have concerning their brake systems and contacted representatives of leading brake companies. They are as follows: Ken Gordon, AP Brakes; Jeff Smallwood, Hawk Brakes; Todd Howerton, Outlaw Brakes; and Carl Bush, Wilwood Engineering. Being a chassis setup guy, I had no idea there was so much to know about brakes. Learning, for me, is always a lot of fun, so here we go.
1. How do I choose the proper brake pads for my type of racing?
AP: Generally, racers are aware of the setups and parts being used by the competitors who are the most successful. When starting out in a new class or in a new car, observing what the winners run is a time-honored way to get close right off the bat.
Hawk: A good start is to become familiar with your brake system temperatures. At that point, a better decision can be made when selecting a range of friction compounds that meet the criteria. From there, it's a matter of determining a performance level that suits the individual driver's needs regarding initial bite, fade resistance, consistency, and so on.
Outlaw: The pads need to suit the type of racing and should be tailored to the driver's style. The more feedback that can be obtained from the driver, the more accurately the crew will be able to select the proper pads. It is difficult to say that any particular set will work for all drivers in a single class.
Wilwood: Temperature range is generally the first consideration when selecting a pad compound. The pads must be responsive and capable of resisting fade at the temperatures realized during competition. Wear rate is also a key.
The pads must be able to sur-vive the length of the event. Once the selection process has been narrowed to compounds that have the proper temperature range and wear rate, attention can be given to overall response and stopping power.
The choice of which brakes...
The choice of which brakes to use entirely depends on the type of car and the surface on which you will be racing. For Sprint Cars, the front brakes should match the tire size-less tire, less brake.
2. How do I choose the proper brakes for the two different types of racing, dirt and asphalt? Is there a difference?
AP: Yes, there are huge differences, as each type of racing calls for different brake types. Ask the manufacturers for information on their recommendations for your type of racing. They have a big interest in you doing well, so they will not steer you wrong.
Hawk: It's important to be sure the pad material is designed to be used in the given temperature or performance environment. Many materials provide performance over a wide range of temperatures, while other materials will only perform as intended when used in specific temperature ranges.
Outlaw: Brakes for dirt and asphalt are very different, just as chassis setup involving the shocks and springs are different for each. Many factors, such as sanctioning requirements, the car's body type (open wheel or full body), the track's surface (dirt or asphalt), the type of track (track size, flat or banked), and the driver's style determine the proper brakes. We offer baseline recommendations, but we may also be able to work with individual teams to fine-tune the systems with proper information on their current system and how it is performing for them.
Wilwood: Asphalt racing usually generates consistently longer and higher heat cycles than dirt racing. That normally translates into the need for heavier rotors and pad compounds with higher heat ranges for competition. But the bottom line on pad and rotor selection, regardless of where the vehicle is raced, is based on two key items:
1.Will the pads last an entire event without fading or completely wearing away?
2.Are the rotors heavy enough to last the entire event while keeping the pads in a manageable temperature range?