Better braking equals better overall performance for any race car. Not only do good brakes make a car safer and faster overall, but keeping them reliable also inspires driver confidence.
Of all the key components in the braking system that can change the feel of how a race car reacts to driver input, the brake pads stand out as an area where advantages can be gained or lost during installation, maintenance, and choice of pad. The brake pad market ranges from budget-minded cheapos to "magic" brake pads based on the latest quantum physics theories (maybe not quantum physics, but there is a lot of high-tech engineerin' involved with the materials). When it comes to braking, the universal axiom of speed also applies, but this time it reads: "How fast do you want to stop, and how much money do you have?" The following tips and myths may not apply to all situations in regard to the types of pads, braking systems, cars, tracks, and so on. Instead, these tips and myths offer a little something for almost everybody who uses brake pads.
Tip: Choosing a CompoundIn basic terms, the traditional measurement of brake pad properties were once referred to as hard, soft, or somewhere in between. A hard pad would last longer and run hotter (while wearing out the rotors faster), and a soft pad would not run as hot, but will be easier on rotor wear. More contemporary measurement "thinking" examines brake pads from the heat qualities and material composition. To translate from old speak to new speak, a pad with a higher heat rating (sometimes referred to as operating temperature range) is, essentially, a harder pad. Reverse that formula for a soft pad/low heat rating. To further complicate the issue, there is no uniform code for rating pads between the manufacturers. Some companies rate their pads with two-digit numbers like 80, 83, 90, and so on; others use A, B, C, D, and so on. Check with the manufacturer of the pad to see how the product codes relate to operating temperatures.
When choosing the pad, a person needs to determine the best cost alternative and performance advantage. Depending on the rotor and the pad combination, a rotor can cost less than the pads. In this case, replacing the rotor is more cost-effective, and more brake performance can be had from the higher-temperature capabilities. Much of this decision process is weighted on the type of car and the level of competition in the series. For example, a NASCAR Touring car needs more competitive brakes than a Late Model, and a Late Model requires more competitive brakes than a Super Stock, and so forth. Track size, banking, surface, overall speeds, and the weight of a car become integral considerations, too, when examining whether a race car has the best pads for the job and money. Cutting-edge brake pad technology is not cheap
Tip: Utilize Air DuctsCool brakes last longer and perform better. Maximize airflow to the calipers and rotors by directing as much fresh air as possible over those components with the appropriate tubing and strategically placed air intakes. Check out what other racers are doing on their cars (especially the ones that are consistently braking deep into the corners). Often, the ability to "outbrake" the competition is due to better air ducting and the smart use of pads rather than driver skill. Also, vented rotors last longer and won't warp as easily.
Tip: Install a Brake Fluid RecirculatorFor cars with braking systems operating in extreme conditions for longer races, a brake fluid recirculator can help keep the brake fluid flowing through the system instead of sitting next to the caliper and boiling. Brake fluid recirculators are especially useful in heavier cars on short tracks.