I truly believe that artists are mostly born and improve with age. That idea conflicts with my other belief that setting up a race car is a form of art, too. The whole process of setup comes easy for some and more difficult for most. Can this art form be learned? I've often wondered if it can. My daughter, Christa, is an artist. I knew it from the time she was only five. She would sketch scenes with depth and imagination at that early age. It comes easy for her.

The truly gifted race car setup artists also seem to have a natural knack for putting all of the pieces together in the proper order and where all of the parts fit. When that happens, the car has a look to it, while negotiating the turns, that, to me, resembles art. A well set up race car is a thing of beauty. You know exactly what I mean. You've seen it countless times, be it your team's car or someone else's.

The driver can tell from inside the cockpit. The car just feels like it wants and needs to go through those turns. The effortless way it settles in on entry, the neutral feel in the steering wheel and as it rockets off the corners all tell us something that just feels right. The driver exits the car after 100 hard fought laps with a lot less sweat and energy loss than with other cars they've had to drive.

I've seen it done by some who are masters. They can take a completely different car than what they're used to and transform it into a piece of art. Others struggle to apply the first stroke and waiver through the process, not really being able to see the picture in their minds like the artists do when painting the landscape. Can these types learn the art or are they doomed to struggle year after year?

There's a truth to the ideology and it falls somewhere between and includes the artist and the engineer. And I'm not talking about education being the determining factor in labeling a person either. We are what we are by deed. Most artists never had any instruction, Christa didn't. They can learn something from the masters though. And, most engineers never took a course in school, but they can acquire the skills they need through association with other more experienced engineers. They just do the art and are the artist.

There is hope for the aspiring setup artist. It comes with developing, or being born with, the desire to "paint" and the willingness to work hard at it. Associate yourself with other "artists," watch what the masters do and listen when they talk. Ask questions without fear. No one ever learned anything by being quiet. And seek only to please yourself. The true masters care not what others think of their art, if it's appealing to your eyes, then it will most likely appeal to others.

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, Tech Editor, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619.

Car Calculations
Hi Bob,
I'm an engineer by day and a weekend warrior running in Hobby Stock at Heartland Park Topeka. I have a hard time wrapping my head around your moment center calculations and would like to follow your algebra someday. I've taken a different approach using equivalent horizontal and vertical loads to move my center of gravity around for cornering, braking, and acceleration. Forcing the front roll to equal the rear roll and solving four equations and four unknowns gives you wheel loading and allows you to figure out how the car needs to weigh on the level to get balance in mid corner.

This is all entirely too geeky ... I have a spreadsheet that seems to give good results. My question for you is if you've already discounted this method and have moved to moment center as a better solution? Lately, I've been wanting to hook up an accelerometer and tachometer to take some actual track measurements. Have you tried anything like that? I could probably just buy software but it's way more fun to reinvent wheels.