Racing Car Technology
Handling and Suspension Setup
    Street and Track  Suspension   




New Free On-line Training Videos......
 "Every Racer's Guide to Suspension Tuning"

Recommended for every one interested in handling, especially for racing and high performance
Dale Thompson, December 2015,


Race Car Suspension Set Up

It takes good initial design and careful tuning to produce a successful racing car.  

Looking at what our business could do in racing and suspension set up in 1999, we needed low cost procedures that would get us results for amateur racing car owner/drivers.   We liked two concepts in particular - suspension frequency (comparable ride stiffness number between all racing cars) and lateral load transfer, that we developed into our weight transfer "calculator", the Weight Transfer Worksheet (WTW).

The "tuning" part  (the set up) is a blurred area.  What areas of suspension development are considered "tuning",  and what are really elements of the original suspension design? Some elements of the original design may be changed in the suspension set up, maybe they won't.  In changing a design parameter, we need to be able to justify that in terms of our own understanding of how the car works.  This is where we see the need for our new articles "How Does the Driver Control the Car?" and the "Tyre" presentation which you can read in the Technical Pages.  (There are intro videos and intro power point presentation on the home page of this web site.)

Paul Haney wrote "People involved in the technical aspects of racing try to understand what's going on but realize the complications. They develop a set of personal beliefs about how the racecar works that helps them most of the time. When new information arises the most open minded of this group quickly shed their old beliefs or modifies them to embrace the new data. "  

Millekin and Millekin, "Race Car Vehicle Dynamics" (RCVD) - 
"..we discuss specific problems that may arise in tuning an existing car.  ...the possible solutions offered are by no means complete.  The suggested remedies are accurate...but there will always be exceptions, the following should be treated as a guideline, not as "gospel".....Cars that have large compliances (often unknown by the team) can be unresponsive to the standard changes to which other cars respond."  See Morgan Magic  **, in the side bar.

Claude Rouelle  "What I do in this seminar is share my knowledge and experience in racecar engineering. It's not that we tell them any tricks, you need to understand what you're working with so you can deal with all the changes and unknowns in racing. I think it's almost as bad to be on the pole and not know why as it is to fail to qualify for a race and not know why."

It is clear from the above, and talking to anyone involved, that suspension set up defies complete analysis.   

However, simple roll stiffness analysis (lateral weight transfer calculations) is easy to do (our WTW)  This gives a calculated number, the "magic number" that describes the steady state balance for the car.  We have proved it is valuable for open wheeler race cars on the one hand, through to production based cars.  We also build our understanding of the limitations as we go, probably a new insight with every application.

"Vehicle dynamics would be a very simple field if (roll stiffness analysis) described it entirely.  However the pneumatic tyres in use have some features that add complication.  The most significant of these is the need for the tyres to have a slip angle in or order to generate a lateral force."  Blundell and Harty, The Multibody Systems Approach to Vehicle Dynamics, 2004.  

This book, along with Claude Rouelle's race car engineering seminar, Angelo Tempia's stability and control seminar and a re-read of Racing Car Vehicle Dynamics, led to the development of our new articles on "How Does the Driver Control the Car?" and "Tyres".

So subscribe to our technical pages today.  We are presenting only entirely practical examples and ideas, that do not require an engineering background to implement.  We offer a 100% money back guarantee, as shown on our subscription page.

We also offer our workshop set up service.  We can go track testing with you.  Available for all racing and road performance cars.

 Not about suspension set up, but interesting.  Now that the era of 1600 Kent engine Formula Ford has ended, at the national level...........

Who are the Fast Men of Formula Ford?  (in Australian FF history)

Think about the car and driver combinations that had genuine pace.   It will probably relate to performance in one year.  (If you won, you  move out of FF for the next year.)

If you could find out who had the most lap records in their most successful year this would be a good clue.  Also, who had long standing lap records?  (Did they start with new lap records in the mid 70's when they went onto road radial tyres?  This is a problem with this analysis)

The speed of the cars is roughly comparable over the 30 years, except for the road radial tyre period in the 1970's.  My rough assessment of car generations:

70's cars - 1st generation
80 - 85   -  2nd generation
86 - 92   -  3rd generation
92 - 2005  - 4th generation (with updates, eg Stealth, for older cars)

90's cars are 1 1/2 to 2 seconds per 60 secs of lap time faster than 1st generation  cars.  I think about half of that is engine development.  On some power circuits more.  

The problem with the comparison is that the drivers only have to go as fast as required to beat the competition.  But it is clear if you do qualify at better than lap record pace, or take lap records, you are genuinely quick, in the history of Formula Ford.

I have looked at the chart on the Formula Ford web site (not on the new site) that shows the number of national series race wins for each driver.... more 


Formative Years for RCT

We raced cars in the 60's 70'sand 80's.  I read and tried to apply "Tune to Win" in 1980. Starting out in our suspension set up business, we were especially influenced by the "Circle Track Magazine" tech articles of 1998 and 1999, and the landmark 4 part series "Assymetrical Race Cars" written in "Race Car Engineering" by Mark Oritz.  We also gained a great deal from the following books:
"Race Car Engineering and Mechanics" by Paul Valkenburgh
"Competition Car Suspensions" by Staniforth
"Inside Racing Technology"
Paul Haney

Paul Haney wrote this quote a few years ago in "Race Car Engineering" magazine.  Paul's own work has charted the basic change in approach, and improvement in racing technology.  The change is driven by innovation in racing, OEMs and in no small part, I think, people like Mark Oritz and Claude Rouelle.  Also race teams have bigger budgets and can employ more qualified engineers.  Engineers are being attracted to racing by motorsport specific undergraduate programs and university competitions such as Formula SAE. 


** Morgan Magic

Chassis compliance is not the end of the world.  The Morgan in both Plus 4 and Plus 8 form is surprisingly successful in Historic SB racing - with a very bendy chassis.  Our approach was to try to equalize roll stiffness front and rear, and provide adequate suspension travel.  We gained seconds in lap time with same engine and tyres.