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The Three W's - Race car handling terminology

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  • The Three W's - Race car handling terminology

    The Three W's
    Race car handling terminology

    This is a brief primer on race car handling terminology. We often have drivers asking for help trouble shooting a handling deficiency but are unable to translate into actionable information. Handling issues may have separate cause and effect or overlapping issues. This is why isolating each issue will help in determining a strategy to correct them.

    The first step in setting up a race car and either fixing it yourself or communicating with the crew chief, engineer or tech who will make the changes is identify the three key components of the issue. What, Where and When, "The Three W's". All handling issues have these three components. Leaving one unidentified can make determining a strategy to correct it impossible. Always tune your competition setup on tires that are the same type and as fresh as you will race on. Setting up on worn out low grip tires will not yield good results for fresh high grip tires.

    The sensation the driver feels.

    • Loss of grip front (tight/understeer), rear (loose/oversteer) or both equally
    • Linear (predictable) or non-linear (unpredictable) breakaway
    • Upset when bottoming suspension
    • Upset when topping suspension
    • Continues to bounce over bumps or settles quickly
    • Front or rear brakes lock first in a straight line

    Conditions present. A car can behave just fine in one condition but not in another.

    • Accelerating, coasting, maintenance throttle or braking
    • With engine braking or without
    • Transition left right or steady state turn

    Portion of track or turn where the issue presents itself.

    • Entry, middle or exiting turn
    • Straights only
    • Positive camber, level or off camber
    • Bumpy or smooth section
    • Fast, slow or all sections

    Example report
    Issue 1: Car oversteers on fast right hand corner entries, no brakes. Fine everywhere else
    Issue 2: Car is unstable in straight line braking, tail wanders, fronts lock before rears.

    If there are several overlapping issues, it is best to work on one at a time. A brand new build or one with many recent updates can take several sessions to achieve the handling behavior the driver wants. One key differentiator between drivers is the ability to learn what makes the car the most competitive, even if it requires a handling trait the driver feels objectionable. Train yourself to pay attention to the car and conditions to more effectively diagnose handling issues. In other words, learn what is fast and adapt accordingly. Do not make the mistake of forcing the car to behave a certain way regardless of tire wear or lap times.

    © Copyright Supermiata LLC 2018

    Aside from their cost I never understood why people race them.
    But obviously I just dont get it. -fatbillybob