I often find that track cars I have the privilege to drive are unstable in some stage of the corner, usually entry. Factory cars rarely have this trait, but they easily can be made unstable if you get the tire pressures wrong, which they also often are (almost always too high). Tires are the single most important part of your setup. If you modify your suspension, you move into uncharted territory. You must drive smoothly and consistently to read any changes.
I believe what often happens is that the car owner is not getting very close to the limit of the car’s grip, and thus does not know what happens there – until they do reach it. Then it‘s a big, sudden surprise. Here’s my personal formula for learning to read the fundamental handling characteristics of your car. Use “The Three F’s”. They are based on your emotions.
1) Fear: Are you feeling nervous, afraid of spinning, worried about possible bodywork repair bills in the corners? Your car is oversteering, it’s loose, prone to getting sideways. This is the greatest challenge to the car control abilities of a track newbie.
2) Frustration: Do you feel kinda mad at your car or the track? You wanna go but you can’t, and it feels like something’s holding you back? Frustrated that you can’t go faster? Your car is understeering, it’s pushing, prone to going straight. This does not challenge your car control.
3) Fun: Do you feel happy and carefree? Life is good? Do you have a big smile on your face and you hit every apex of every lap? Your car is well-balanced. Or, maybe, and rather likely in fact, you are going slowly enough that you are not reaching the limit of your grip very often. Go see Skip Barber for a Car Control Clinic, before you find out the hard way that your car is really one of the above.
|photo: Jim Haughey, K-PAX Racing|
You’ll never be able to feel The Three F’s unless you get to the track. I’ll meet you there!