Why is race car comfort so important?

Well it looks to be that time of year again. It’s the dirt racing world’s version of the sill season. Rumors are flying all over the internet about drivers switching chassis brands. Jimmy Owens is reportedly getting into Victory Circle cars and Steve Francis is supposed to be getting into some Barry Wright cars. What are these guys looking for in their cars? Bloomquist Race Cars is supposed to be some of the best race cars at the track. Why would Jimmy want anything else? I think it all boils down to being comfortable in whatever car you drive. I listened to an interview, when I was at the World 100, with Chris Madden and Brian Birkohofer. Madden was asked if the Bloomquist cars were the best cars he has ever run. I’ll paraphrase here, but the gist of what he said was that they were really good cars, but it all boils down to  being comfortable in the car.

Fitting in you car

So let’s explore a little further into getting yourself comfortable with your race car.One of the most important and probably the simplest thing to getting yourself comfortable is how you physically fit in the car. Make sure you seat fits you well. I’ve seen too many drivers racing in seats that are way too big for them. You can’t fully concentrate on driving when you are falling over in the seat or you have to hold yourself up with the steering wheel. Your seat should secure your body so your arms can be perfectly relaxed to turn the wheel where ever you need to go. That steering wheel is way to important to be used as a handle to hold yourself up. The same goes for your legs. They should be perfectly relaxed and be able to smoothly run the pedals without pinching in your ankles or pushing with your legs. It should be a smooth push with the ball of your toes. Make sure your arms can shift gears, control the brake bias, and flip all the switches and push the start button. A poorly laid out cockpit will undoubtedly lead to poor performance and fatigue.

Driving comfort

Now let’s shift gears a little and talk about the comfort level at a deeper level. A comfort with the reaction and handling of our race cars. All cars react and feel differently to different people and all the differences boil down the way the builder thinks about what it takes to win races or what works well for the particular drivers they are primarily dealing  with. One thing to look at when trying to get yourself comfortable in a race car is the speed of the steering. If your steering is too slow for your personal reaction time the car will continually seem to tight. If you are used to a quick steering car you will have a tendency to turn later in the corner and you will not be turning the car enough going into the corner. On the flip side if your car is continually loose and you have a very fast steering system you may be trying to turn the car faster than the car can react with weight transfer to keep the car tight in the corner. Try slowing down your steering or start turning your car earlier on the straight. This will allow it to react and keep the side bite in the car as the car turns the corner.

Using the brake

Also something to keep in mind when making yourself comfortable in the car is the amount of brake you use and when you use it in relation to turning the steering wheel. A driver that uses a lot of brake will find anti-dive a big adjustment in the front end and someone who uses very little brake won’t find it useful at all as a tuning tool. The same goes for the relationship between turning the wheel and braking. A driver who initiates turning the steering wheel before using the brake will most likely require a completely different feel in the car than a driver who trail brakes the starts turning the wheel on the way into the corner. It may require a totally different spring package or even a completely different set up.

That is why I don’t put too much stock when someone tells me you need to run this or that at a particular track to be fast. No matter how complicated racing seems to get, it all boils down to basic weight transfer. A good feeling car is simply one that reacts exactly as your brain expects it will before it even does. If cars are adjustable enough they can be tuned to fit just about any feel you need. You just need to know what to change.

Til next time, be fast; and as the leaves begin to fall, stay warm.

Kevin