LEARN TO RACE AND WIN PART 1
BY FRANK MUNROE
Winning starts at home. You cannot win at the track if your car is not prepared to win. Preparation is the key to standing in the winners circle on Saturday night.
You constantly hear drivers talking about other drivers that win on a regular basis. You hear,
"He has more money than God"
"He has a monster motor"
"He has special tires made"
"His car is illegal"
Well, you get the picture! In most cases, none of the above is true. These drivers have done their homework in the garage before they even loaded the car on the trailer, (they even took the car off the trailer from the last race!).
If you race and want to be a winner, you must put in the time at home to prepare the car. I spend about 12 hours a week on my car, and that is if I didn't hit anything and 16 or more hours if I did! In our form of racing, this can be tough. It is a hobby and a lot of racers don't have this kind of extra time to put in during the week. But you should realize if you only put in enough time to wash the car during the week, you're probably not going to win on a regular basis. Whatever problems you had last week, will still be there.
A good pit person can be a lifesaver! He (or she) can help you during the week and cut your load in half.
*Plan at least 2 nights a week that you and your crew will work on the car.
*Have a routine that you do every week.
*Make a checklist and use it.
The off season is a perfect time to make your car a real winner. Your first step is to take your car apart. Even though you think everything is ok, if you raced last season, your car should be thoroughly checked out.
*Mark all your parts as you take them off so you will know where they go when you put them back on.
* Take off all your tires and wheels. . Check your tires: are they worn or cracked? In many cases, the tires look good everywhere but the edge is rounded off. This tire can be reversed on the wheel so it will be usable without having to replace it. A couple of edges may not seem that important to you but the edges dig and grip the track when you go into the corner or getting on the gas coming off the turn. A good tire can make a big difference, especially on a dry track. I believe tires should be replaced at the start of the season. Use your old tires for spares or practice. Used tires are always easy to sell and can off-set the cost of new tires
*Check your rims: Are they bent or are the holes for the lug nuts worn? If so, you need to replace them. This is a safety issue. A bent wheel can make the tire hop when you reach top speeds which will cause a loss of traction. Another thing to check when replacing wheels is the offset of the wheel. Do you have the correct offsets to achieve maximum car width your rules allow? You know the saying, Wider is Better? Make sure you have a couple of extra tires on wheels so you can change your offset to fit changing track conditions.
hint: Start the night on a heavy dirt track, with the car at maximum width, front and back. If the track dries out later in the night, have a wheel and tire ready so you can suck the right rear in. This tire should be a smaller tire in circumference than the one you started with so it will lesson the stagger when you suck it in.
* Remove the rear end from the car, take both axles out and the third member. Check the housing for straightens. One clue to a bent housing is when you pull the axles and they are hard to get out. If you think it's bent, have it checked by the builder. He probably has a jig to check and straighten the rear end housing. Next, check the axles and splines to see if they are straight. If they are twisted, the axle is going to break. Replace it. If the splines look good, have the axle checked to make sure it runs true. A bent axle will throw your rear end out of balance and cause tire shake, which will in turn cause traction loss. On your third member, check for cracks in the welds, and the back lash in the gears. You can lose or gain horsepower there. If you have a spool, check the splines for wear. Now is also a good time to check the gear ratio's. Make sure you have the right gear ratio to achieve the RPM's that deliver the most horsepower for your motor. 300 or 400 RPM's can make the difference between winning or running second. Once you have checked the third member, the axles and the housing and are satisfied that it is race ready, reinstall the third member (This is a good time to check the axle seals) and slide the axles in. They should slide in smoothly and turn smoothly in the rear end.
*Check your master cylinder, brake calipers, brake pads and rotors.
Worn brake pads, warped or pitted rotors, & stuck caliper pistons can cause handling problems on the track. Brakes are not just to stop the car, they do a whole lot more. Properly working brakes can make a big difference on how your car handles when you press on your brake pedal! Check your brake pads for wear...are they wearing straight? If not, check your brake rotor for uneven wear. If your pads are worn more on one end than the other, your brake bracket on the rear end may be bent. With the brake installed over the rotor on the rear end, check the side play between the pads and the rotor. Check it at the top and the bottom of the caliper. If the distance is different, you may need to straighten your brake bracket. Now is a good time to have your brake rotors turned at a Brake Shop. Rotors can glaze over and cause braking problems. Clean your brake calipers and check for leaky piston seals. Replace if necessary. When reinstalling your brakes, replace your brake fluid. Once the calipers and rotors are reinstalled on the rear end, turn the axles making sure you have no binds and the pads run free when the brakes are released. Don't forget to bleed your brakes. Do this a couple of times and again after the brakes have gotten hot at the track.
*Remove your trailing arms from the car. Measure the arms from the center of the right rod end to the center of the left rod end. Write this measurement on the trailing arm. This will come in handy when reinstalling the arms. I recommend replacing the trailing arms and rod ends at this time, especially if you race on the dirt. If you plan on reusing any of the rod ends or trailing arms, check for free play in the threads on the rods and the ball on the rod ends. If you find any, replace it. Don't risk wrecking your car for a $6.00 rod end or a $10.00 trailing arm. When installing new trailing arms, use the measurement you took from the old arms as a starting point. Lubricate all rod ends before installation.
* Remove all four shocks from the car. (This section refers to gas, steel bodied shocks) Take the springs and coil over kits off the shock. Check for leaks around the shock shaft at the seal. If it leaks's, it's history!Replace it. Here is a simple test: Clamp the rod end of the shock to a vise with the shaft up. Pump the shock up and down 3 or 4 times. With the shock fully extended, leave it sit for 20-30 minutes. Then press down on the shaft. If it drops fast, the shock is done. Don't use it, replace it. If your association allows aluminum shocks, they can be rebuilt. Once you have determined your shock condition and replaced the bad ones, check the coil springs. Check your local speed shop to see if they have a spring checker. They can check your spring rate. If your spring has become weak, replace it with a new spring. Once your springs are ready to reinstall, check your coil over kits, looking for cracks or bad thread. Replace as needed. Install the coil over kits and springs on shocks and make sure you zip tie your coil over cone to the spring. Reinstall the shocks on the car. Make sure the shock and the spring doesn't hit any part of the car. Move the suspension through it's motions and see that there are no binds. Any time the shock or the spring binds or hits any other parts of the car, this can effect the shock dampening and the spring rate. Another thing to watch for is where the shock bolts to the car. Make sure the shock rod end ball has side to side movement. If it's tight, install a hime spacer. This is also a good time to lubricate the shock rod ends.
Most dwarf cars have some kind of tubular upper and lower A arms. The tubular A arms usually have rod ends and ball joints to attach them to the chassis and spindles. These rod ends and ball joints should be checked for wear and straightness. If the rod ends are worn or bent, replace them. Check the ball joint shaft to make sure it is not bent. Move the ball joint through it's motions to check for binds. You should have a smooth motion. If not, it needs to be replaced.
Check your steering shaft and steering u joints. They should have little or no play when moved side to side. Too much play can cause a delay in the steering action which can cause the driver to oversteer or steer back and forth to compensate. The steering motion should be smooth from all the way right to left. Check your steering box. If your car has a chain and sprocket steering quickener, check the chain and gears for wear. Worn gears or chains can cause the same steering problems as mentioned with the U joints. There is also the possibility the chain could break, leaving the driver with no steering control on the track, leading to a wrecked race car.
If your car is a rack and pinion steering unit, it should be cleaned and checked. Before removing the rack from the car, turn the steering wheel right to left. Does the rack feel smooth? If not, check to see why. The rack should steer smoothly with no binds or rough spots. Once the rack turns smooth with no binds, remove it from the car and clean it. Check the shaft for rust or chips in the teeth. Clean and relubricate it. If you have an aftermarket rack check with the manufacturer for lubrication recommendations. Don't forget to check the steering wheel quick disconnect. The part is often overlooked and can cause big problems if it fails.
Spindles and Hubs:
Remove the hubs from the spindles, then remove the bearings and clean them. Spin the bearing in your hand and make sure the bearing turns free and has no rough spots. If the bearing feels rough, replace it. Grease the bearings and reinstall into the hubs. On your spindles, look for bent shafts or cracked welds and check the bracket that attaches the steering to the spindle. This bracket may not seem important, but it can be the key to a well handling race car. This bracket has a big affect on the bump steer and ackerman steering. There are a lot of opinions on this topic and I could talk about that all day long, but let's just say that the slight angle changes on the steering bracket can really impact how your car is handling.
Hopefully, while you had your car apart, you sent your motor to get freshened. I said freshened, not enlarged! One of the biggest misconceptions I hear people say is that you need a big motor to win. With race track for Dwarf's mostly being 1/4 mile or smaller, in most cases, too much power will just get you in trouble. The key to going fast is to have usable horse power. If you paid attention to the article and worked on your race car, checking every part to make sure things are as free as possible and not robbing horse power, you may feel like you got a new motor come race day. A properly handling car with a good driver will outperform a big motor in a poor handling car, anyday! Spend your money on the right components that will enhance your current motor and chassis. Before you ever consider buying a new motor, make sure your have a good set of carburetors, and a good header and cooling system. Good carbs can add horse power to your current motor. A tuned head and a good cooling system can make it all come together. If your motor runs hot, it will cost you horse power. Now that the car and the motor are taken care of, let's set up the chassis to go racing....
Now that the car is on the ground, find a level spot in your shop to perform the set up.The first step is to set the air pressure on the tires. Depending on what tire your club uses, that will determine what the tire pressure should be. The wheel can also effect the tire pressure. If you run bead lock rims, the tire pressure
can usually be run lower than a non-bead lock rim. Since most of the country has gone to a Hoosier Tire rule with a 7" or 8" rim, with no bead lock allowed, I will concentrate on that tire/wheel combination. If your club runs something different, adjust your tire pressure accordingly.
Dirt Track: Right front: 11 lbs. Left front: 10 lbs. Right rear: 11 lbs. Left rear: 10 lbs.
Asphalt Tires: Right front: 19 lbs. Left front: 16 lbs. Right rear: 18 lbs. Left rear: 16 lbs.
Just a couple of things to consider when setting pressure...Rough tracks may require higher tire pressure to keep the tire from coming off the wheel. The type of air you use out of a air compressor can effect tire pressure. If you use air of out of a compressor, the tire pressure will increase during the race. This increase depends on how hot the tires get. Normal increase is between 2-6 pounds. Nitrogen in the tires instead of air will not be effected by the heat and very little tire pressure change will occur. Keep in mind that 1 lb. of pressure can change the way a car handles.
Now that the pressure is set, square the rear end to the chassis. Some manufacturers build in squaring marks on the frame. If your chassis is equipped with these marks, use them to square the rear end. If not, then take a measurement from the middle of the lower A arm to the center of the rear end. Set both sides of the car at 73" wheel base. Once the rear end is square, take a measurement from the center of the rear end to the center of the lower ball joint. Moving only the lower A arm, set the wheel base at 73". If you have trouble achieving this due to non-adjustable lower A arms and have to move the rear end, move it evenly on both sides. This should at least keep the rear end square. If you have trouble getting a square measurement, no matter what you do, something is probably bent. Check your A arms and rear end for straightness again. Keeping the car square is very important, especially when it comes to sorting out handling problems later. Now set the side to side measurement for the rear end. Start out with even measurements.
Set the Ride Height: Check with the manufacturer of your chassis to get height recommendations. Usually the chassis was built to work at a certain height with the other suspension. Most dwarf cars are designed to run between 5" to 6 1/2". The chassis's that I build and run have been designed to run a frame height of:
Dirt: left front: 6" right front: 6 1/8" left rear: 5 3/4" right rear: 5 7/8
Asphalt: left front: 5 3/4" right front: 6" left rear: 5 1/2" right rear: 5 3/4"
Now that the chassis is square and the frame heights are set, it is time for the caster and camber on the front end. To do this, you will need a caster/camber gauge. If you don't have one, borrow one. If you can't borrow one, buy one. This is a very important tool to have. Checking the caster/camber on a regular basis will be the difference between running up front and falling behind. Check with your chassis manufacturer for setup recommendations. Here are some recommended caster/camber settings:
Dirt track: left front: +3.0 degrees right front: +3.5 dg.
Asphalt: left front: +3.0 degrees right front: +4.0 dg
Dirt track: left front: +1.0 degrees right front: -3.0 dg
Asphalt: left front: +0.5 degrees right front: -2.5 dg
Your next step is to set the toe out. This may vary from car to car depending on how well your front end was designed. The less bump steer your car has, the less toe out you will need. A basic rule of thumb is the smaller and tighter the track is, the more toe out you will need. So keep in mind, the toe out will need to be changed to accommodate different size tracks. Smaller tracks, more toe out, bigger tracks, less toe out. Start out with 1/8" to 1/4" tow out. This will work on both dirt and asphalt. Pay close attention to tire wear on the front tires at the inside and outside edges. This will give you an idea if you need more or less toe out.
Scale the car: Scales are an important tool to have. If your budget allows, buy a set of scales. they can cost from $1000.00 and up. If this kind of cost is out of the question, don't worry. Go in with a couple of buddies or get your club to buy a set of scales. Also, check with your local speed shop or one of the late model teams in your area. they will usually offer chassis set up and have a set of electronic scales. They may charge you for the service, but it is well worth it. The first thing to consider when putting the car on the scales is total weight. Most clubs have a minimum weight rule of 1000 pounds. Check your local rule. Weigh the car with and without the driver. How close are you to the minimum weight? If you must add weight, start with the weight on the left side of the car. Try to keep the weight between the wheel base of the car and behind the driver. Now with the driver in the car, record your cross weight, left side weight, rear weight and corner weights.
cross weight- 48.5% to 51.0%
Asphalt tracks: cross weight: 51.0% to 52.5%
left side: 51.5% to 52.0%left side: 54.0% to 57.0% rear weight.
These weights are weights that work well on M&M chassis but may not be exactly what you want. Check with your chassis manufacturer. Don't be afraid to try new ideas. That's how you find out what works.
Good luck with these ideas and If you have any questions, e-mail them to Dr. Dwarf located at WWW.dwarfworld.com.
aka Dr. Dwarf