16 JANUARY 2020 scca.com
get loose, slide out the rear end;
spin, even. Why? Because there is
weight transfer forward. Because
the rear gets light. Light means less
traction, right? We see it clearly
on the skidpads I was praising in
my November issue column.
Trail braking, a very light brake
pedal while turning, moves or
keeps your weight forward, and
the front sticks better. Experienced
racers and even bus drivers, and
all who pay attention, know this.
So, here’s the quandary: If
weight is traction, then why doesn’t
adding weight to a racecar make
it corner faster? Or does it?
I have always worked to make my
racecars as light as possible because
they seem to go faster that way.
At SCCA tech, we carefully weigh
cars for fair competition. Too light
and you are out. (BTW, I’ve always
felt that was a little harsh. I mean,
15 pounds light on a 2,000lb car
and you’re disqualified? Hmmm.)
Or my favorite finger drag test:
Slide your finger lightly across the
table in front of you. Easy, right?
Now push down. Harder to slide the
finger, isn’t it? The weight has given
your finger more traction on your
lovely new quartz countertop. So,
Have you ever seen someone put weight in their car to improve
traction at the racetrack? Did you
laugh at them behind their ignorant
backs? Long ago, I saw a father-and-son team with a Fox-body
Mustang do just that, in search of
reducing wasted power to wheel spin.
Way back in the innocent 1960s
of great American cruising cars,
they’d brag about road-hugging
weight. I just Googled up a 1960
Mercury ad touting that very quality.
Ridiculous – I always scoff. Don’t you?
But weight – no, I mean, wait. Do
you ever coach driving? What do
I always write about weight in this
column, dear readers? Say it with
me, fast drivers: The primary job of
the driver is weight management.
Because, if you transfer weight
forward or back, that end will now
stick better, and the other will
slide more because it’s lighter.
See where I’m going with this?
If you suddenly snap off the gas
pedal, what happens? Yeah, you can
obviously, let’s go bolt some ballast
in the car so it will stick better!
In fact, a very nice racecar
I drove recently had that very same
modification. The setup guy had
bolted in 80lbs of lead to get the
corner weights balanced. I just shook
my head and asked him to please get
that anchor out of that fine machine,
thinking, “What, are you crazy?”
Until recently, when this
conflict emerged among the
cobwebs in my mind.
Coaching Sara Edge so much
about weight. The light end breaks
loose first, because it has less grip.
But, but, but… (My favorite scene
from How the Grinch Stole Christmas,
and hope you have a merry one!)
Why are heavier cars slower?
One guy said, “Well, you have
to accelerate and stop all that
weight.” Okay, but if weight gives
more traction, that should work
better. Another said, “Use bigger
tires.” Well, that doesn’t explain
why transferring weight improves
grip on the same exact car.
There’s a fundamental conflict
going on here. A war between two
forces. It’s the vertical downforce
load versus the centrifugal horizontal
force. Inertia pushes that car
ROAD HUGGING WEIGHT?
“Have you ever seen someone
put weight in their car to improve
traction at the racetrack?”
2-TIME RUNOFFS NATIONAL CHAMPION
3-TIME SOLO NATIONAL CHAMPION
4-TIME PROSOLO CHAMPION
4-TIME WORLD CHALLENGE CHAMPION
2-TIME ROLEX 24 GT WINNER
SCCA MEMBER SINCE 1980