The laws of physics can certainly
muddy up a problem. (Wait! They do
exactly that at the drag strips – move
weight as forward as possible – but
that’s another strange world.)
So, keep making your racecars
lighter, racers, and they will be faster,
according to immutable laws of
physics. But, continue moving weight
to the end of the car you want to
stick better by using your pedals – the
brake and throttle – because you’re
working with different laws. As you
add weight to one end via the pedal
box, you are removing it from the
other. A transfer. The tire to which
you added the weight was not
overloaded, it was under-loaded.
That’s why it wasn’t gripping like
you wanted. It needed some load,
like your finger sliding across the
countertop. And when you added it,
the other end got lighter, reducing
its traction. All the while, the whole
car’s weight does not change – only
the proportions. All of this exists
under one driving law that never
changes: smooth is fast.
straight, and the vertical load on
the tire contact patch works to
make it turn. Eventually, at and
beyond the traction limit of the tire,
inertia will triumph and straighten
out the direction of travel.
Just trail brake more? While it
always helps, especially compared to
getting on the gas (the great error of
most drivers in the turn), transferring
weight forward doesn’t always cause
the tire to defeat the inertia and
turn enough. Solution? Wait. Keep
looking toward your apex inside the
corner, and keep trail braking, and
be patient. As you slow, centrifugal
force is reduced, and the downforce
on the tire has a better and better
chance of pointing you to that apex.
Another reason why smooth is fast.
There’s a factor at work here
that comes with weight, as I recently
learned from reading an engineer
named Don Alexander, thank you.
Adding weight to a tire absolutely
does improve grip – to a point. But
it’s not linear. The 200 pounds you
added in the trunk only pays back
150 pounds of grip, and it’s less
and less as you get close to the all-important limit. You’re only getting a
certain fraction of the weight as grip,
and the more that’s added, the less
“ The tire to which you added the weight was
not overloaded, it was under-loaded. That’s
why it wasn’t gripping like you wanted”
WAIT FOR IT
more than one
way to get around
a corner, but the
answer is not
necessarily aero or
ballast – the most
is the proper use
of the pedal box.
From smooth power
application to the
trail braking dance,
races are won and
lost with your feet.
you get. As we get close to the tire’s
load capacity, the increase in grip
from added weight falls off. That’s
about when you push off the track in
a massive, embarrassing understeer.
There is a magic way, however, to
add weight to a tire contact patch
and increase grip without adding
to the centrifugal force of inertia
trying to break that tire’s grip on
the pavement. Downforce. Wings.
Tunnels. Diffusers. Even spoilers.
Aerodynamic loads are almost free.
They push down harder on the tire
without adding to the force trying
to send the car off the road. Done
with proper balance, they make
cars easier to drive and harder to
drift. They just stick like glue.
I hate aero downforce because
I like drifting – but I also like winning,
so if the other racer has this magic
trick, then I must have it, too.
So, the issue at work here is
a law of physics: weight, which is
gravity working on a mass, does add
traction, but not enough to carry
the additional load. And this is why
we can still scoff at the newbie piling
sandbags in the back of his Mustang.
Funny, I never saw a driver add
weight to the front of his front-wheel-drive car for more grip, did you?