I wanted to write an article to help fellow racers out and hopefully shine some light on the so called “Winning Chassis Setup”. It’s a common element when at the track to usually hear complaints about the chassis and the struggles we have all had trying to fix the kart in order to make it faster. In most cases adjustments are made but still drivers are lacking the desired chassis characteristic and will continue to search. This article is not addressed to the top 10% but more of the 90% of racers who are trying to improve. You will understand why later on in the article.
I want to first be clear that I am using the OTK chassis line as my baseline. When a chassis comes out of the box straight from the factory, it has been developed by the best of drivers and 1,000’s of hours of testing. OTK would take the feedback and build a kart based on what the factory team and drivers want in a kart. In most big CIK, WSK races when you look at a OTK kart, they look completely stock, minus a few details like axle, castor,toe in-out, pressures. Now when we look more into depth of lower levels of karting we find racers, have a tendency to customize the chassis to their individual driving style. In some cases it works, however my guess in the long scheme of things it does not bring success. The reason being is change in elements ie: tracks, grip levels, weather. Time and time again I see drivers struggling at the track not achieving the results they want, and focus there efforts on the chassis.
The Best Kart Vs. The Worst
In my opinion I would say if we took the worst handling OTK kart and gave it to a top level driver and then let him drive a perfectly setup kart, it would be no more then 3 tenths of a second. So in that case, if you are more then 3 tenths off maximum, focus on the driving and not the chassis. The difference is top level drivers can adapt to the chassis and make it work, regardless so even if a kart has a push they simply adjust there entry speeds to help minimize the push. Before you know it, push is gone and lap times are fast. I call this a dynamic driving style.
Same Lap Time
Many times, at the track, you will see drivers make big changes to the chassis, yet they do not yield faster lap times. They hit a wall. This is a perfect example that even though one has made changes to the chassis it is not that effective in decreasing lap times, because its the driver struggling with his own techniques. In cases where a driver is new, with limited experience, you could adjust the chassis ride height from high to low, stiff axle to soft yet the lap times are still the same. The driver is simply not driving at the potential limit of the kart, and more to there comfort levels hence the same lap time speed.
I feel like I could write a book on what changes do to a kart and the kind of performance gains you can achieve. Every weekend I am always learning and watching what is going on around me. We are constantly testing and developing our driving skills to have balance. Its very important to test prior to big weekends so that come race day you will make changes only that you have tested before and not try a setup just because you heard a rumor, or a fellow competitor gave advice. Test to learn, and apply what you learn come race weekends.
I have always said that chassis setup is like a teeter totter. When you make adjustments to the front it effects the rear end, so getting the right balance is key. The biggest chassis adjustments that can yield the biggest time gains include:
To become a great driver, one has to be dynamic and adapt to the chassis. Do not be a static driver that requires a special setup ie: “lots of front grip”, “loose rear end”. A great driver can jump into anyone’s kart and make it fast. At the 2nd round of Challenge Of Americas Sting Ray Robb was fast, top 5 but what people didn’t know was we were struggling with a push. We kept dialing more and more grip into the front during practice to try and fix the issue. At one point we thought the tires were old, and kept focusing on the kart. But the reality was we had dialed too much grip into the D1 tires that on initial laps the kart was really responsive but it would produce a push because the chassis was now cooking the fronts. So we went back to a stock front end, which slowed our initial laps down but we improved upon longer runs. Sting Ray adjusted his driving style, and we were all witness to one of the best drives I have ever seen by him going from 11 in the final on Sunday to 1st. Although he got taken out in the race, it just goes to show you that balance between driver and chassis are so important.
The best place to start on any given weekend is with the stock setup. Don’t deviate too much and you will be fine as long as you have a dynamic driving style.
BBR Karting, Team Manager
BBR Karting is one of the top teams in North America that focuses on driver development of some of karting’s rising stars of tomorrow who have the dreams of taking the next step into cars. It is our goal at BBR to provide the best environment for one to excel and develop their skills in all aspects including technique, experience, mental, physical and mechanical. BBR has one of the best support programs and competes at every top National level event throughout North America. 2014 marks BBR Karting 20 years in karting, run by Blake Choquer one of the best driving coaches in North America, and his background of competing at International levels as well being taught by some of the best in the World is what has helped him develop a program unparalleled in North America. For information on driver training please feel free to contact BBR Karting by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (604) 783-6474.