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Archive for Chassis Tuning

Is the front of my kart working with the rear? If you look closely, I have a slight oversteer. The guy behind me – huge oversteer! (Click on the picture to enlarge.  Photo courtesy of On Track Promotions.)

You hear racing drivers talk about balance at the track and on TV etc.  What exactly are they referring to?  Essentially, when drivers speak of balance they are referring to the grip level relationship between the front and rear of their car/go kart.  When a car or go kart is balanced, the front and rear are working together to the point where the kart is either planted to the road or has an overall drift devoid of any predominate oversteer or understeer. Furthermore, you as a driver are in complete control of the handling of the go kart with driver inputs such as throttle and brake and can actually induce a touch of oversteer or understeer if needed.  So how do you get your go kart to this point?  That’s the tricky part…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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While most new go kart chassis these days have mounting points for torsion bars, they actually use the bars to varying degrees.  For instance, Tony Kart offers five different torsion bar options and optimal chassis tuning relies heavily on the use of the proper bar.  CRG and Zanardi on the other hand, rarely call for the use of torsion bars.  In fact, if you walk around almost any race grid, you will be hard pressed to see a CRG with a front bar installed when it’s dry.  If it’s wet, that’s a different story.  To complicate things even further, Birel has two different mounting points for two different types of bars.  So what do the bars do to your go kart’s chassis and how do you make the best use of them?  I’ll do my best to unveil the mystery of torsion bars…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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While they may be small and not necessarily the most sophisticated looking piece on your go kart, hubs and collars can make a big difference to your kart’s handling.  Funnily enough, when I first started shifter-karting recreationally, the only reason I put a collar on my kart was to stop the rear hubs from creeping in.  I then attributed the subsequent handling change to changing track conditions.  Now I know that changing the hub length, either by using a different size hub or adding or removing collars, is essentially changing the axle’s spring rate which will definitely affect how your go kart handles.  In fact, one simple hub change has been the key to a number of my ProKart victories over the years.  The trick is to find out what your go kart likes and then determine if your go kart is more hub or axle sensitive.  I’ll explain…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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For those of you that missed it, I ran some data analysis on the SuperNats.  Here’s some highlights:

  • Average Size of each Class:  49 Karts
  • Average number of karts to qualify within 1 second of pole:  29
  • Class with most karts qualified within 1 second of pole (Tag Senior):  40
  • Average number of karts to qualify within 1 second of pole by percentage: 70%
  • Highest percentage of karts to qualify within 1 second of pole (S1):  100%
  • ENTIRE 22 KART FIELD IN S1 WAS COVERED BY 0.827 SECONDS!!!

It’s fair to say that qualifying has always been important.  Given the stats above, I would argue that over the last couple of years qualifying has been more important than ever.  Three or four years ago, two tenths may have only cost you a spot or two, now it can cost you ten.  Furthermore, if you race on a narrower track where passing is more difficult, qualifying could be the race.  Add the fact that a lot of series give you extra bonus points for pole and you start to get the point.

So how do you optimize your go kart for qualifying?  Well, we’ve touched on a number of issues before but I will tie them all together here so you have a concrete plan to put your go kart toward the sharp end of the grid…

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When I was given the opportunity to switch to the Zanardi chassis for two seasons and then the DR chassis, I was excited for many reasons.  First, after being on a Tony chassis for nine years it would be a great challenge from a tuning standpoint.  Second, it would put me directly in my readers’ shoes as I would be learning a new chassis while applying all the techniques and tips from the newsletter without knowing the outcome.  Third and most importantly, seeing how the Zanardi and DR would react to changes will give me a broader scope and insight into what many other drivers are experiencing with their own kart therefore improving the articles.  When it comes to tuning with ride heights, this is precisely what happened…

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Over the past few issues, we have been discussing changing track grip levels and how to anticipate and prepare for them via tire tuning, gear ratios, and axles etc.  Before we begin to delve into more advanced chassis tuning, I think it would help to break down a track’s potential grip levels into 3 categories, low, medium, and high and then examine how your set-up will differ for each of these track conditions. Once you have established a distinct baseline set-up for each of these grip levels, you will have a much better chance of adapting that set-up to the track conditions on any given day.

So, to give some real world examples on how to rate a tracks grip level, here in Phoenix, with the heat and the blowing dust, both the PKRA circuit in Phoenix and the Musselman Honda Circuit (or P1 as some of you may refer to it) 2 hours away in Tucson are low grip circuits on practice days.  The kart will be sliding around in general and will lose adhesion and give you a huge mid-corner oversteer or understeer (in other words – whatever handling condition you normally battle) if you try to carry any kind of significant speed into the corners.  Even on club race days, the most you will see is a 1 second gain (from mid to high 50 seconds to high 49 seconds for example at Musselman), barely qualifying the track as a mid-grip track.  You can carry more speed into the turns on race day, but you are still looking for more grip all weekend and the kart is in no danger of being over-gripped…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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This is the article the guys I kart with didn’t want me to write.  Why?  Because this tuning area caught out one of my teammates at a previous SuperNats so they didn’t want me to give the competition any advantage by bringing this area to their attention.  Since the area may seem obvious once I mention it, let me tell you what was going on with my friend’s go kart and see if you would have guessed the solution to the problem beforehand.

For the SuperNats, one of my teammates bought two identical chassis to run in two classes.  Neither chassis was bent or had any defects.  With what he thought were identical set-ups, one go kart was on rails and the other had a big turn-in to mid-corner oversteer.  He called me (I missed that year) to get my opinion and we tried everything we could think of to change on the rear to give the rear more grip – longer hubs, softer axle [30mm TonyKart – see axle article – FKI September 2010], increase tire psi, rear to full width, raise rear ride height, different seat position.  Nothing seemed to work, he still had oversteer.  I had him double check the front caster and toe out setting, they were exactly the same.  So, what was the issue?

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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Have you ever put new tires on for qualifying, actually gone slower, and wondered why?  Ever had your go kart perfect in the last heat, rolled into the main without any changes and gone backwards?  If so, you are most likely tuning to where the track has been, not where it is going.  If it makes you feel any better, I spent far too many street races in my Indy Lights career doing the same thing.

You may be saying to yourself, “tune to where the track is going” sounds great in theory, but how does it break down to me.  That’s a great point, because essentially what we are taking about here is how tire wear affects your kart or more specifically how your kart’s handling changes as it progresses through a tire’s given life.  Furthermore, you are the one that has to do the homework week after week to ensure you stay on top of how your kart and the track changes over the course of a day.  There is a definite art to tuning to where you are going, I will try to expose as much of it as I can below…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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Although it is possible to accurately align your kart with the items above, I highly recommend buying or borrowing an alignment tool for optimum results.

I have a confession to make.  For the longest time, I thought aligning your go kart was just a matter of “set the toe and go.”  While toe plays a big factor in a kart’s handling equation (see Myth Busters article for more on this subject), “squaring” the front wheels with the rest of the kart by properly centering the steering shaft plays a much bigger role in a karts handling.  If you miss this part of the alignment equation, you will be compromising performance at the very least and battling a difference in handling from left to right hand turns at the worst.

Regardless of what alignment tool or method you use, there are some basic procedures and steps that you should be following in order to make sure your kart is aligned properly.  If you don’t have an alignment tool, don’t worry, it is possible to align your kart accurately using a few the items pictured above.  Interestingly enough, the steps you use to align the kart without an alignment tool are the exact same steps you should be following with any alignment tool.  I will stress however, that to obtain optimum results I highly suggest you purchase an alignment tool or borrow one from a friend.  For those of you interested in purchasing one, I will provide an overview and buyer’s guide at the end of the article to help you…

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What does happen to your kart’s Toe setting when you set it on the ground?

If you’ve been around go karting long enough you’ve heard the claims:  “Your chassis won’t work properly without the factory seat.”  “You have to toe your go kart out ‘X’ amount on the stand in order for it to be neutral (0 toe-in or 0 toe-out) on the ground or you’ll just be scrubbing speed down the straightaway.”  Or, “You have to set the go kart with toe-in on the stand in order for it to be neutral on the ground.”  Which claim is true, which is a myth?  Has anyone ever actually tested any of this to know for sure?

Out of sheer curiosity, I have decided to tackle these and other go kart myths I have heard over the years, and trust me when I tell you, some are absolutely hilarious.  Nonetheless, I will begin the Myth Buster Series with the mystery of Toe-In.  Why Toe-In?  Well, I have actually never tested it myself and therefore fall into the camp of relying on sources I believed to be reliable to determine where I set the toe.  Before I wrote this article, I used to set the toe with the marks just over the centerline of my Sniper Gauge giving the kart 1/2 mm total toe-out.  I changed my setting for the SuperNats after reading an email from a subscriber in Australia on this very subject.

So, which way, if any, does the toe move from the setting on the stand to the setting when you sit in the go kart on the ground.  Being one of those people that try to envision what happens when you make a change or adjustment to my kart, I have mentally come up with theories that could explain either side of this myth.  If you don’t know the answer, see what you come up with theoretically while I explain the methodology used to solve this myth once and for all…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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