Optimising Camber on Track: Finding the Sweet Spot
Optimising camber of your tyres is a delicate balance. Get it right, and you maximise grip, lap time and tyre life; get it wrong, and you risk your performance, safety, and the unnecessary expense of replacing your tyres early.
“Is that cord I can see in the inside shoulder? Darn it…”
You might consider consulting your tyre manufacturer about what your ideal camber settings should be? They should know right?
Surprising as it may seem, the tyre companies don’t know your ideal camber! As a result is you are unlikely to get anything more than a ‘safe range’ from them. Sadly that is of little help in your quest for speed. And it means the responsibility of optimising camber for your track car, falls squarely on your shoulders.
This article aims to assist you in overcoming this camber setup challenge. It discusses what are the important variables to consider, and how should you approach optimising camber. It shares an enhanced version of a method commonly used in the paddock – analysing the spread of tyre temperature across the tread. Here, I share how you might adopt a similar technique using onboard data.
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Camber, or the vertical angle of the wheels relative to the road, is typically set negative – the top of the wheel angled inward. The ideal camber angle range varies, often between zero and 5 degrees negative.
There have been studies done to try to determine an ideal camber setting in the past – Milliken and Milliken describe testing tyres to find an optimum performance across a range of different camber angles – but finding that sweet spot in practise, can feel more like art than science.
Why Camber Matters
Camber affects not just tyre wear, but also grip in both cornering, braking and accelerating. Additionally, it influences slip angle development, crucial for cornering dynamics.
In my experience, a driver will only drive to the limit of their perception of grip.
Therefore, what the cars setup and stability says to the driver, can dramatically affect their performance.
Despite the rest of this article being predominantly an exercise in objective based guidance, remember driver feedback is vital.
Beyond Static Camber: Suspension Dynamics
Something I often see overlooked in the paddock, is the concept of ‘camber compensation‘ – how camber angle changes with suspension movement.
For instance, a McPherson strut setup can lose camber on bumps, necessitating more static negative camber than a setup like a double wishbone, which can increase camber in similar conditions.
Without wishing to complicate matters for you, I find it worth remembering that “optimising camber” is not just about optimising static camber.
Luckily for you, tyre temperatures give you a strong clue as to everything that is happening on your race car. By seeing how tyre temperature changes with your adjustments, you can use it to dial in an ideal camber setting.
Assessing Camber: Tyre Temperature as a Clue
By examining temperature variations across the tyre’s surface, you can infer how evenly – or not – the tyre is being loaded around the lap. This can be done manually in the pits or, if you have access, through the onboard monitoring systems.
As part of some performance engineering work I did for a race team, we ran an onboard tyre system, monitoring 16 temperature points inside the tyre.
I wanted to look at this overwhelming amount if data in an efficient and actionable way. The colour graphs are pretty but I wanted more precise guidance on how to make their tyres happier.
The rest of this article shares what I think is a novel approach I developed to try to advance the manual methods with this extra data.
Novel Approach to Optimising Camber: Onboard Tyre Temperature Spread Analysis
The following charts tell a story of performance, grip, and the impact of camber settings on the race car. My aim is to show you how to read these charts and use them to refine your mental models about what is going on at the tyre contact patch.
There are two images below from two different runs and setups. Both images have four charts that represent data collected from each tyre during a test session.
The x-axis shows the “grip factor”—a metric based on combined acceleration and derived by Jorge Segers, with the higher the value, the better the tyre’s grip. The y-axis represents the tyre temperature spread between the inside and outside of the tyre. A larger spread indicates more temperature difference between the inside than the outside of the tyre—a measure of your camber effect.
Here’s how I created the temperature spreads:
- Dividing the Tyre into Zones: I segmented the 16 temperature readings into three zones – outer, mid, and inner.
- Average Temperatures In Zones: By averaging temperatures in each zone, I am tried to mimic the traditional three-point measurement method used in the pits.
- Camber Spread: Diff between Inner & Outer: By taking the difference between the inner and outer temperatures my aim was to provide a picture of camber effectiveness. A larger temperature spread perhaps indicating too much camber, causing uneven tyre wear and reduced grip.
Jorge’s grip factors are designed to provide a performance metric. By cross-plotting these with the camber temperature spreads, you can explore whether there’s a correlation. The key question is: does an ideal camber angle exist that enhances grip?
Two Example Charts – Same Car, Morning & Afternoon.
Take a good look these two charts and then read the further explanations about how you can use them in optimising camber below. As you review, ask yourself:
- What does the temperature spread tell you about the camber settings?
- Is there a noticeable difference between the runs?
- Which pattern seems more effective in maximising grip?
Clusters of Insight
At the heart of these charts are the clusters of points – shown thanks to the “data intensity” setting in Motec i2. These aren’t random points; they reveal where the car spends most of its time during a run. By focusing on these clusters, you can start to discern the car’s behaviour:
- Are the clusters more spread out or concentrated?
- Do they lean towards higher grip factors, suggesting effective use of the tyres?
- How does the temperature spread correlate with these grip levels?
The aim of your camber adjustments should be to move these clusters towards an optimising camber zone—where the grip factor is high, and the temperature spread is indicative of an ideal camber setting. This is where your car achieves peak performance without, hopefully, unnecessary tyre wear.
Your Analytical Role
Your goal when optimising camber is to envision how these clusters shift with changes in camber. I’ll be honest, it does take a bit of getting your head around.
If you lack onboard tyre temperature measurement, you can still imagine how adjustments would move these clusters towards the ‘sweet spot’. Ask yourself:
- If I alter the camber, how might these clusters change?
- What does the ideal cluster pattern look like for my car and driving style?
- How can I achieve a balance between tyre performance and longevity?
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the lap times… The fastest lap in the session with one of these setups was about 1.5 seconds per lap faster than the other. Which do you recon it was?
Next Steps: For Optimising Camber
Ok, you are welcome to use this data-driven approach to hypothesise and then validate your own optimising camber adjustments. Remember, the idea is that the clusters will guide you towards the optimal setup—one that provides you with maximum grip and minimum tyre wear.
I invite you to scrutinise this approach, these charts and share your interpretations with me.
Can you see yourself optimising camber in this way? Is there room for improvement? What else to you do see? Be sure to sign up below and let me know.