Where to start with Race Car Setup

Where to start with Race Car Setup?

Knowing where to start with race car setup is really not that straight forward. Even the professionals get confused sometimes so do not worry too much if you are feeling confused and overwhelmed:

“I would really appreciate any advice anyone can give on the effects of changing different aspects of the setup, and preferably why it has that effect.”

It is fairly easy to find generic advice on what changing different aspects of the setup should do.

Getting clarity on why is much less common.

Consequently you might find that lots of the general advice seems confusing, unintuitive and sometimes even contradictory – I guess why this question was asked in the first place? 🙂


My suggestion is two fold:

1) Start with the end in mind

By this I mean clearly define the problem you are trying to solve before thinking about how you will solve it.

For example, saying your car has understeer is useful but not specific enough for a racing car.

Where and when does it have understeer? Corner entry? Mid corner? On Exit? and on all corners or just fast ones or just slow ones?

Can you see?

Get as specific as you can in terms of identifying your issue and only then start to think about using the tools (i.e. suspension settings, aero settings etc) you have available to address it.

2) Learn about tyres first.

Nearly all your suspension questions can likely be explained once you know how tyres work.

Hopefully that is some good news!

Focus initially on learning about the tyre. The reason is that the tyre is the only thing that touches the road. All the forces on a racing car pass through them. Any change you make to the setup will effect them.

Knowing about tyres enables you to know WHY a setup changes has an effect.


Next Steps

I have written a few basic articles about tyres, including a guide to understanding tyre temperatures which you might find useful as a starter: https://www.yourdatadriven.com/guide-to-interpreti…

Once you are up to speed a bit with that, then here is a useful summary sheet to help you decide which tools to use to solve a handling balance issue:  https://www.yourdatadriven.com/race-car-setup-tuni…

In the subject of handling balance, the terms understeer and oversteer are used with reckless abandon in racing, so I also wrote this basic explanation to ensure people were all talking about the same thing: https://www.yourdatadriven.com/racing-talk-underst…

This short video does a good job of explaining visually what you are after (balance) and how the different tools (suspension, aero) help. If you have a car without adjustable aero it is still worth a watch:

Hope that helps! 😎

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