My Pan Car tuning theory first installment - Kurtis's Corner Breakdown

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OK, so I have had a lot of guys come to me recently to setup their pan cars, and we have had a good bit more interest in the pan car class locally, therefore I have decided to start with a series of blog post to go over my Pan Car tuning theory.

Let me preface this with the fact that 1) I do not know everything there is to know about chassis setup, but I know how to find answers to my issues 2) this is my theory about tuning and how I attack the issues that I or anyone I help has 3) my theory does not always work with everyone's driving style nor can everyone think through the things that I will cover in this series in the same way I do due to the way each individual processes information and weather they can visualize what I am going over. For this reason I am always available at the track to ask questions, 4) finally this is a Oval Pan Car setup guide, but that is not to say that you can not transfer some of this information over to other classes once you understand what is going on in my head.

To start with, I am going to approach how I break down handling issues. Lets first look at a few common sayings that you will hear people say when describing their car's handling! Yes for most this will be old hat, but there are new racers coming out all the time and might not have the jargon down yet. A few times watching "Days of Thunder" should fix them right up.......or they can read my blog!

Loose- This describes a car that the rear wants to spin around the front.

Tight- This describes a car that does not want to turn, also known as a Push

Free- The ability for a car to turn in easily to a corner and on the edge of being loose.

Forward Bite - This is the ability for a car to put traction down to the rear wheels which provides forward momentum. Most commonly used in response to handling coming off of a corner and down a straightaway.

Left Side Bias- The weight by percentage that is on the left side tires and generally heavier to the left side for oval car.

Cross weight- is a term that describes the weight in percentage of total weigh that rest on the front right and rear left tires.

Stagger- The use of taller tires on the right side of a car then the left

Rollout- is a term used to describe how far the car will roll with one revolution of the motor. This is effected by gear ratio and tire rollout. (There is a calculation for this that will be describe in a later installment.)

Ok, So these are a few of the terms that will be used through the series, but more will be added as needed. Now let me start to explain how I break my corners down in my mind for handling characteristics. The corner is typically broke down into 3 sections which are entry, Center and exit, however I tend to look at the corner in 2 sections, entry and exit due to the fact that in my train of thought there is a very narrow window for the center of the corner. When I break down my corners for our oval track I break them down with turn 1 and 2 being considered as one and 3 and 4 as one since there is no break between these corners. Now I look at a corner less about where you are in the corer and more about what the chassis is doing through the corner.

Now you will have to visualize this, but when you enter the corner and turn your wheels to the left the natural tendency of it's weight is to continue in a straight line (Remember Newton's first law of Motion- An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.), however you turn the wheels which causes the chassis to start turning left. As you do this the car will transfer its weight to the right front tire and loads the right front. This in my mind is of course corner entry. Now as that weight levels out as it's motion has changed direction and is now in a smooth arc around the corner, the car has loaded the right side of the car which to me is still corner entry as the car is still changing its direction. Now as you roll through the physical center of the turns and start to straighten the wheels out coming off the corner, the car has a very quick moment of time when the corner weights are almost the same as it would be with the car at rest with the exception of a little added rear weight due to momentum. This is that very brief moment of time that I consider the center of the turn, and is so brief that I only use it to consider a point where the car changes handling characteristics. Following this point the car continues to add more weight to the rear axle as the steering input is reduced and the car accelerates off of the corner, and this is what I consider in my theory and mind as exit of the corner.

As you can see in just my breakdown of the corner, the way the car transfers weight is extremely important to the handling characteristics of the chassis. Now in a perfect world the car will transition through center at the physical Center point of the turn, but unfortunately very rarely do we race in a perfect world, so we have to make alterations to our race lines for lap traffic, a bad spot in the racing surface that might upset the car, or even because the car is not working on a preferred line. Because of these things, we might have an early or late entry into the corner which will move the point we actually apex our race line, and the same with the exit of the corner. For this reason I always make changes based on what the car is doing relative to my inputs (which transition the weight) versus what my car is doing compared to the physical entry, center or exit of a turn. I can't see setting my car up specifically for a perfect line when I might have an issue with that line, and because of this my cars can usually be put anywhere you want to on the track, just ask any of the racers that have raced one of my pan cars.

Take a while to let this settle in and visualize what I am saying about how the cars weight moves around, as this will be very important when we get into some of the more in depth setup changes later on in this blog series. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Also if you have any specific topic I will be happy to tackle it ASAP as long as I feel that there isn't some other setup changes that I need to explain first to make it more understandable.

Thanks for reading and please leave your constructive feedback.

Kurtis AKA "The Pan Man"

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  1. hobbycentral's Avatar
    Good post, waiting for part 2