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Suspension Tips From The Experts

Understanding the theories behind different setups is just one key to putting more power on the track and logging improved lap times, as we discovered in this bonus article on shocks and springs.

By Nick Gagala

As experts in the race suspension market, our contacts offered a wealth of advice and insights for retailers. A common thread was the call for greater education on the different products throughout the market.

“There is so much going on in the racing world that the more you know about what changes are taking place and what new products companies are offering, the better off you will be,” suggested David Cardey of Eibach Springs, Corona, California. “The more you know for sure what you have, either by way of a rater or dyno, the more you will understand what is going on with your car and what it is you want to accomplish.

“I would say my best advice would be learning which companies make their own products and which companies just put their label on a product,” he continued. “The companies that make a certain product for a living and have done so for years find ways to improve their product constantly, and tend to lead the way in innovation. The companies that have other companies make their product sometimes don’t get the advantage of getting the latest and greatest. Either way, don’t rely on passed down information from a guy you think knows his stuff; find out for yourself.”

“Not all shocks are equal—the build possibilities are endless,” said Aaron Lambert of Penske Racing Shocks, Reading, Pennsylvania. “You really have to understand not only what your car likes, but what your driver wants to feel. There is no special shock that will work for everyone. It is a complete package that you have to be able to implement, learn, and continuously develop. The top teams are never resting. There is always room for improvement.”

Mark Campbell of Pontotoc, Mississippi-based Hyperco reiterated that the only horsepower that counts is what transfers to the track. “Fundamental to putting horsepower on the track is using the best springs and shocks you can get,” he said. “Coming from the background of building engines for 30-plus years, I hate to say it, but there are far greater improvements in lap times with proper suspension setup than you can possibly buy with the latest trick-of-the-week camshaft, rocker arm or carburetor.”

In addition, it is important for racers to learn the suspension basics, Campbell said. “It all comes down to simple physics: weight placement, simple harmonic motion of springs, lever ratios, and the difference between the terms ‘corner weight,’ ‘unsprung weight’ and ‘sprung weight.’ If you understand those principles, you will be well on your way to winning.”

Kyle Cabaya of Renton Coil Spring in Renton, Washington, stressed that shocks and springs must be considered a system. “A change in any of the components will require adjustments in the other pieces,” he explained. “For instance, if you replace your springs with one of our lightweight springs, lighter weight suspension components have the ability to react faster. If the shock is then properly adjusted to take advantage of this, the system will help keep the tire in contact with the track, increasing traction, control, and driver confidence. These are benefits that span all disciplines of racing.”

David Kass at QA1 Motorsports in Lakeville, Minnesota, told us it is important for racers to understand shock adjustment features and how they affect a vehicle. He encouraged readers to learn about weight transfer, roll center, and how adjustment to the shocks and/or struts work. “When we are talking to people on the phone on our tech line, we spend a lot of time explaining the theory behind how a shock and spring work, how a car will transfer weight, the roll center, the whole nine yards,” he said. “And that’s something that a lot of times we kind of take for granted as standard knowledge, but a lot of people who are racing many times don’t understand the changes they are making and what effects they are having on the vehicle.”

To better understand how these products work, QA1 offers a variety of technical videos on its website, www.qa1.net. “There are also a variety of books out there on chassis tuning for all areas of racing,” Kass said. “Talk to people who have been in racing for many years. Kind of see what they have done. Not saying to follow suit with exactly everything they’ve done, but understanding the theory and why people go about things a certain way might give you the tools to adapt and make your own changes.”

Suspension Tips From The Experts

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