Suspension evaluation and tuning

In your dad’s Oldsmobile, suspension was what kept you isolated from the road. For maximum performance, the suspension serves a different purpose – it must keep the tires directly connected to the track surface. While many concentrate on engine power as a means of improving performance, my goal is to help you slow LESS.

Most cars have about 200 to 300 square inches of tire contact which is all that stands between that perfect line through the corner and the tire wall! The only way we maximize performance consistently is to keep those four little areas in contact. To maximize tire grip, the suspension must be tuned to the driver, track, and weather conditions.

All the various loads and forces are working against that goal. Side loads are trying to lift the inside tires and roll the outside tire over onto it’s shoulder. Acceleration and braking are reducing the loads to the front and the back tires, leading to lockups and wheelspin. Even your expensive lowering suspension with it’s stiffer springs is trying to turn each wheel into a pogo stick.

Once again, this is where piecing the puzzle together correctly produces an easy to drive car with no surprises. Tires are more consistent and last longer, brakes don’t wear as quickly or run as hot; the car makes you look good and allows you to focus on driving.

Whether it’s a street car or a purpose-built race chassis, the components have to work together. From the simplest alignment and tire pressure adjustments to improve your daily driver, to finding the ideal spring, shock, and geometry, down to finding the perfect bushings, improving the suspension will always provide greater results than adding horsepower. Increasing your apex speeds will translate into faster lap times more than those headers or intake system. As an early mentor, Cobra driver Charlie Muench told me, “if you have $10, spend $9 of it on handling. The other guys will spend their $9 on power, and the winner isn’t the guy who goes the fastest, it’s the guy who slows down the least!” I can tell you after more than 30 years of road racing, he was right.