Insight - I just bought a new set of shocks, what do I do? Part #2a

By: Admin

Part # 2a – Get a Feel For It

In Part 1 – We went over hitting the basics on your chassis to begin setting up a new set of shocks. We’ll start here assuming you have that sorted out to a level that allows us to move forward. So in summary:

  1. Your tire pressures, cold and hot, are close to where they need to be
  2. Alignment & chassis setup is set, square, and repeatable
  3. Damper gas pressures are within recommended range and filled properly
  4. Your chosen spring rates are in the window
  5. The rest of the car isn’t going to interfere with getting a read on the shocks

There are two approaches to this process, which are quite similar. When writing, each started get long enough to get their own part, so they did. The difference is the starting point. In the first case, we’ll assume you got starting settings from someone reliable, this is what we will cover in this article. Following that, we’ll go over how to start from scratch.

We’re fired up, we’ve had coffee, the car is warmed up, and it’s time to get out there and figure this thing out.

recommended settings for new shocks
“I’m having a little trouble on the kerbs”

First are foremost: setting up and practicing is not always about the lap time! The stopwatch (or beacon) is the most powerful and brutally honest tool we have in this game. That does not mean that it needs to be used all of the time. Squeezing seconds out of something that isn’t setup the best it can be is for qualifying and the last few laps. Don’t be out there winning practice.  Practice done right, prepares you for the former situations and allows you to maximize the machinery you have, instead of the size of your ego. Work on problems, don’t try to drive around them.

Recommended settings

An often expedient way to get to a good setup is to start with recommended settings. These may come from your car builder, crew chief, damper/shock supplier, or (hopefully not) internet forum expert.  Often, these are a combination of experience and adjustment for your personal needs. For example, we may say that a good baseline RS Pro setup on a Cayman might be C8R7 in the front and C11R15 in the back. However, we know you went with a softer spring and drive at bumpy tracks where you prioritize compliance. So we may start you at C6R5 and C8R12. Someone else may be above that baseline because there is a lot of added power or aerodynamic parts, etc. The takeaway is to understand why the recommendations were made and keep them in mind as you go through this process.

recommended settings for new shocks
Admittedly, they do make patience difficult

Now it is time to see what we’ve got. Assuming we are starting out on a track, we’re going to warm up. Get tire pressures and temps up slowly. Not only is this needed to get a good read of the setup, you are on a brand new one. That means that the way the tires come in may change and you could end up confusing suspension setup for tire issues. As you get into the tire start finding confidence. Push a little harder and see what the car gives you. Once you’ve built up to a solid lap, come in hot for tire pressure and temp readings. If necessary, go back out for a cool down lap and during that time debrief yourself.  In your time around the circuit, think about the area holding you back from going faster. Was it putting the power down? Can’t get off the brakes early enough to roll speed? Understeer? Oversteer? The list goes on.

At this point hopefully you’ve found some solid gains and are going faster on your new setup. You also have a few ideas of what can get even better. This is a critical point at which many people find themselves stuck in a circle. There is always trade off in conventional setup, unless you have one chance to make a decision before the race, forget about trade offs. Concentrate on the most important area, the biggest thing holding you back. Whatever that is, get it right first. Even if there is some give with the take, the overall improvement will keep you moving in the right direction.

This does not mean you forget about the rest of the picture, no doubt keep it in mind and keep it in your notes. One of the main challenges with setup is how interdependent everything is. On top of that, we have human drivers and rubber tires. None of this is a recipe for a formulaic approach. I have always been wary of those tables that tell you exactly what change to make in a given situation (e.g. understeer into the corner – take out rear rebound). My only rule of thumb is that there are no rules of thumb. However, those charts can be good tools to give you something to try, just keep in mind that the rules are not absolute. The cheapest, most effective tool we have besides the stopwatch is paper (or our electronic equivalents). As you work on your critical point and try changes, record the effects.

The pen is mightier
It really is mightier

This is what breaks many of our clients out of the circle of setup problems. Once you have a good handle on the primary issue, you can go back to the secondary stuff with a good understanding of  what to do. Stay away from the changes that set back your primary focus and work with the ones that were neutral. Great race engineers can perform this process across a great deal of elements quickly, but if you are not one of them yet, keep it one at a time. As you learn more about the combination you have, this process gets faster. Just keep in mind, first things first.


Next up: Part #2b – Starting from Scratch

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