Watch Your WeightWhen racing on asphalt, the rule when it comes to placing your lead is simple-keep as much of it as low and on the left side of the car as your rules will allow. This, however, isn't the case when racing on dirt. Weight is often used to help the car roll over on its left-rear tire by placing it up higher on the car and along the car's centerline, or even sometimes on the right.
Usually, raising weight will increase body roll and increase traction on the right-rear tire all the way through the turn. Usually, but not always, more weight up high will help tighten up a car that is consistently loose.
Learn To ReadWhenever you travel to a new track, you have to play a bit of a guessing game. In a way, any dirt racetrack is a living, breathing thing. The only thing you can guarantee is that it will not finish the night in the same shape that it started. This means you have to tailor your setup toward the conditions you believe you will see at the end of the race, not necessarily the conditions you are racing under when the green flag flies for the first time. After all, winning the first 49 laps doesn't mean a thing if your handling goes away and you get passed on the 50th.
Old timers call this "reading the track," but it is as much about good detective work as it is actually reading the mud. The best thing you can do at a new racetrack is to search out the local racers and ask about the track's characteristics. The problem with this is sometimes you will get good, honest answers and sometimes you won't. So you also have to use other resources.
"I spend a lot of time watching the local hotshots during hot laps," Breuer says of travelling to a new track for the first time. "If the guy that has won the last four races here looks awful tight during the hot laps, that probably doesn't mean he doesn't know how to set up the car. It usually means he knows the track is going to dry out and get loose before the end of the night and he is prepared for it. So if I see that, I know I need to keep my car on the tight side, too."
Breuer also recommends searching out the track promoter and asking a few questions. The promoter is interested in providing the crowd in the stand with great racing, so it is in his best interest to give you good information. If you can get out on the track take a pocket knife or a screwdriver and dig down a little to see how deep the water is absorbed into the track.
One good question to ask is if the track has a sheepsfoot to pack the dirt and how it is used. If the track is watered and the sheepsfoot is used to pack in the track afterward, it can push the water in and help the track stay damp longer. If the sheepsfoot is used to pack the track before it is watered, then the track will dry out much more quickly.
Brake BiasBecause a racetrack can change so quickly, it is a good idea to use a brake bias adjuster from the cockpit, if the rules allow it. A brake bias adjuster allows you to quickly change the front-to-rear ratio of braking pressure applied to the tires. For example, Derek "Shamu" Spencer of Performance Friction brakes, says if the track gets dusty and loose, dialing in a bit more brake bias to the front will help the car feel more stable on turn entry. "That just helps it to plant the nose and get the car more settled before you turn," he explains.
Another trick Spencer mentions is to run a slightly smaller rotor or caliper on the right-front corner. This allows the left-front wheel to brake harder than the right front, helping pull the car into the turn when you press the brake pedal.