The Cone Zone - Sept 2004


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"The Cone Zone" - September 2004
a.k.a. The Slalom Column
by

, JCNA Slalom Chair
posted 9/30/04


One of the first things that most people ask when they get involved in slaloming, or any autocross type of event, is "what can I do to make my car go faster?" In the JCNA slalom format and under our rules, the things you can do on a stock class car are fairly limited. In this article, I'm going to give a few pointers on what you can do to improve performance while keeping your car "stock". Next month, we'll look at some modifications that are fairly common, especially with older cars, that will move the car into "street prepared" class, but which will significantly improve handling and performance.

More than any other part of the car, tires effect performance the most. Of all of the factors, the most significant time improvements you'll see from things you do to your car will come from the tires. Remember, your car is trying to hold onto the ground going around those corners on four patches of rubber about the size of the palm of your hand. What your tire is made of, how soft the tread material is, and the pattern of the tread design all affect how well it will grip the road surface. Also, the size of your tires (width and height) makes a big difference as well, since even a small increase in the size of the contact patch on the road makes a large percentage difference in the amount of tire you have holding the surface.

In stock classes, the rules require that the size of the tire be appropriate for the class. Many models cover a number of years and take in a variety of rim diameters and widths, as well as standard sizes. So that everyone has an equal chance, you are allowed to utilize the rims and tire sizes of any other car within your particular class. The differences here are particularly dramatic in a large class like XJS, which spanned many years and had many different available rim and tire sizes.

Most people don't spend the money for new tires just to go faster in the slalom. So what can you do to get the most out of your current tires? Tire pressure is very important. Most people drive on the street with tire pressures between 28 psi and 32 psi for comfort. In the slalom, however, higher tire pressures are needed to keep the tires from rolling over onto their sidewall. But you don't want the tires rock-hard or they will have no traction. So most racers add around 4 to 6 psi to help stiffen the tires and improve stability.

Beyond the tires, it's important to be sure that the brakes and suspension are in good condition. Good standard shock absorbers should be sufficient. Old worn-out bushings and shocks can make the car feel "loose". So replacing worn bushings and shocks will improve handling. Also, make sure that the brake pads are in good shape and not overly worn. It doesn't hurt to check the wheel bearings and have the car "lubbed" prior to a slalom event too.

Most experienced racers still feel that the number one factor in improving times is practice. So get out there and run those slalom events when you can and try talking to the more experienced drivers to pick up any tips you can to help improve your times. See you on the race course!

 

 

 

 

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