Understanding the complexities of front-end geometry
Unlike the old days when a good wrench was the best method to set up a race car, today a good grasp of mathematics is more important to understanding the complexities of front-end geometry.
Geometry plays an important role in racing. From how a driver apexes the corners of a track to how his team sets up the front end suspension of his race car. If you don't know how to use geometry to your advantage then you will not be a successful racer.The Oxford American Dictionary defines Geometry as follows: "The branch of mathematics concerned with the properties and relations of points, lines, surfaces and solids. And, the relative arrangement of objects and parts." Sounds simple enough to me. So why is working with geometry one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with a race car? If a race car remained in a static position then it would be simple to calculate the front-end geometry because nothing would move and the "points and lines" of the car's suspension would not change. But, as we know, that is not the case. In a race car we deal with all sorts of moving triangles, parallelograms and trapezoids in the suspension system. Each time one of these "points or lines" moves [or is moved] then their "properties or relationships" to each other change. If you change just one "point" in the equation then you change the relationship of all of the others. That turns a simple geometric equation into a complex calculation that can drive setup specialists and drivers crazy if it is not done correctly. I always found it difficult to calculate the angle of the dangle against the swerve of the curve but today's teams have computers and programs to help them do it. To better understand the complexities of setting up a car's front-end geometry you need to first understand the goal of the setup specialist. His goal is to keep the "tire patch" [the surface of the tire that contacts the track] and the "slip angle" of the tire [the point at which a tire will lose grip and slide across the track] constant and controlled so the driver will be comfortable and confident when he dives into a corner at high speeds.