Racing Alignment and Corner Balancing
We’ve all had those pesky alignment problems. The steering wheel doesn’t line up or maybe your car pulls hard to one side, perhaps everything appears OK but the inside of your tires are bald within 5,000km. Usually, it is a trip down to the local garage for an hour and $99 later to make everything with your car well again. However, when it comes to going fast on the track you want a decidedly more comprehensive alignment and corner balancing to keep the weight transfer in check. The caveat of an aggressive race alignment is that although it may improve handling, it will chew through tires. So, it is imperative to have a seasoned tech at the controls to achieve a balance of both if you run a street-driven track car.
If you are a professional race team, run whatever camber and toe you want since tires are not an issue. However, for the majority of weekend warriors, tires aren’t cheap even with the sponsor discounts. At the same time, most casual racers have invested countless hours on their suspension and chassis but they won’t just set themselves up properly? Many aftermarket parts have adjustments and those adjustments done wrong can make a car handle like garbage even when it has the best parts bolted on. Just like with engine modifications, suspensions need to be tuned properly.
Can-Alignment in Millgrove, ON makes sure your alignment is set to both your vehicle and the way you intend to drive it. All alignments are not the same, even on similar vehicles because of the use of the vehicle, preferred tracks, driving style and even the weight of the driver. When searching for a proper racing alignment shop, you have ask if they just going to “set it to spec” or just add an arbitrary amount of negative camber and toe? Can-Alignment not only listened to our input about specs that people run with the same car (Nissan Skyline GT-R) but also have a wealth of race experience to apply.
Owner of Can-Alignment, Scott Murfin has set up hundreds of race cars. Everything from late models to touring cars and many street driven track cars as well. He says the street driven cars are the most challenging because their owners are asking so much of their vehicle. They want it to manage city streets and potholes with a decent ride and then outrun everything at the racetrack! On top of that they want extended tire life too. In our case, the car is street legal and tires aren’t a huge concern considering we have several sponsorships “You have to find that balance between great handling and decent tire life because the most aggressive setups are not for the street unless you want to replace tires repeatedly.” Says Murfin “Extreme camber causes inner wear that chews treads and can even cause blow-outs due to overheating.
A common misunderstanding is that every time, you add a part or make changes to the weight of a vehicle, it requires a change of alignment settings and proper corner balancing. Murfin started the process with a lengthy inquiry about the cars modifications and the way it has been setup. Then he got more particular about what driving style I prefer, tracks to be driven and my exact weight. Murfin then puzzled me by asking if I had a girlfriend or not? When I replied yes, he asked me her weight and a guesstimate on how many track days she would be attending as a passenger. By then it made sense that he wanted all possible weight information right down to amount of tire pressure!
With that, it was hoisted up on the alignment rack and the scales were placed under all four corners. The TEIN FLEX coilover perches were all adjusted to a lower setting giving the car a lower centre of gravity. Then the spring pre-loads were adjusted to offer the best balance between street and track. Afterwards the wheels were bolted back up and I jumped in the driver’s seat before the car was placed on the Intercomp SW650 scales. The corner balancing identifies where the weight is in the car and adjustments can be made to counteract any imbalance to equalize opposing corners. At this point, Murfin noticed that the GT-R is a bit nose heavy and recommended that the battery be placed in the left side of the trunk. I let him know that the battery was only temporary and that a 12lb. Kinetik Racing Cell was going in soon. With that he accounted for the 27 less pounds over the right front tire. The grand total was a bit more than expected tipping the scales at 3475lbs with driver, since I am around 185lbs myself, that would place the car around 3290lbs with a half tank of gas.
With the coilovers at the correct ride height, spring pre-load and corner balancing completed it was time to check the alignment. Using a Beeline LC4000 laser alignment machine, Murfin says that he can achieve the most accuracy and is one of the few in Canada that use it. The car was way out of line as the front wheels were slightly positive camber and the rears were over 1.0° different. We had recently done the Absolute Motor Sport (AMS) suspension link upgrades including: rear upper control arms, front upper control arms and traction rods but not adjusted them. Murfin got to work by adjusting the nuts on the threaded rods connected to the AMS suspension parts. Then he tackled the steering links, both front and rear since this Skyline still has an operational all-wheel steering system.
The alignment on our Project R32 ended up being a tad more civil than we boasted about in our last article. No -4.0° camber and ridiculous toe-in as we indicated. Murfin set up the GT-R to clobber many opponents on the track but without all of the negatives of a dedicated race car. Keep in mind, it is still a street car: full weight, AC, power steering and even an aftermarket audio system! Plus, even though Toyo is a great partner, we doubt they would be supplying a couple sets of R888 every season.
Murfin arrived at some final alignment values in the front of -0.65° and -0.34° on the driver side with a rear camber of -1.374° and- 1.1° on the driver side. The staggered setup accounts for the weight of the driver whipping around a race track. While, those numbers might not sound aggressive, the test drive was very impressive. The 275/35R18 Toyo R888s bit harder into the pavement and the car cornered very flat with loads of grip. It was as if extra sway bars or a cage were just added, making the car stiff and balanced."I can't wait to see how this car does at Mosport." laughs Murfin "It is a totally different car now. It is lower and has more camber with everything properly torque’d. You will love this car again." Since we are headed to Mosport International Raceway for an upcoming event, we couldn’t agree more.For a consultation on an aggressive street or full race set up visit www.canalignment.com or call 905-690-3100