Car tuning has grown to become a hugely popular industry, as well as a favorite pastime for motoring enthusiasts from all over the world. However, tuning for regular road use, and track car tuning, differ in many key areas. On track, your car is expected to go as fast as possible and to do so with as much control. On the road, factors such as practicality and even ride comfort enter the picture, and this affects the way in which a technician will approach each project.
If you’re considering getting your car track-ready, or if you are planning to buy a new car as a track toy, here’s what you can anticipate from a tuning perspective.
The first step: weight reduction
If you are tuning a regular BMW or Mercedes sports sedan for the track, it’s likely that your car is fitted with items which enhance its comfort and drivability on the road. Your car may even be fitted with cosmetic components like bigger wheels for a sportier look. However, on track, these nice-to-have items all add unwanted weight, and extra weight blunts performance both in a straight line and around the corners. Depending on how serious you are about your tuning, the sky is the limit in terms of weight reduction. You could look at replacing body parts with materials like GRP (glass-fiber reinforced plastic), while the hardcore enthusiast will go as far as removing the rear and/or front passenger seat (which could save you more than 50 pounds).
Wheels and tires
Be it chromed steel or aluminum, those glitzy wheels of yours could be adding far too much weight to your car on track. Beyond just what they weigh, rims designed specifically for track use will have a lower rotational mass. This means better performance in the corners, as your suspension won’t have to work as hard. Look for wheels made from either ultra-light aluminum or magnesium alloy for the best results. While racing slick tires won’t see the same level of weight reduction, they will aid performance hugely by offering greater grip in corners.
More of the right power
Naturally, improving your car’s horsepower output will be top of mind when tuning your car for the race track. However, once again it’s not as clear cut as simply adding more power. Rather, you want to look to boost either low-end torque or power at high revs. Too much power could have a negative effect on your car’s speed-to-weight ratio. Remember, optimum track performance is all about balance between your car’s major components. It’s why some cars can light up the drag strip in a straight line, but those same cars would flounder in the corners.
Modifying your car’s suspension will probably have the greatest impact on overall performance on a track. Not only will you be able to get through the bends faster, but you can also increase acceleration and braking. Where suspension tuning for the road may see you opt for a balanced approach that doesn’t encroach too much on ride quality, for the track you can focus purely on performance. Your standard BMW, Audi or Mercedes is likely too softly sprung / damped for track use, and the goal here will be to adjust coilovers and springs to achieve a lower center of gravity and better grip on track.
That’s just scraping the service of the many track services you can take advantage of to get your German sports car track-ready. For example, where your car’s standard brakes are fine for road use, on track you’ll want to consider upgrading to stronger pads, performance brake fluid that won’t overheat, and calipers with greater clamping force.
Whatever your goals, be sure to consult the services of a reputable tuning workshop to ensure your safety on track, and of course, to set those blazing lap times that’ll give spectators something to smile about!