How to Build the Perfect Race Car
By Bryan Leonard, VP, Chase Bays
The quest to build the perfect road race car is a battle that privateers and manufacturers alike have tried to conquer. Asking the right questions on the front end of this battle, will save you time and resources. Here we will outline a good jump off point for building a race car.
We will list some of the key points then explain them in a bit more detail.
- What is the cars intended use?
- What is the budget?
- Create parts list/ fabrication list. Where is the budget best spent?
- Create an execution list in chronological order.
- Test, test, test, then test more.
- What is the car's intended use? Is it autocross, track days, road racing, spirited driving? Each form of driving listed here has much different requirements to perform at the max potential. There are a few things that I would argue are non-negotiable for each one of these forms. Braking systems and suspension. Autox, you would want to decide what class you wanted to run, and build the car to suit. Track days, you would just decide how far you want to take the car. For track days I would recommend brake system, suspension, heat management, and tires. Learn how to optimize what you have before adding power. Road race cars, same as autox, find the rules and build the car accordingly. I could write an entire book on building a road race car, however for the sake of this blog, I will try to set the building blocks.
- What is the budget? This is a mission critical item. Many times people find themselves unable to finish a project because they didn't set a proper budget at the onset. No matter what your income is, your sponsorship is, or however the project is being funded, you need to set a budget. You can do this over the whole project, you can do this on a monthly basis. There are many ways to do this, but the important part is that it is executed.
- Create parts list/fabrication list. Where is the budget best spent? Now that we know what we can spend per week, per month, or whatever time frame was set, we can place the money in the right places. Having a parts list is crucial to proper project execution. This will help determine where the money is best spent and in what timeframe it can be spent. Knowing this will help create a project execution plan.
- Create an execution list in chronological order. With everything you have documented it's now time to create an execution list. This will allow you to manage the project properly rather than simply deciding on what to work on in that moment. This will also allow you to see the workflow and help you move around the project and not lose time. The biggest mistake people make is ordering a bunch of parts without seeing how they work together. Then they begin to work on the car and are forced to make compromises just to get it finished. How many times have you heard (or said) “we just have to get it done” or “you won't even be able to see it?” Those are the words of the defeated.
- Test, test, test, then test more. Find good baselines for all settings: brakes, suspension alignment, tuning etc. Then go test the car. The internet is a plethora of knowledge and misleading information (even if it's not malicious or intentional) Do your own testing, and determine what feels best for you and your project. Examples of misleading information: “it worked on my friend's car,” “this is what I did and it worked perfectly” (says the guy who is super slow and on track once a year).
I could write an entire book about building a proper race car, but I think the most important things that remain the same among all the disciplines we have listed are suspension and brakes. Consistent brakes create consistent drivers, heat management. Braking is the hardest task to master on a race track. Having good pads, good rotors and a manual brake are paramount to creating the perfect road race car. Pedal boxes and dual master setups are expensive and are not plug and play. Major modification and considerations must be made before going this route. The Chase Bays DBBE is the easy button. Proper pedal ratio, proper consistency, that manual brake feel that is so important.
Suspension is another overlooked item. Solid bushings and proper dampers can make or break a build. I would always purchase the nicest dampers your budget will allow. People who state you don't need that kind of damper for x, y, z are simply wrong and don't understand how critical they are.
Heat management, from the engine to the power steering to the driver, all racing is heat management. Oil coolers and proper radiators will help protect the investment and also allow the car to operate at the designed temps. Power steering coolers keep the steering inputs consistent, there is nothing worse than being mid-corner and having a power steering issue.
In closing, this is just a jump off point for building a road race car. There are many considerations to be made, far too much for a blog. We provide many solutions for road race cars that fix problems with brakes, engine oil/fluid cooling, power steering cooling etc. Make a plan and get your car built!Bryan Leonard has extensive experience as a professional race car builder, driver and driver coach in series including IMSA, World Challenge, WRL, Porsche Sprint Challenge, and SRO.