Sim Racing Setup Guide

Sim Racing Setup Guide

Kevin Firlein Sim Racing Setup Guide

Sim Racing Setup Guide

Hi all. I have been asked to write a series of articles on setting up race cars with an eye towards WSC. With the forthcoming release of WSC there will be an ever increasing demand for the knowledge of race setups. The setting up of cars is a necessary skill to attain if we are ever to achieve our full potential of speed both in the real world of racing and in the virtual world. Hopefully in the following series of articles I can help ease the burden by providing a base knowledge that you can apply to the sim to achieve the car balance that will provide you with the best results. Hope you will enjoy Sim Racing Setup Guide.

Since the release of rFactor many of us did a lot of online racing with it. The charm of racing human people instead of AI however sometimes gets overshadowed by differing interpretations of driving etiquette and limitations of the sim we drive. Some golden rules of racing which are set in real-life racing apply to online sim racing as well. In this article we’ll recommend driver behavior in an effort to let us all enjoy online racing. We’ll also pinpoint to certain limitations of online sim racing and of rFactor in particular. It might be a long read, but please do read it as we will benefit all from it

Race Tyre

Racing Tyre

We continue the article Sim Racing Setup Guide with The Racing Tire.

All the time we spend developing mechanical and aerodynamic grip is directed at developing more traction from the tire. This makes the tires a logical place in which to start a discussion on car setup. The tire is the only part of the car that the track “sees” and thus makes it the most important part of a cars handling.

WSC promises to be the most realistic sim ever produced and getting the best from our tires over a qualifying lap and over the full length of an endurance race will be crucial. Modern day racing tires produce their best grip when operated in the 200 – 225 degree F temperature range. Anything less is leaving grip and thus lap time on the table and anything more overheats the tires. When the tires overheat two conditions can and will occur.

The first one is that the tire will become “greasy” and grip will be severely compromised. You will notice this rather easily. A car that was previously well balanced will pick up a sever understeer or oversteer condition based on which tires are getting hot. You can help this problem if it occurs in a race by reducing your pace for a couple of laps till you feel the tires come back to you again.

The second condition and the one you can’t help is the tires may start to blister. When this happens chunks of the rubber will literally fly off the tire and cause the tire to explode sending your car flying off the road. (Remember Mansell at Adelaide in 1986?)

So you ask how do we get and keep the tires in their operational temperature range. Testing, testing and more testing. :o). There are a few false hoods from GPL that we need to unlearn in order to get successful performance from our tires.

The first of those is trying to get even temperatures across the entire tire. This is incorrect. Optimal performance is gained when the inside of the tire runs at 15-20 degrees F from the outside with the middle of the tire falling in between the two. This temperature range is caused from the fact that we always run negative camber on the tires (except for ovals where the inside wheels will have positive camber).

The second falsehood is the practice of running highly increased tire pressures in order to get faster straight line speed and thus lap time in GPL. While in a sim where tires are correctly modelled you might have faster top speed the negatives would be severe. With modern day tires and increase of 1 psi will raise the dynamic spring rate of the car by apx 50 lbs. thus changing the cars handling balance dramatically.

The other side effect will be highly increased temperatures in the center of the tire which will cause blistering. So you ask what will be the correct pressure to run the tires at? Only testing will tell.

So now we will have done are testing and found the correct pressures and temperatures that the tires like to be run at. We are all finished then correct? Wrong. WSC will model tire wear. A feature that is absent in GPL. We will all be forced to learn how to drive the cars so as not to abuse the tires. Different setups will be required for qualifying, racing, and most importantly endurance racing. To me this is going to be the most enjoyable part of WSC. No more “hot lapping” all thru a race. We will have to learn patience and be able to keep up a fast pace with minimal effort exerted on the car and tires. Remember all that smoke from our tires from lock ups entering turns in GPL (I am a prime offender on this one J)? That will cause massive damage to the tires in WSC. Imagine running a 3 hour stint in a SRM 24hrs of Lemans (hint to Eric) after flat spotting your ft. tires on the first lap out of the pits. No fun at all.

We will also need to develop a race setup that will keep the tires in that 200 – 225 degree F sweet spot for long periods of time. That will require setups with more chassis roll to absorb the forces before they are placed upon the tires. More testing, testing, and testing. Woohoo this is going to be fun!

Well I’ll stop here for now but after release I’ll come back and update with some of the actual numbers and settings that I have found to work. I’ll be back soon with the next instalment of setup info that will hopefully be of interest and benefit to all.

Good racing!



We continues the article Sim Racing Setup Guide with Alignments

For  the second installment in my articles about race car handling and setups I have chosen to discuss alignments. We are going to talk about camber, caster, toe, and bump steer. The thing to remember as in all aspects of setting up a car is that there are no absolute right or wrong ways of doing it. Looking at the setup page for WSC it seems that we will be able to make a lot of adjustments in these areas in order to find the grip and comfort level we are looking for. Remember we want the inside of the tire hotter than the outside. If we go too far the car will tell let us know. If your front camber is too much negative you’ll have reduced braking ability and if the rear is too much negative you won’t be able to put the power down properly.

The caster angle has direct effect on how stable the car is and also on steering sensitivity. We are always looking to have an angle in which the front wheels lean back on their axis. The reason I hesitate to assign this either a positive or negative value is the fact the depending on where you are in the world backward tilt gets described as either positive or negative. Amazing. When setting up modern day Formula or Prototype chassis a caster angle of 4 degrees rearward tilt is a good starting place. If the caster angle is too small the chassis will be oversensitive to your steering inputs. If the angle is too large the steering will be heavy and too much road shock gets transmitted thru the steering wheel. I guess this will be a good test of our force feedback wheels. The one thing that we would never want in road racing is to have the caster set uneven. If you want uneven Caster angles go buy NASCAR 4

Camber is the next area that I would head to when doing an alignment. Camber is the leaning of the tire top in or out. If the tire is leaning outwards at the top you have positive camber. If the tire is leaning in at the top you have negative camber. Now despite what you may have seen on some GPL “hot lap” setups on a road race car we would never run positive camber. On ovals this is done to the inside wheels but never on a road course. Running positive camber at the front will cause the car to have understeer at entry and on the rear it will give you oversteer at the exit. These are not conditions you want to have in a race car. Positive camber will also over heat the outer edges of your tires and cause accelerated wear.

So now that we have established that we always want to have negative camber the big question is, how much to run? Ha-ha good question. There will be many variables here. Radial tires like used on most modern cars can handle much greater camber angles.

4 degrees of camber is not at all uncommon. Older bias ply tires can run as little as 1/4 degree negative camber or less. So how do we figure it out? How else, take to the track and let’s go testing. Basically you want to look for a setting that gives you the temperature spread you are looking for across the tires, 15 -20 degrees. Remember we want the inside of the tire hotter than the outside. If we go too far the car will tell let us know. If your front camber is too much negative you’ll have reduced braking ability and if the rear is too much negative you won’t be able to put the power down properly.

The last two areas toe and bump steer are related. I will discuss toe first. Toe angle is pointing the front of the tires either in or out. If the tires point out you have negative toe and if they point in you have positive toe. As a general rule of thumb we want to have negative toe at the front and positive toe at the rear. The amounts vary vastly based on the type of car and suspension and also on the driver. I generally set my formula cars up with a total front toe (combined total of both wheels) of 1/16 inch negative. I set the rear at the same amount but make it 1/16 positive. A heavier sedan such as the GT cars in WSC would use larger values due to their increased suspension travel. By the way there is nothing wrong with running positive toe at the front of the car. I know many drivers who set their cars up this way it just isn’t my cup of tea.

So what do we look for? Well take to the track and do some laps feeling the car out. Does your car feel rather dirty over the track bumps that WSC will have modelled or does it refuse to give you a good crisp turn in initially? Get rid of that positive front toe you are running. :o) Told you it wasn’t my cup of tea {g} If under braking you feel the car wants to wander a bit try a little less negative front toe. If your car wanders about in a straight line on a smooth surface or snaps into oversteer when cornering check to make sure you haven’t accidentally selected negative toe in the rear. This will never work. Yeah I know, this is the way I made my F2 cars seriously fast in GPL but trust me you won’t want it. If you set your rear toe too much positive it will take “the feel” away from the back of the car. The other thing to keep in mind is that the greater the values you set for toe, front and rear, the more tire scrub you are inducing. This will make the car slower in a straight line. This is something that is missing from GPL.

The last item in a proper alignment is setting the bump steer. What this is the change in toe both front and rear as the suspension travels thru its usable range. I don’t really know if it is going to be modelled or not but its good info to have anyway. I usually try to keep the deviations down to .001 or so thru the entire travel of the suspension. At the front it would toe out an extra .001 at full travel in bump and at rear it would toe in an extra .001 under full bump. If you are in the mood to be clever you can fix minor handling issues with bump steer.

Say if your car is amazing everywhere but you want just a hint better initial turn in what would you do? You can’t change springs, dampers, roll without effecting the balance elsewhere. Well you can add just a bit of bump steer to the front say .0015 or .002 so that the wheels toe out just a bit more under braking. This can give you a little better turn in without hurting anything else. At the rear the big issue is too make sure that when the rear of the car is in full droop, i.e. under heavy braking you don’t have the wheels going into negative toe. If that happens you will get a lovely panoramic view of the scenery as you are spinning.

The big thing to keep in mind when dealing with alignments is there is no magic involved. A proper alignment just gives you a good stable base chassis with which to begin you’re tuning with. If you have major handling problem, the alignment isn’t the place to try and fix it. Verify that you haven’t stepped into one of the trouble areas that I outlined above then head to other parts of the chassis to find the cure.



We continues the article Sim Racing Setup Guide with the Dampers

It is now time to talk about the magical world of dampers. In the world of racing today there is no faster evolving item in the setup sheets. This is meant to be just an overview on damper settings and not chapter and verse. I think someone could write an entire book on nothing else but dampers and how to get the most out of them. What the dampers do is to dampen the oscillations of the springs. They also will determine the rate at which the weight will be transferred across the chassis. In other words they will have a direct effect on how fast or slow the chassis rolls. It takes many miles of testing in order to “dial in” the dampers. Nowadays we have adjustable dampers that allow us to tune for the exact handling package that we are looking for.

There are numerous different adjustments to valving and pistons that we could make but for now let’s just concern ourselves with the external adjustments of bump and rebound.

First we will talk about the bump adjustments. Bump is when the damper is compressed. This can be either from going over road imperfections or when the weight is being transferred onto the dampers from chassis roll. I tend to concern myself mostly with how the car drives over the road surface when adjusting my bump. You pay attention to the important areas of the track the most such as acceleration and braking zones and the most critical areas of the corners. So let’s head to the track and do some testing.

First thing we will want to do is set the rebound control to its softest setting. Rebound control is not what we are after here. Also set the bump to its softest point and let’s go drive a bit. What we are looking for is a good baseline setting. Slowly increase the bump 1adjustment at a time until the ride becomes overly harsh and you start losing traction in the critical areas outlined above. It will take more than just a few laps to come up with a front and rears setting you are comfortable with. Remember at this stage we just are looking for a base setting. We will fine tune for handling a bit later.

Ok, now that we have a base Bump setting lets tackle the rebound side of the shock. Rebound is anytime the shock is being extended. It is the way we tune the amount of roll a chassis has. Take to the track and slowly increase the rebound till you get rid of the “luxury car” soft feeling. With current generation dampers we are actually able to fine tune the rebound so well that anti-roll bars; particularly at the rear, are no longer necessary. OK so now you have a car that has the base feel that you like but it still isn’t as fast as you would like. Ha-ha now the real fun begins.

Back to the track we go again. I guess you have begun to figure out that making a race car handle to your liking is going to take some serious time and testing. Just means more WSC {g} Anyway back to the track and let’s get it dialed in. Let’s start with corner entry. Does your car want to understeer during initial turn in? There a couple of things to try. Possibly the front roll resistance is too high. Try and soften front rebound a notch or two. It is also possible that your front bump settings are too soft. If the bump is too soft it will allow the car to fall over on the outer front tire causing a bad understeer. Does your car have a oversteer condition on entry? If it does look elsewhere for the cure. Other than making sure your rear rebound isn’t so stiff that you have way to much roll resistance then dampers aren’t the solution to the problem.

Ok now let’s move to the fun part of the corner, the exit. Getting a great exit out of corners is a must to fast lap times and making passes. The key is to be able to put the power without wheel spin and without having to lift off the throttle. So you say you are losing traction at exits? Try stiffening the rear bump. A little stiffer bump will help to plant the rear of the car and help the tires get traction. You could also try a little less rebound to add a bit off roll to the rear of the chassis.

So what if you have exit understeer? If you have exit understeer you are in trouble. Exit understeer will kill tires and lap times. Dampers generally aren’t the answer. If it is a minor understeer you can try to stiffen the front rebound to slow the weight transfer to the rear down and keep the weight on the front as long as possible.

It is very important not to jump to conclusions here. Don’t be fooled. It may be the car has been understeering all thru the corner and is just getting worse at exit. If that’s the case try some of the steps above.

I think it is important to point out that the dampers are adjusted off their baseline when looking for the last 10-20 % of performance. If you are way off the dampers aren’t the biggest issue. Trying springs, ride heights and aero loads are the first things to check out. Once you are looking for those last bits don’t be afraid to try things. In WSC and other Sims where ambient temperature changes are modelled getting a handle on the dampers will be very important. As the grip level changes on the track constant adjustments will need to be made. There is no right or wrong ways to set the dampers. It is all down to driver preference and feel.

Well I have tried to relay a base knowledge of the dampers what to look for and what to try. It is based on a constant radius turn. Happily there are many different types of corners which test are abilities. I prefer to do my tuning with rebound. It’s all about controlling weight transfer. The range of adjustments on modern dampers is unreal. You can have upwards of 52 different external adjustments and near as many internal combinations to choose from.

I cannot stress enough the need to go to the track pick your favorite chassis and run laps. It takes practice in order to find the right combination for you. This is a very tough step item to get a feel for. If anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to ask questions in either VROC or in the WSC forum. I will do my best to answer them.



We continues the article Sim Racing Setup Guide with Rain Setup

Now we are going to talk about one of my favorite topics, rain. There is nothing in life more fun than rain racing. Of course if your car is a diabolically handling nightmare you might not share my sentiments. There are a few things to keep in mind as far as driving goes that will make your life much easier. A properly setup car can accelerate fairly well in the rain, it can brake fairly well, and it can corner fairly well. What it cannot do is any of the three at the same time. You need to be smooth with all applications of throttle, brake, and steering. Keep a positive attitude and have fun with it. Now let’s get to the car.

Well we come to our first WSC race and our crafty league administrator has decided it needs to be in the rain {g}. That super handling car you had that set a World Record in qualifying is now in need of some major changes. The first thing we are going to change is the alignment. Well of course that is after we switch to the rain tires. You will need to increase your static ride height. The reason being is that as the rain forms a layer on the track and puddles build up the chassis itself will begin to hydroplane. In other words the bottom of the chassis will actually surf along the water and lift the tires off the ground. Not really what you want to have happen when approaching 240 MPH on the Mulsanne straight. There is no exact amount to raise the car. It simply takes a few laps of testing in the conditions to get a proper height set.

Next we go to the cambers and toes. We will need an increase in both. A touch extra negative camber on the tires will be in order. A little extra camber makes it easier for the tires to slice through the water on the track. Those big fat wide tires that are so great for grip in the dry are a major liability in the wet. The wider the tire the more apt it is to hydroplane. Increasing the negative camber is an effective method to combat this problem. Even though rain compounds are fairly soft building tire temperature up can still be rough to do. Increasing the amount of positive toe on the rear of the car can be helpful in trying to get the rubber up to temperature.

Ok now we have the basic alignment and ride height set and is almost ready to start tuning some of the more major areas of the car. There is one last basic item that needs attention. You will need to run much more rear brake bias in the rain than you run in the dry. In the dry there is major weight transfer to the front of the car under heavy braking. That’s the reason for running brake bias that is greater in the front then in the rear. The front tires have more grip because of the transfer so that’s where the braking emphasis needs to be. In the rain this won’t happen. We can’t brake quite as hard and thus less weight will be transferred to the front. Therefore we need to turn the brake bias back towards the rear of the car. The amount is based on driver preference of course but it can be a sizeable amount.

Let’s move on and talk about spring rates for the rain. The nice stiff springs we were using for our dry setup will need to be softened up. The reason for this is that we will be generating less cornering force in the rain. We were running stiff springs in the dry to hold the chassis up under aerodynamic loads but as we are going slower in the rain the loads will be much less. Softer springs will make the car more forgiving and help generate more mechanical grip. Basically you want to be as soft as possible. You are looking for that happy medium that keeps the car from bottoming out without having to increase the ride height any more than necessary. The big thing to remember is to soften the front and rear springs an equal percentage. That way you will keep that same lovely balance you had in the dry.

Keeping the same line of thinking we are going to reduce the rate on our anti-roll bars as well. Making the bars sifter will allow the car to have more roll when cornering and again give more grip in the wet. The big question here is whether we are going to make them full soft or just go ahead and disconnect them all together. For me the deciding factor is whether or not we have the ability to adjust the bars from the cockpit or not. If they are cockpit adjustable I would recommend leaving them attached so you have some options to balance the chassis out on the fly. Many times while racing in the rain I have found myself stiffening either the front or the rear anti-roll bar in an attempt to balance the chassis. If they had been disconnected I wouldn’t have had that option. However if they aren’t adjustable from inside the car it may be best just to unhook them all together. It does give a little extra roll and makes the car a bit easier to control.

Our dampers will also need to be adjusted. The first thing you do is to soften the rebound just as much as you can. The softer you can make the rebound the easier the car will be to handle. It will make the car a rolley polley mess but that is exactly what you want in the rain :o). You won’t believe how much easier it makes things until you give it a try. How much to reduce the bump is debatable. If you are driving a car that has 2 bump adjustments (one for high speed shaft movement and 1 for low speed shaft movement) Note from Editor: Hint to Chris West? Then you would make the low speed as soft as possible while not touching the high speed. Leaving the high speed adjustment alone will help
hold the car up under aero loads and aide in what downforce we are able to generate. If the car has only a single bump adjustment then we need to compromise. It’s exactly what makes it great. I love it :o)

Racing is nothing but a big compromise anyway so this should be nothing new. Try softening the bump a few notches and see how it feels.

What we have left to deal with is the wings if we have them. Add as much as you can. The more wing the better. Add the biggest wing and the most angle that the chassis can handle. This will aid you in two areas. First the obvious is that it will help build some of that lost cornering force back up. Second it will fight against the dreaded hydroplaning. Sure we will be going a bit slower in a straight line but don’t worry about it. Trust me, rain races aren’t won on straight line speed.

So there you have it. A basic guide to setting up your chassis to handle those wet races that will surely be heading our way. Remember that racing in the wet is not any more dangerous than the dry. The dangerous are always present and they are the same in both conditions. What wet weather racing is much more difficult? And that difficulty is exactly what makes it great. I love it :o)

WSC setup guides series


END NOTES for article Sim Racing Setup Guide 
Description of all Kevin’s tweaks

The first part:

We’re quite happy to present you one of a long series of article for setting up the cars with WSC in mind. I’ve asked Kevin if he wanted to share his experience with us, and he happily accepted, so here goes, the first one featuring one fundamental aspect of car racing, that is the TYRES

The second part:

“For the second installment in my articles about race car handling and setups I have chosen to discuss alignments. We are going to talk about camber, caster, toe, and bump steer…”

The third part:

“My latest installment is about dampers. To be honest it is a very difficult situation to discuss because there are no real cut and dry answers.” “I sublet out to a damper specialist who keeps all my dampers up to current specs. It is such a fast moving area of development it is near impossible to keep up with. I make all the tuning changes but he acts as a safety net to bounce ideas off of.” This third articles of a long series of setup guide made by Kevin, shows the general rules on how to tune dampers. Take a look HERE we will probably edit some of these guides at a later time as pertaining questions comes in.

The fourth part:

Kevin is really on the roll now 🙂 this time he speaks about the modification you’ll need to bring to your car for wet racing condition. This article is a pure joy to read, he just changed my personal way at seeing some aspect of car setups for this kind of race condition.



Written by Kevin Firlein

(Edited by Flash @ 2019-12-26)

Sim Racing @ Swedish Sim Racers

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