Q: “I have a new-to-me BMW M2C as a track car and am trying to get the suspension dialed in. I am running 3-way MCS shocks, and I am using the settings that Bimmerworld recommends. Also using spring rates of 900/800 F/R based on tire wear, almost no rear anti-roll bar and a good deal of bar in the front. My BIG problem is that I am just lacking confidence in the car. I am coming from a Porsche GT3 with a full Porsche Motorsports suspension – some RSR, some Grand-AM, some Cup. That car was 10-15 seconds faster than the BMW. Prior to that I had a Subaru STi with a good suspension. That car was great, I could do anything and just not be surprised. The BMW is just not making me confident. I have done ~18 days this year in the BMW, and some last year. I guess if I needed to characterize the car’s behavior, I would say it is a bit ‘numb,’ and not ‘tight’. My question is: What contributes to confidence in a car?”
A: What contributes to confidence in a car? Hmmm… that’s a big topic! Let me see if I can give you a few thoughts here.
Simply, the car doing what you expect it to do. That’s what contributes to confidence. If you brake, turn, or apply the throttle, and your car does something that you didn’t expect – or it didn’t do as much of what you expected – you don’t trust it, and lack confidence in it.
This is why it’s more important for your car to be balanced than it is to even have more grip or performance. In other words, if you make a change to your car’s setup, and it gains, let’s say, more front grip, then it’s going to oversteer now. Even though it has more grip, it’s not as well balanced. What you expect is balance, to do what you want, and that’s what gives you confidence. And that’s why adding more grip doesn’t always lead to faster lap times – because the car is doing things you’re not expecting, or don’t want.
I doubt your BMW does anything “evil,” though. I doubt it’s doing too much of what you’re not expecting, as I know it’s a very good car. It is a heavier car, though, so it may be that you’re expecting it to be as responsive as your GT3 or STi. You may expect to be able to flick it from one direction to another, but because the very nature of the car is that it’s heavier, it takes a tiny bit longer to respond to your inputs. And that leads to less trust or confidence in it. Maybe.
How can you develop more confidence in your car? Sure, more seat time is going to lead to you being able to predict what it’s going to do, and that’ll help. But, as you know, seat time is expensive, so anything you can do to speed up this process is a good thing, right?
First, I’d stay away from making many – or any – changes to your car’s suspension or setup. You want consistency from your car.
Then, I would use the “driving drill” I call Sensory Input Sessions. In order to not just repeat myself, go to the How can I get better at sensing my car’s limits? post.
Finally, I recommend experimenting in a smart way. By that, I mean deliberately making the car do things that you would normally not want it to do, such as entering a corner a little too fast, trail braking longer into a corner, applying the throttle sooner than ever, and even be a little abrupt with your steering. I want to emphasize that I said to be smart about this, and not go crazy, throwing your car off the track! In fact, pick the safest corners to do this in. The objective is to over-drive your car, and learn what it’s going to do in response. You may find out that it’s not going to do anything terrible, and even that it has more performance in it than you currently think.
NOTE: If you don’t want to wait for me to answer your question(s) here, you can always use my new SpeedSecrets.ai by signing up at SpeedSecrets.ai. The real beauty of using this app is that you can get out of your car after a session on track, and immediately ask it questions and get your answers, as well as what you should work on for the next on-track session. Since it’s “trained” only with my content, it really is like having me with you at the track.