Motorsport Engineering – Camber

OK, so we all know that I am a massive motor racing nut, and I just love anything to do with engineering of a race car and the technology behind it.

We’ll start off with ‘camber’. Camber on a race car refers to the angle at which the wheels are at. A front view of the car with no camber you would see the wheels standing straight up and not leaning at all. When the top of the wheel is leaning in towards the center of the car, this is negative camber and what race teams usually use, not often do you see a car with positive camber (top of the wheel leaning out), but this can work to some teams advantage. Racing teams usually run at negative margins and this helps with the stability and grip throughout a corner. Going around a corner will lean the car over (called body roll), and in turn letting the tyre actually have full contact with the road. See below the differences.

Above: the top is no camber, the middle is positive camber and the last one is negative camber. The black line represent the perpendicular angle.

Above: A race car going around a corner and you can see here the wheels that are on the ground and with all the body roll through the corner, is producing the tyre to have the complete surface area of it in contact with the road, creating much faster cornering speeds, as you have more grip.

One thing you have to be very careful with while modifying camber angles is, camber is considered a suspension change, and camber angles increase when the wheel is raised (when the car hits a bump or leaned on) and this is called bump travel. The varying camber angle is referred to as camber gain. What happens is, every inch that the wheel is raised (above the chassis line) you gain more camber. So if your default camber angle is -2.5°, and you push the wheel all the way to the bump stops, which is the most amount of bump travel you could get, you could potentially ‘gain’ about 5-8 extra degrees of camber. So you have to think about when the car is loaded up in the corner, how much bump travel is there and how much camber angle is actually on the car at that time?

Varying weather conditions will also affect the way in which your camber setup is working. For instance, on a nice sunny day you might decide to run about -2.0° on the front tyres. Whereas, in the rain, as the speeds will not be anywhere near the same as the dry, you might opt to run less camber angle, so you might take it back down to -1.5°. Then depending on weather, circuits, and other variables, comes tyre pressures, caster angles, toe angles and these are just some of the suspension options.

In the coming weeks, I will bring to you a series of engineering techniques used to make racing cars go faster, and what the professional race teams do to get that edge over their competitors. My next post will be tomorrow and will be about aerodynamics of a Formula One car.

If you would like to know something specific about setup or engineering on a race car, drop a comment in the FB box below and if I can, I’ll do a post on that!

Yours in camber,