Car Alignment, A Critical Factor In Autocross

Without getting into specific details, I’ve started to learn firsthand knowledge how alignment can affect the handling of your car on the street – the picture below is the only hint I’ll give…

Karlino on the alignment rack at Firestone...

So far, my personal experience is with the on-street driving experience.  But proper alignment is as important, if not more so, in the competitive racing environment.

Tires, too, have a significant influence.  For example, you may have heard of stagger.  This is effective in high speed, oval type racing such as that found in IndyCar & NASCAR.   Stagger is not strictly a part of alignment, but it does have a bearing on the car’s handling.  Here’s a NASCAR definition:

It refers to the difference in tire circumference between the left- and right-side tires on the vehicle. Typically, the left-side tires would be a smaller circumference than the right-side tires to “help” the vehicle make left-hand turns.

But, don’t try any significant right hand times with this kind of set up.  The NASCAR tracks that don’t use stagger are the awesome road courses of Watkins Glen & Infineon Speedway (nee Sears Point).  These are the only 2 NASCAR races I would make a point to watch!

Anyway, back to alignment….

In autocross terms – specifically in Miatas (since that what I drive daily & autocross monthly), there are a variety of alignment settings that go beyond the factory settings.  These concern the front & rear settings for toe, camber & caster.  These definitions help! They even have specific named specifications:

  • Miq Spec
  • Icehawk Spec
  • & even Lanny Spec

For many more specific Miata alignment details you can explore the annals of Miata.net knowledge.  Of course, you can Google search your own specific marque.  I like this link best as a starting point!  It goes from the general to very detailed, with good pictures & shop manual diagrams…

Miata chassis & suspension - RHD version

Racing Ready is learning about car suspension, both geometry & alignment, out of necessity & sharing my beginning newfound knowledge for your benefit.

Dan

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