I have always had a keen interest in cars and especially in making them faster and better handling. My main line of interest has been in engines but I have always wanted to get a deeper understanding of car setup. Searching online the one book that keeps popping up is Race Car Vehicle Dynamics by Milliken. Having now gotten myself hold of a copy I thought it might be interesting both for myself and potentially others to read notes on individual chapters as I read along.

As a word of caution I also have some books on motorcycle dynamics and they ended up being too theoretical and focusing on formulas and calculations instead of hands-on way to improve handling. If I get to chapters where they are too heavy on formulas and calculations I may skip them.

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There is of course also the option of me losing interest along the way, but then at least I will have had some notes for whatever which way I have reached at that point.

But enough rambling – let’s start with chapter 1.

Chapter 1

Generally the chapter explains how to think about race cars traversing a course.

Highest average speed equals fastest car.

The chapter introduces acceleration and deceleration and explains how all forces on a race car can be explained using those terms. Turning forces are explained by lateral acceleration.

The chapter also introduces some calculations which in my view only confuses. I can understand the general concept and what they are trying to say, but I cannot say that I fully understand the calculations or what I would need them for.

More to say; do not be dissuaded if you do not understand them either. I will continue with the book without trying to understand them thoroughly.

Chapter 1 also explains an important point about vehicle dynamics in relation to race cars.

The vehicle does not work in isolation.

The end goal is not to have the vehicle that has the highest acceleration, deceleration or lateral load. It is to have a vehicle that enables the driver to operate at or near these limits repeatedly. In other words; a twitchy hard-to-control vehicle that can generate high amounts of grip and acceleration may win half the races and crash out the other half. Whereas a slightly slower or less grippy, but less twitchy vehicle may produce consistent top 3 finishes – which in the end wins the championship.

As with everything else: it’s a balance.