How To Get The Most Out Of Testing

Posted on March 28, 2015

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How To Get The Most Out Of Testing

By: Rob Oakman

Testing is a part of racing many of us love and some loath. Regardless of how much fun you have doing it you have a real goal to accomplish. You need to get faster. Your competition is out there trying to beat you so you need to stay at least one step ahead whenever possible. But there is so much to try it can seem overwhelming. So how do you get the most out of your test days without wasting time?

Hinchcliffe testing an Indy Lights car with Andretti Autosport at IMS 2015 (courtesy of Racer Magazine)

Hinchcliffe testing an Indy Lights car with Andretti Autosport at IMS 2015
(courtesy of Racer Magazine)

1: Change One Thing at a Time

When you are testing, you are trying to see what changes work and which ones don’t. If you are changing lines on track as well as parts and set-up, you will never know what is doing what.

For example, when you are testing racing lines on track, leave the chassis alone. The only changes you should make are ones that give you a reasonable set-up. If you suspect that you could find a better line if your chassis was tighter or looser, then you can start playing around, but only if you really need to.

Only after you are reasonably comfortable with individual changes can you start changing things in combination, otherwise you will never know for sure what worked and what didn’t.

2: Be Consistent

Use the same lines lap after lap with the same pace and the same intensity for each change. How do you know if unhooking the torsion bar worked if you are giving it half the effort you did with it on?

Nissan LMP1 testing it's strengths at Sebring (courtesy of Nissan Motorsports)

Nissan LMP1 testing it’s strengths at Sebring
(courtesy of Nissan Motorsports)

 

Make sure to check the key nuts and bolts on the chassis as well as any other suspension and aero settings on a regular basis throughout the test. Vibration is a big problem in racing and things can move of their own accord. One loose bolt can ruin and entire test session. Trust me.

Weather conditions throughout the test must be monitored as well. Your machine will work differently in the cool damp morning, as it will in the heat of the day, and again after the sun goes down. Try to schedule your testing so that you get as many changes done as possible during each part of the testing day.

3: Be Efficient

You want to only test each part, line, or set-up as long as needed then move on to the next change. Often you need only 3 to 5 full laps to properly assess a change. Get your tires up to temp, do a few consistent flying laps and then come in. Only use more time if you need it (such as testing for long runs, the endurance of a part, time drop-off, fuel efficiency, etc.).

4: Take Notes

How can you expect to remember what did what didn’t work if you don’t write it down? There are tons of different ways to layout a testing log sheet and there are templates scattered around online including apps. The key info you’ll need depends entirely on what your machine is, but here are a few to watch for.

An example of a log sheet from a simple web search. This one is from ClubGTI.com

An example of a log sheet from a simple web search. This one is from ClubGTI.com

Weather: Air temp, wet or dry, wind speed and direction, cloudy or sunny, humidity, track temp.

Track Info: Track name, layout, temp, condition – Was there recent rain so the track is green? A recent race so there is rubber down? What type of machines raced before your test day? Because different tire compounds can create different track conditions, etc.

Chassis: Chassis weight, corner weights, chassis height, gearing, suspension settings (camber, caster, track width, toe in/out etc… if any), body type/settings (if any), aero settings (if any), steering settings (if any), seat position, etc.

Tires: Tire pressures (before and after each run), tire temp across surface (before and after each run), tire wear across surface, tire wear overall (how fast are they wearing), sidewall temp (before and after each run).

Engine: Engine name/number, fuel system (jetting, floats, pumps, amount of fuel on board etc.), ignition timing, computer program, internals (pistons, rods, crank, cams, springs, lifters, etc.), externals (accessories, water pump, alternator, oil system, etc.).

On Track: Lap times, best lap per session, best lap overall, slowest lap overall, most consistent session, biggest drop-off in time from first lap to last, biggest gain in time from first lap to last, fuel usage, tire condition (wear patterns), etc.

There are so many different variables you could test, it’s impossible to list them all. The important thing to remember is to take the ones that apply to you and the kind of results you’re looking for, and make sure you’re tracking them.

Remember to have fun out there and thanks for reading.
Subscribe for new articles and follow on twitter at @oakmanonracing. If you have any questions or comments about this topic, or anything else, feel free to ask.

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Posted in: How to Race