There’s always multiple ways to skin a cat and there’s definitely a place for ‘tuners’ I suppose, but I’ve personally learned most of my worthwhile tuning knowledge by analyzing problems and solutions for myself. The longer I’ve done this the less I trust the input/advice of others, particularly if it’s coming from anyone performing below a national level. Also, unless you’re lap times are right at the track record for your class, I would think that tuning gains could be many tenths. (the other huge variable in comparing your lap times to record times, also being freshness of equipment)
More than anything, always make sure that you’re changing just one thing on the kart at at time, and also be sure in many cases to try the inverse change in order to sanity check your hypothesis/results; e.g., if you’re changing the front track width by making it narrower, give making it wider a shot, too. At a minimum you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how front track width affects things, and not infrequently you may find that whatever your thought is actually 180 degrees backwards.
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of, as you say, “drive what I am given and adjust my driving to the vehicle”.
Usually I try to establish some baseline for what my driver needs based on learned experience from working with them. So you build a connection and language together, so when the driver says X, I immediately know what that means and what I can change to make the kart work the way they want. Often, you aren’t given the luxury of working with a driver one-on-one for an extended period to get to know their lexicon of handling verbiage, or to learn the lenses they run their communication through and how to translate that to something you understand. In these cases, the main question I ask is “what do you need the kart to do to make you go faster?”
That doesn’t always yield a direct call to action, but it usually progresses the conversation. For example, the driver might respond “I need it to turn in better”, to which I might say “okay good, we can do that, but we might make to oversteer if we add front grip”. Then we can discuss more in-depth if the kart has enough rear or front grip and how it will react to our changes. The worst is when you say “what do you need” and the driver says “I don’t know, it feels good”, but you’re .3 off… Which happens often!
In specific reference to sim racing, I have noticed that KartKraft’s tuning feels pretty muted compared to real life, and I can’t feel things like I do in a real kart. To this end, I basically end up push one adjustment to it’s limit until it makes the kart unruly, then back it down one notch. For example, when I’ve played with setup on KK, I’ve just widened the front or added caster a bit at a time until the oversteer became too much. Because we all want more and more grip generally, but it comes at a cost at some point. So in KK I just add grip to each end until it starts to produce a handling issue and then back it down one notch.
And I’ll agree with Caleb in the sentiment that your setup is almost never going to be “perfect” in reality. In sim racing it’s a bit different, but in a real kart, track conditions are changing constantly and you WILL have to adapt your driving to whatever hand you’re dealt. As I often tell my drivers, I can make the kart better based on your feedback, but once it’s on the track, I can’t do anything, it’s up to you to adjust it then.
Honestly, I think it’s just as much about developing a relationship with your mechanic or tuner, as it is about what you say. Developing that relationship really helps to translate some of the context over time.
It’s important that you try to provide detail about what you feel the kart is doing. Then ask your tuner/mechanic what they see the kart doing.
When @Ty_Schlorer and I work together, we try to balance out if the adjustments we’re making the kart are intended for large scale change vs small.
Sometimes it’s just better to change your driving style to adapt to one corner of the course that the kart isn’t working well, if it’s working great everywhere else. Ty will ask me often if “gaining in X place, is worth losing in Y”, which helps us start to figure out the direction to go.
I have found this to be true down to even just gearing. It influences directly how the track is driven. Turns change, not so much in line but in tempo, and you have to rework the turn slightly.
So therein lies the rub. I like my kart (or at least am indifferent to its setup). Its not actively bad. It is manageable and “good”. I cannot articulate deficiencies largely because I have no idea of what is “good”. I have grip, I can load the hell out of the kart etc.
I guess what you (and TJ) are saying is its a back and forth. I cannot simply hire a tuner to “observe” and consult and say, “Hmm, lets try changing caster pills to X to see if we can improve your turn into 5”.
Its a conversation that I dont have the language for (yet).
KK simulates only the forces through the center column. There is zero sense of the back end during lock-up for example. It gets fuller if you expand the FFB via other ways. I have a sense of chassis flex as well as an ability to feel the tires gripping the track (and the opposite). Its not to the same extent as IRL, nowhere close, but its a lot more informative than wheel only. (Simhub and shakers).
I like your idea of taking the tuning steps to the extreme, and scaling it back to where it no longer feels “off”. I think I’ll try that, thanks.
Now to find a “resource” that tells me what things do.
On the contrary, you can definitely do this. Lots of drivers and tuners only work together for a weekend here and there and never develop that long-term bond to really get inside a driver’s head.
If a tuner is good, they’ll be able to watch your footage or watch you on-track and figure out what your kart needs with a little general feedback from the driver. I would 80% of the tuner/driver combos you see at the track aren’t lifelong buds who have a longstanding bond.
For me there would have to be a specific complaint for me to chase setup, otherwise I’m driving what I have until there is a complaint and simply assuming any gains to be made are up to driving better. This would be true even/especially if my times are below a benchmark that I’m looking to be at.
One thing that can help identify sections of either outright slowness or inconsistency (an often overlooked issue, which also can sometimes be helped/hindered by setup) would be to take a long look at your laps in Race Studio (a Mychron app). For instance if you start looking at max lateral Gs for your laps it may become really apparent that you have more traction available to you in certain corners (meaning a driving change is in order), or conversely that you’re out of traction which could give your something to chase with your setup possibly. (this is just one very simple example, there’s a ton of other helpful ways to look at data in Race Studio which can help identify things to optimize)
Caleb, thanks for that thought. Sadly, we don’t have the ability to pull data (yet) and go to RS3 and study it. However, I did load up Asetto Corsa last night and unbelievably they have effectively built a version of that into the game so you don’t even need to pull data off the virtual mychron. Sim is pretty cool. But I’m a kart guy.
We used to go to the track on practice days and just go from one extreme to the other on adjustments, like I mentioned before. I didn’t really know how a kart was “supposed” to feel, or what a “loose” or “tight” kart felt like, so we would set the kart up to be really loose or tight (things like going max track width on either end or dumping all the caster in or taking it all out) on purpose and then just run quick back-to-back sessions to feel what each change felt like and how the kart responded.
It helped provide a lexicon of handling issues for me, so when I felt the kart reacting on race day, I could think back to the practice sessions and go “oh yeah, that’s how it felt when the kart was set up loose”.
Sometimes I can just intuitively feel that the kart is too soft or too stiff, and I can’t verbalize or explain why I feel that. Like I just have a sense that the the axle needs to be stiffer, but there isn’t a clear handling imbalance I’m feeling. I think that partly comes from those practice exercises, learning how the kart should “feel”.
I had a bit of a breakthrough here with your help.
I did what you said and took things to the extreme. I began by increasing caster to the max. I drove this till I got a sense of how it changed how I needed to drive. The I took all the caster out. Drove that.
Neither of these changes dramatically affected the kart. So then I maxxed and then took out all scrub radius.
What I found as I added front end grip was that my line through chicane was getting faster. I was able to hold a tighter exit. But as I maxxed the scrub radius and caster, the kart became unpleasant (but fast) to drive. I could not feel the kart get up on its toes, it was so locked down.
I then left scrub radius maxxed and dropped caster down to 13, and the kart became lovely. Something changed in the handling where the kart now had better high speed balance, but was also rotatable and light.
Anyways, S2 now became a whole new thing. The tuning change took me down to 10.120 and I was consistently 10.1-10.2. Wow!
But, I lost speed in S1 and S3. I was a bit off there, and somewhat concerned. The kart felt right though, and I suspected it was a matter of letting the new tune dictate a new approach. So, I gave it some time and ran laps.
S1 was the first to come together. I was able to bring the tune down to 9.73 which is right where I need to be.
S3 took a long time, but I finally got confirmation that I can go low in the important bit, and stomped a 15.63 on the way to a new low of 35.792.
This makes my new optimal 9.73 + 10.120 + 15.63 or 35.48. That is fast.
Thanks for your help. This was very useful and I appreciate you sharing your wisdom.
This rings true to me. I can’t quite explain it, but I “felt” how the changes made me need to drive.
I dunno if its the tune or its me but this is working… I just ran 50 or so laps and, unlike in the past, I went straight to 35.9-36.1.I just ran back to back sub 36 laps, which has never happened before. The fast laps used to be rare and would take a long time to show up.
In addition, there were no bad laps. The kart feels like I can do whatever I want. It’s like rotating a matchbox car around an imaginary turn, almost. I feel like I can place it. I just bailed out of a 9.7, 10.2 first two sectors lap. I think global 1 is now realistic.
This is awesome to hear about. Thanks for keeping us in the loop on your progress!
I think the other thing that will be helpful is going back to the track during different track conditions, and learning how to tune the kart to the track.
Sometimes the track isn’t capable of producing ultimate laptime, but it’s still important to get the most that you can pull out of the track. That might take a different approach to the setup, your driving or both.