Today I’ll be breaking down how I think about caster and camber changes from a driving perspective. I’m not an engineer and I’ve found in my career that understanding things from an engineer’s perspective can be a little confusing to new drivers.
So, let’s talk about these setup changes from a driver’s perspective!
When you remove caster, you end up losing a lot of initial bite and dig that you get entering into the center of the corner. It definitely slows the front end down and makes it feel lazier. One of the benefits to reducing caster is you do gain a lot of rear stability when you enter the corner. There's not much twitch to it, and the kart generally stays pretty stable entering the corner and exiting the corner.
So, if you ever feel like the kart is a bit twitchy or it's digging in too much in the center of the corner, taking out caster is something I've done on a bunch of different karts, and it has helped stabilize the kart in the rear and helped make the kart a little bit lazy. Sometimes a lazy kart isn't a bad thing when you're at longer tracks with high-speed corners, because the kart is more stable in the center of the corner.
When you add caster, you add a lot of grip. When you add caster, it gives the front tires a lot more initial bite, because they dig into the ground. Increasing caster gives you a lot more rear end hike out of the kart and you lose a bit of rear stability going through the corner. Even though it's a change to the front end, it affects the rear of the kart quite a bit.
Sometimes when I add caster to a kart, I feel like I've gained grip through the whole corner. That’s mainly because I've gotten the kart rotated more initially through the first half of the corner and I'm much straighter from the center off. Increasing caster not only helps entry into the corner, but it also can help get the kart rotated more so that you're straighter off corner and get a better drive off the corner, with less likelihood for the go-kart to step out or slide.
A simple rule of thumb is decreasing caster creates less initial turn in and less dig through the center of the corner. Increasing caster creates more initial turn and more dig in the center of the corner.
Most drivers can feel camber pretty easily. When you add positive camber, it always makes a kart more twitchy, initially, and it can improve the reaction time of the kart. For me, it always adds that extra bit of grip I need.
It's not a seriously big change, but it can affect the kart quite a bit, if for example, you put on new tires. It's something you'd feel pretty drastically, but not as much as if you were on an older set of tires. Obviously, if you keep adding positive camber, eventually you will begin losing front grip, although it would take quite a bit of positive camber to get that reaction.
Negative camber does the opposite. You will get a little less initial reaction from the kart as you enter the center of the corner. I do feel like negative camber adds a grip from the center off the corner. For me, it's because the kart is more stable getting into the corner and is a little bit less reactive. So I get a little bit more traction from the center off, but I know other drivers have a different take on that. For me, every time I add negative camber, I'll lose initial front bit and then I'll gain a little bit traction off the corner.
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I have an extensive motorsports background from karting (young age and present day) to winning F3 races and all the way up to GP2 (F2) and high downforce/power race cars. I have a resume and victories in Sports Cars as well as car and simulator development. I have been working the last 7 years as a data analyst, high performance driving coach, and on-track instructor. I focus on the fundamentals and can get down to the nitty gritty when need be. I won't be afraid to tell you what you're doing wrong to get on the right path! I love attention to detail and feedback from my drivers so the more questions, the better!