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Race Craft Basics: Traction Circle


Original article from 2001 by Suffian Yim

Before we even step in to traction, let’s take a look at what it actually is first. As you all should know, traction (or friction) comes by having two different surfaces going against each other. In the case of a car, that would be the tire having to go against the road.

To make it easier, we draw a simple circle and put in the forces acting on the car when we drive. Traction has two components which consists of the straight-line component and the lateral component as illustrated in this simple diagram. The vertical line depicts the friction associated with accelerating and braking whereas the horizontal line depicts the traction associated with left and right turning.

While driving, when we take a corner to the limit point of the car, soft or maybe familiar skidding sounds can be heard. This shows that the car is right at the end of the limit in the circle. If we actually exceed the traction circle limits while turning, loud skidding sounds will be heard. In short, in order to drive fast, we have to drive within the limit, which means taking the car as smooth as possible and right to its traction limit.

Anything within the limit of the circle does not take full advantage of the tires’ traction capacity and anything outside of the circle will induce slipping, and tire locking that increases the braking distance. If the limit is exceeded while turning, the car may not be able respond as efficiently to the steering wheel, causing it to go into a spin.

The points not on the vertical or the horizontal line are a combination of acceleration or deceleration and turning. Let’s put it now that the traction circle represents 100% of traction capacity, if we use 100% for braking then we would have no room to turn the car. In order to actually turn the car while on the brakes, then we would have to ease our leg on the brakes according to how much percentage we wish to put in turning.

In order to drive as fast as possible while taking it smooth, then the limits must not be broken but instead the car is driven to its highest performance limit.

About adian

ADIAN YEIN ( Adian was one of the start-up members that initiated the Proton Motorsports Division back in 2003, together with Tengku Djan Ley and Khaidi Kamaruddin, running under the brand name R3 – Race Rally Research. Projects that he led include the Proton Satria R3, Lotus Europa, and all the R3 special edition vehicles up to 2007, where he then transferred to Proton Edar for an 1-year stint as Manager for Marketing Development. He has over 20 years of motorsports experience, both as driver and team manager, culminating in two back-to-back wins of the Merdeka Millennium Endurance race as the Team Manager of the Proton-R3 team. Highlights in his motorsports career include being a D1GP Judge opposite Drift King, Keiichi Tsuchiya, kicking off the malaysian autocross and drifting scene with the Proton SSO, and managing Team Proton-R3’s participation in the Japan Super GT in 2005. Adian was also the host of the car test drive and review television program “Get A Car” that aired on NTV7 in 2009. He currently a professional driving instructor and automotive events operator with Driven Communications, and co-host of the Driven Web Series. He has recently found joy door-to-door racing again at MSF!
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