In the earlier post I wrote that “in the Street classes a car’s peak lateral-G capability is of zero importance in determining speed through a slalom.” What?
The analysis was done a while back (see J-Rho covering it in part 5 of his series Comparative Vehicle Dynamics) that all the techno-nerdy autocrossers (like me) know about where someone (I won’t mention his name) derived the time around cones in a slalom using basic physics. In his derivation it came down to how much the car must move left and right and the peak grip (lateral-G capability) of the car. Using his formula you can calculate the time lost by leaving more space around the cones, for instance, and you can compare one car to another based on width and peak lateral acceleration capability.
The only problem is that it doesn’t work.
Am I saying that the math was wrong? No. What I am saying is that it is a useless, misleading, nonsensical simplification that totally missed and therefore obscured what really matters since it was done over 15 years ago. Let me prove it. With data.
Soon after acquiring a GPS data device I noticed something weird. I will illustrate it with values from recent runs, but it was clear from the very first run I ever took with data.
In my last autocross in the Corvette the course contained both slaloms and sweepers, as usual. In five different sweepers the data shows the car pulling sustained lateral acceleration values of 1.250, 1.083. 1.084, 1.125 and 1.260 Gs. In various slalom sections the car pulled peak levels of 0.676, 0.774 and 0.552 Gs.
In my most recent autocross I co-drove a 2008 Cayman and in various sweepers achieved 1.299, 1.080 and 1.276 Gs. In the slaloms the car pulled 0.720, 0.435, 0.469 and 0.627 Gs.
[Update: I’ve come to realize that my data device was missing the momentary peaks of lateral G. Those peaks were still less than the steady-state capability however. As we will learn later, it takes Street Touring preparation level for most cars to even momentarily achieve peak steady-state lateral-G in a slalom, so the point stands.]
See the pattern?
For a long time I thought I was just pitiful at driving slaloms. It made me work really hard to improve. I got faster! The pattern didn’t change, however. I’m so stupid!
If a car can’t achieve it’s peak lateral acceleration capability within a slalom then peak lateral acceleration capability is not important and is no predictor of slalom speed. Any mathematical formula that claims to be able to predict the time from cone to cone in a slalom that uses peak lateral acceleration capability is just. plain. wrong.
We need to start over and rethink it. I’ll do that in the next installment.