Tires, Revisited

In this issue of Speed News, you’ll find a technical story on tires. Knowing we just ran a story about tires a few issues back, I was a bit leery of giving the OK to another, but as it turns out, I learned a great deal from it, and I hope you can, too.

We all have seen people at the track measuring tire temperatures and pressures, and we know its important. But there is a big difference between knowing and understanding. To illustrate, allow me to share a brief story.

While I was in HPDE3, our group leader would on occasion ask us the hot pressures of our tires. When he was feeling a little more Machiavellian, he would ask us our tire temperatures, and you were expected to have the answers if he called on you during the download session.

I had a decent understanding of tire pressures. Just from asking people at the track and lurking on Internet forums, I knew the Toyo RA1 tires on my car were best hot between 38 and 40 psi. I have always gone to the track by myself, so I’ve never had the benefit of pulling off track during a hot lap to have someone take my tire pressures. I’d always run a fast cool down after checkers and take the pressure readings as soon as I could pull to the side safely. I figured if I was getting readings around 36 psi, I was in the ball park.

When our HPDE leader began asking for temperatures, I took them. But the embarrassing truth is that I had no idea what they meant. That’s why the tire story put together for us by Don Alexander is exciting to me in a few respects.

First, it explains how to take tire temperatures and offers examples of the equipment you’ll need, and even explains the nuances of using each different kind. The story features an embedded video demonstration of automotive journalist and author Paul Van Valkenburgh measuring tire temperatures the right way. You’ll also be able to download an Excel spreadsheet with embedded macros that will average your tire temperatures front and rear, side to side and even diagonally across the car.

The Excel sheet does a few more things, too, but it points out the second thing that’s so exciting about the story. The embedded video and downloadable spreadsheet help showcase the strengths of Speed News’ digital platform. You can download the spreadsheet from Speed News, load it to your laptop that you take to the track and use it as a resource you might not have had access to otherwise. How cool is that?

Third, Alexander devotes an entire sidebar to interpreting tire temperature readings, what they mean and how to adjust your setup so that you can get maximum performance from all four tires. That leads to better grip, improved stability, enhanced tire life and maybe — just maybe — even a podium if you had been just a hair off pace of the hot shoes in your region.

In the course of editing the story, I had to read it several times, which provided the added benefit it increased comprehension. For the same reason, you also could benefit from reading the story more than once. There are a lot of helpful guidelines and instructions that you also might want to print and keep in your track notebook. If the story helps just one NASA member find his or her way to the podium, then it will have fulfilled one of the primary purposes of Speed News: to serve the needs of reader.

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