Knowing where to put the ballast and how much of it you need to make weight requires the use of scales. Take the time to plan ahead and place the weight where you want it before you start turning the floor pan into Swiss cheese.

You spent all that time stripping your racecar, making it lighter, losing weight wherever possible and taking away non-essential items. Then you finally sat down and read the rulebook and realized your stripped-out car is too light to be legal in your class. Oops. Now it’s time for you to put weight back into the car. Don’t get discouraged. Now you have the opportunity to put the weight back into the car where it will be advantageous. You can lower the vehicle’s center of mass to make it handle better, or move the weight to a position in the car where it will balance the car better and distribute the weight on the tires more evenly.

Adding weight isn’t a free-for-all. This is NASA, so there are rules. These rules are a good thing since having a 45-pound plate flying through the interior and hitting you in the head during a crash would be a bad thing. NASA’s rule on ballast is CCR 15.20, which states: “Unless superseded by class rules, all ballast shall be solid metal such as steel, lead, or uranium, and consist of a minimum of five (5) pounds per piece. Each piece should be bolted in place with through-bolts, fender washers, and a locking-nut / system (e.g. jam-nuts, Nylock, etc.). All bolts should be grade five (5). All ballast should be secured sufficiently. Nylock nuts or metal crimping lock nuts should not be reused.”

The ballast rule seems simple enough – a couple of fender washers and some Nylock nuts, however, with racecar rules, it usually isn’t that simple, and competitors need to read the rules for their specific class to ensure other rules don’t supersede the CCR. In the case of Performance Touring, the rules definitely add complexity to the ballast rule. In the PT class, the rule is as follows: “Maximum of two hundred and fifty (250) lbs. of added ballast. All ballast must be of solid material (no fluids or shot pellets) and safely secured in any location on the vehicle approved by NASA safety technical inspectors. The preferred method is to use at least one (1) 3/8-inch grade-5 bolt, two (2) “fender” washers and a locking nut system for every fifteen (15) pounds of weight. (supersedes Section 15.20 of the NASA CCR).”

Here the rules are much more specific, bolt diameters, and a minimum number of bolts for every 15 pounds worth of ballast. As an example, a 45-pound weight would need three grade-5 bolts and six fender washers to hold it in place.

According to NASA technical inspector Ken Myers, owner of I/O Port Racing Supplies, the PT class rules are typically how NASA tech inspectors will enforce the ballast rule for all classes as it is the “preferred method.” Ken has seen some shenanigans when it comes to adding ballast, the biggest problem being racers using a single bolt through a weight to hold it in place. Other examples of adding ballast have been more creative. For example, SpecE30 competitors are allowed a spare tire. One ingenious racer was imaginative enough to fill the spare with water (don’t get any ideas; it’s now illegal in the SpecE30 class).

For our car, we needed to add 90 pounds to get the car to legal weight. We wanted to put the ballast in the right floorboard to keep the weight as low as possible and to offset the driver’s weight to balance the car. We took two 45-pound Gold’s Gym plates, drilled six holes through both plates using a drill press and purchased six grade-5 bolts, six Nylock nuts and 12 fender washers to hold the plates in place legally. Because of the amount of weight and the thinness of the floor pan we used steel plates to reinforce the floor pan underneath the car, holding everything in place with the Grade-5 bolts.

The cost of the entire project was about $65 in materials, and the project only took a few hours. The important part of the project was that it ensured our car was legal for our class and more importantly, the ballast was secured in a way that I’m not worried about it coming free in a collision. I’m hard headed, but I’m no match for 90 pounds of ballast slapping me in the face during a roll-over.

A good drill press is your friend. Even a cheap one from Harbor Freight beats a handheld drill. This will come in handy when you are trying to drill multiple plates of weight to insert a single grade-5 bolt through.
A good drill press is your friend. Even a cheap one from Harbor Freight beats a handheld drill. This will come in handy when you are trying to drill multiple plates of weight to insert a single grade-5 bolt through.
Here you can see how we will sandwich the floor pan with the weight plate and the steel reinforcement under the car.
Here you can see how we will sandwich the floor pan with the weight plate and the steel reinforcement under the car.
Grade 5 bolts, some fender washers and Nylock nuts are all that is required to hold down your ballast. You may wonder why Grade 8 bolts aren’t required. You can stop wondering because NASA only requires Grade 5 and they cost less than Grade 8 so move it along.
Grade 5 bolts, some fender washers and Nylock nuts are all that is required to hold down your ballast. You may wonder why Grade 8 bolts aren’t required. You can stop wondering because NASA only requires Grade 5 and they cost less than Grade 8 so move it along.
Because of the “two bolts for every 15 pounds rule” you will need to drill six separate holes for a 45-pound plate.
Because of the “two bolts for every 15 pounds rule” you will need to drill six separate holes for a 45-pound plate.
By using a drill press, we were able to match the numerous holes we needed to drill to add ballast to our racecar.
By using a drill press, we were able to match the numerous holes we needed to drill to add ballast to our racecar.
Floor pans aren’t very strong. If you are going to mount a lot of ballast to the floor pan, I would suggest using a nice piece of steel to reinforce the bottom of the floor.
Floor pans aren’t very strong. If you are going to mount a lot of ballast to the floor pan, I would suggest using a nice piece of steel to reinforce the bottom of the floor.
Fender washers help spread the load from the bolts as they go through ballast or portions of the car, and they are required by NASA for mounting ballast.
Fender washers help spread the load from the bolts as they go through ballast or portions of the car, and they are required by NASA for mounting ballast.
Wal-Mart sells inexpensive ballast. Pricing out lead or tungsten, which is what F1 uses, meant we needed a lot of cash, which we don’t have, so we went with Gold’s Gym plates we painted black.
Wal-Mart sells inexpensive ballast. Pricing out lead or tungsten, which is what F1 uses, meant we needed a lot of cash, which we don’t have, so we went with Gold’s Gym plates we painted black.
 Here is the finished product of the ballast on the cheap project. Plates are bolted to the floor pan safely and in a great place for weight distribution.
Here is the finished product of the ballast on the cheap project. Plates are bolted to the floor pan safely and in a great place for weight distribution.
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Image courtesy of Rob Krider