Alison's Setup Tips

Note: This page has been superceded by GRE Help

This page is devoted to conveying what I've learned about setting the cars up in GPL.

See also my articles on the Coventry, Murasama, BRM, Brabham, and Ferrari, which include complete collections of setups for those cars.

What about setups for the Eagle and Lotus?

When are you going to do setups for the Eagle? I suspect you are providing very driveable setups to spice up and even out online racing and add diversity to the field. I can understand that but still long to get out of the Coventry and back to the Eagle, (it's a Gurney thing.)

You are right that I want to spice things up and add diversity to the field. Also, I really do feel that the Coventry and Murasama are better cars for most drivers until their skill reaches a point where they can keep the faster cars on the track consistently.

Since I drove the Eagle most of the time during the GPL beta test period, many of my setups for it date from that time, when GPL allowed .5" bump rubbers. These are not suitable for the released version of GPL; I will have to re-do them all before I release them.

Also, I've learned a great deal during the development of the Coventry, BRM, and Murasama setups, and I am applying this knowledge to the Eagle as I do setups for it. I've begun to rework some of my older setups, and the Eagle setups I've developed using this knowledge are wonderful!

I'm really hoping that this strategy will get more people to try the less glamorous cars. Aside from being easier to handle and better for learning, they are also great fun to drive. Driven well, they are very competitive race cars.

Meanwhile, since the Eagle has roughly the same weight distribution as the Coventry, you might try applying my Coventry setups to it. That's what I plan to do, and fine tune from there.

A number of people are using my Coventry setups on the Eagle, and also on the Lotus and Ferrari with considerable success. Ian Lake transferred my Coventry setups to the Lotus, made some tweaks, and has been winning races in the Elite division of Randy Magruder's Grand Prix World Series, a series contested by several of the fastest GPL drivers in the world.

I've just released a collection of setups for the Ferrari. These setups work great on the Eagle, and also seem to work very well on the Brabham, incidentally. I've used a radical new approach which makes the car much more forgiving than before. Please read my Ferrari discussion; I believe it is likely to give you some very interesting new insights into setups for the cars in GPL.

So how do I transfer your Coventry or Ferrari setups to the other chassis?

You can fairly readily translate my setups to the other chassis. For instance, to use a Coventry setup for the Eagle, simply open Windows Explorer and go to your setups folder in GPL. Go to one of the tracks folders and copy my Coventry setup, and then rename it appropriately.

Be sure to give it the correct extension. For the Eagle GP car, the extension is ea1; for the Lotus, it's .lo1; for the Ferrari, it's .fe1, and for the Brabham, it's .br1. If you want to use the setups for a Trainer, make the extension end in 2 (for the Advanced Trainer) or 3 (for the Basic Trainer).

For example, to create an Eagle setup for Monza, I would go to C:\SIERRA\gpl\players\Hine__Alison\setups\monza. I'd copy the file Ali Cov Monza.co1 and rename the copy to Ali Eag Monza.ea1.

Then I'd run GPL, go to the Setups menu, and load that setup. I might need to change the gearing slightly, but otherwise this setup should work quite well for the Eagle.

You can also use this same technique to use my new Ferrari setups for the Eagle. The Ferrari setups seem to work extremely well on the Eagle, with only minor adjustments to the gearing. You'll need to make the gears a little taller to avoid blowing up that Weslake, because its redline is a little lower than the Ferrari's.

How can I tailor the Coventry setups so they are more suitable for the Eagle?

If you want to try tweaking the Coventry setups to optimize them for the Eagle, here are things to keep in mind: The Eagle has a somewhat shorter wheelbase than the Coventry, and is slightly wider with a fraction more weight on the rear wheels. It has a more powerful engine with a higher redline, so it may need slightly different gearing. Because it's lighter, it might work better with slightly softer springs and maybe a little less roll stiffness, and because it has more weight at the rear, perhaps could handle a little more rear brake bias. Since it's got more power and is lighter, it might do better with four clutches in the differential.

Keep an eye on the tire temps and adjust cambers to keep the inside and outside edge of each tire within a degree or two of each other. Don't worry about the middle tire tempuratures; they are a function of tire pressures, and lateral stiffness considerations dictate my preference of 18 or 19 psi front and 22 psi rear.

I'm not an engineer. How can I ever develop a setup?

You don't have to be an engineer to set up a race car. You mainly have to learn to feel what the car is telling you, such as the snap oversteer when it goes onto the bump stops, and weaving under braking when the brake bias is too far to the rear. And you need a rudimentary understanding of the basics of car setup. See my Setup page for a list of good references, including Steve Smith's Advanced Setup Guide and my own Vehicle Dynamics Overview.

Until you get a good feel for what each item in the Setup menu does to the car, follow the old adage and only change one thing at a time, and then go on the track and test the change. This way you'll learn what effect each adjustment has on the car's behavior.

Save setups (especially ones you like) to serve as a baseline, and go back to the previous best baseline from time to time and compare it to the latest setup you've arrived at. This is especially helpful if you lose your way.

Setting up a race car is a skill you can learn like anything else. At first it may seem like a confusing, impossible mystery, but if you're methodical and perservering you can acquire the skills. There's nothing like beating your own personal best lap time in a car you've tuned yourself.

Why does the car pull to the right?

Here's a discussion of the effects of bottoming on the bump stops.

The Ferrari pulls to the right under braking and accelerating, even when I'm using symmetrical camber.

After you've ensured your controller is properly calibrated, make sure the car is not getting onto the bump stops. Also be aware of crowns in the road, which cause a shift in weight transfer and can cause the tail of the car to snap out as you transition them.

Bump stops! That makes sense. Last night at Silverstone I came out of Chapel headed for Stowe. Just slightly before the Ferrari hit peak revs in high gear it jerked right. That could be from hitting the stops! I'll try smaller stops but keeping the same ride height.

That's one way to go. Or you can stiffen the springs or ARB to keep the chassis from squatting and rolling so far.

The cars all tend to bottom on banked corners when you get into the power, if they are too low or sprung too softly. Abbey at Silverstone is a good case in point. As you are rising up the banking after the apex, drifting to the outside, if the car snaps into oversteer (the tail starts going hard to the right, and the nose drives down the banking to the inside) then the car is bottoming. If you raise the ride height or stiffen the suspension, this will be reduced.

Another thing that causes the tail to snap out is when you cross a crown in the road. At most tracks, like the Glen (which has a very pronounced crown), the crown is in the center. But at Silverstone, there are crowns near each edge in several corners. As you drift toward the edge of the track, power on, when the outside rear wheel drops over the peak of the crown, rear grip goes away and the tail snaps out to the outside. This is present at Chapel and Stowe, among other places.

Another place where the car pulls is under braking for Stowe. Here it's the steep banking in the braking area. This tends to pull the car down the hill toward the right side of the track, unless you conciously counter-steer a little to the left as the banking steepens.

The answer for all of these issues (after you've got the car so it's no longer bottoming) is to drive carefully, with awareness of the weight transfer caused by the banking. You must be very sensitive to the point where the tires begin to lose their grip (shortly after they start squealing just a little) and to not go past that point when braking, cornering, or accelerating. If you demand more grip than the tire has, it loses directional control and you lose directional control of the car.

Incidentally, I would suspect a crown transition if the tail steps out at Chapel. It's not as steeply banked as Abbey, so if you're not bottoming the right rear suspension at Abbey, you're probably not bottoming it at Chapel either. But the track crowns as you exit Chapel, going from banked to flat or maybe even a little off-camber. This will cause the tail to step right.

What about the "low-rider" setups I've seen on the Internet?

There is a school of thought that says that the GPL cars should be set up to run as low as possible, essentially running on the bump stops all the time. This gives much higher spring rates than the real cars used. Some of the fastest drivers are using setups based on this strategy.

However, this is not how real cars of that era were set up. These setups are exploiting a flaw in GPL's physics model. Or rather, in the modeling of the tracks in GPL. GPL does not reproduce the surface roughness of the real tracks, the small high-frequency bumps that are present on real-life pavement. If these bumps were present, the "low-rider" setups would be uncontrollable; the car would be weaving and darting around madly at every instant.

Also, the suspension would soon break, because GP cars of the time were not designed to run on their bump stops. Bump stops were a last resort to keep the suspension from bottoming metal to metal if the setup was wrong or in extreme circumstances.

It wasn't until the 70's, when aerodynamic downforce introduced the need to control the ride height more precisely, that racing teams began running their cars on the bump stops - but this is only at high speeds, when aero download forces the chassis down onto the bump rubbers. At low speeds, the car lifts up off the bump stops and is sprung by its normal springs, even in modern ground-effects cars.

At any rate, I've chosen to go the route of realistic setups despite the loophole in GPL which makes low-rider setups possible. And they work. As I mentioned above, Ian Lake has shown that setups like mine can compete successfully with low-rider setups even at the very top level of our sport.

If you're interested in more discussion about low-rider setups, see The 400-hp Go-Kart in Steve Smith's Advanced Setup Guide. Also you can download such setups from a number of sites listed on my Links page.

On the other hand, you might want to read my discussion about the advantages of keeping the car entirely off the bump stops on my Ferrari page. If you try my Ferrari setups and some typical low-rider setups back to back, I'm convinced you'll never want to bother with low-riders again.