Car Setup

"You don't have to put up with an evil car under any circumstances."

-Carroll Smith




GRE Help on the Web
Steve Smith's:
Secrets of Online Setups
60/60/1 Setups
F2 Superguide
Advanced Setup Guide
Setup Advice
Taming the Wild Beasts
GPL Race Engineer
Setup Tools
Gen 2 - Alison's Latest
Reference Setups
The X-Files
Alison's Setups
Setup Downloads

Update, 7/6/02: Gen 2

In my opinion, all of the setups here - and a lot of the setup theory as well - have been obsoleted by what I've learned developing and competing with my FFR Cobra replica on real-world race tracks in northeastern US and Canada over the past two years.

See my Gen 2 setup page for more details - and download my latest setups!

Steve Smith's 60/60/1 Setups

Update, 12/29/00: After a three-month flirtation with Steve's 60/45/1 configuration, I'm back to my good old 85/30/4 setups for road and street circuits, but with refinements to toe and anti-roll bar settings. See my Reference Setups page for details.

8/30/00 - For a long time now, many of the fastest drivers have been using and advocating setups based on differential settings other than the 85/30 settings that I've almost always used. I've tried a number of times to work up setups that I'm comfortable with using different ramp angles, but I've always wound up coming back to the old trusty 85/30 setups.

Now Steve Smith has changed my mind. He sent me a few setups with a 60 degree ramp angle on the power side and 60 or 45 on the coast side, along with an explanation of why they work better, and where.

It only took me a few laps with Steve's F2 Cooper setup for Kyalami to be convinced. Once I got used to treating the throttle with a bit more restraint, driving the car was easier and more fun. Slides are more progressive, more controllable.

Now all my new setups use a 60 degree ramp angle on the power side. The secret seems to be in the use of stiffer dampers at the front, and stiffer damping in bump than rebound, to help stabilize the car in transition. An additional benefit of running stiffer dampers in bump is that I can run somewhat lower ride heights without bottoming.

Read Steve's article, 60/60/1 Setups, and download his setups now!

Steve Smith's F2 Superguide

Steve Smith has published his F2 Superguide. At the F2 Superguide you can download a Zip archive containing all of Steve's latest F2 setups.

Drawing on his vast experi\ence with real cars, both street and race, Steve has meticulously tuned each car for each track. With these setups, the cars glide effortlessly over the bumps, bang over curbs with aplomb, readily recover from seriously sideways sides. Midcorner understeer is almost entirely eliminated, yet the cars are stable as a tank. And they respond; the harder you drive them, the faster they go.

Steve has done a fantastic job with these setups!

If you haven't tried the F2 cars - known in GPL as the "Advanced Trainers" - you're in for a treat. These are the cars which GPL's physics guru, Dave Kaemmer, calls "the most fun cars in GPL". I started using the F2 cars to learn tracks - Monaco in particular - and wound up enjoying them more than the F1 cars! Most of my time now is spent in F2 cars.

With 270 hp and slightly less grip than the GP cars, these cars deliver performance similar to the 1965 Grand Prix cars. They are surprisingly quick, and a great deal of fun. In contrast to the brutish, violent 1967 Grand Prix cars, GPL's F2 cars favor finesse, smoothness, and precision - but they have plenty of power to allow you to toss them around, and they are plenty quick enough to get you into trouble!

Racing F2 cars online on VROC, I've found that driving mistakes are fewer, and warping is somewhat less due to lower accelerations. Because of this, the racing is closer and often very exciting. I've had some tremendous, flag to flag duels in recent weeks - exactly the kind of racing I had always hoped to experience in GPL.

You can race the F2 cars offline against the AI (see section 5.3 of my GPL FAQ), and you can race them online too, in single-class races or against the GP and F3 ("Basic Trainer") cars in online races at VROC.

Give Steve's F2 setups a try. I guarantee you'll be glad you did!

Where should you start? I suggest the Ferrari at Zandvoort and Silverstone. Awesome stuff!

Read Steve Smith's Advanced Setup Guide!

I am hosting an extensive addendum to Steve Smith's book, Four Wheel Drift: A Car Guy's Guide to Grand Prix Legends, which is included in the GPL package. Steve is currently developing his Advanced Setup Guide, and each new section will be published here as soon as it's ready.

If you are into developing setups, you won't want to miss this guide!

Alison's Brabham, BRM, Murasama and Coventry Collections

Coventry | Murasama | BRM | Brabham | Ferrari | Eagle | Lotus

Note: As of April 2000, these setups have been superseded by the X-Files.

I've run a large number of races on VROC since it went live in October '98. I noticed that many people seem to find the Lotus, Eagle and Ferrari a big challenge, maybe a bit bigger challenge than they bargained for.

If you're like me, you'll find that it's a lot more satisfying and a great deal more fun to do a solid, mistake-free drive to the podium in the Coventry than to spend half the race extricating yourself and the Lotus from the weeds.

After GPL was released, I buckled down to develop a collection of setups for the Coventry that show just how effective it can be as a learning tool and as a race weapon in the heat of combat. I also wrote a detailed discussion about why I find the Coventry to be so effective in races, why I recommend it so highly for the driver honing his or her skills, and my reasoning behind my choices for the setups.

A few weeks later, I added a collection of setups for the Murasama, the most powerful car in GPL. It's a blast, and quite fast. Once you're mastered the Coventry, try the wailing white monster and taste some real power. Papyrus developer and NASCAR 2 ace Shawn Wise is using the Murasama in an online series, and loves it.

My next collection was for the BRM, a car that is almost as powerful as the Murasama, but with dramatically different handling characteristics. The BRM is awesome off the line - almost a top fueler in comparison to the other cars - and has superb brakes. A smooth driver can go startlingly fast with the BRM. If you can put it on the front row, you have a very good chance of leading the first lap, and its traction and braking mean that those Lotus and Eagles behind you are going to have to work very hard to get past.

My next collection for the Brabham, the most successful car of 1967. This car is a blast! You've got to try it.

My latest collection is for the Ferrari, and is built around a radical new setup philosophy that dramatically alters the way the car behaves - for the better. I believe you'll find the Ferrari, despite its light weight, short wheelbase, and high power, to be easier to drive than you might have imagined.

Read my discussions, and then download the setups. And have some fun!

If you're itchin' to try my setups for the other cars, read my Setup Tips.

Taming the Wild Beasts

Don't get discouraged if you have trouble driving the cars in the Watkins Glen GPL demo. They are truly evil. This is not because of any characteristics inherent in the real cars of the day, in my opinion. Bluntly, it's due to bad setup. The cars in the Watkins Glen demo are running over one degree of static positive camber. Any car would be unstable under this condition. Further flaws in the setup make the cars viciously unstable, particularly under braking and at turn-in.

This can be fixed - and it has. As GPL neared completion, Dave Kaemmer fine-tuned the characteristics of the tires. As he did so, the behavior of the cars became more and more real, almost eerily so. Expert chassis developer and experienced real-time racer Doug Arnao worked with Dave to help refine such things as camber change curves and shock absorber behavior, and even I put in my two cents about slip ratios and sidewall stiffness. The resulting vehicle dynamics are fantastic.

As the physics became finalized, a number of excellent setups were developed by the beta test team, and a flurry of excellent setup advice was floated among them. I've accumulated a collection of this advice. You can read it here. You can download some of the fastest drivers' setups as well.

Setup Advice

Download Setups

You can download setups by me and other members of the GPL beta team. You can also find sites on my Links page with setups by a number of other GPL enthusiasts.


If you're like me, not exactly a math genius but with a desire to understand race car behavior and know the practical details of race car setup, there are two books which I feel are indispensable. These are Paul Van Valkenburgh's Race Car Engineering and Mechanics, and Carroll Smith's Drive to Win. Carroll recommends a number of other excellent books, including Going Faster by Carl Lopez, a long-time instructor at The Skip Barber Racing School.

If you have a taste for engineering formulas and a desire to know it all, Race Car Vehicle Dynamics, by Milliken & Milliken, is the book for you. It's expensive, but it's been Dave Kaemmer's bible throughout the four-year development process of GPL's fabulous physics engine.

  • Paul Van Valkenburgh's Race Car Engineering and Mechanics
  • Carroll Smith's Drive to Win
  • Going Faster by Carl Lopez
  • Race Car Vehicle Dynamics, by Milliken & Milliken
  • All of these books are available from Amazon Books


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