ABS IN RACING
hen antilock braking systems (ABS)
were introduced on passenger cars to
keep drivers from losing steering in a
panic stop, the idea was generally
dismissed as useless for racing purposes.
Many racers and autocrossers quickly
figured a way to pull fuses or find other
ways to disable ABS to get the maximum
performance in competition. No system,
they said, was going to be better than an
experienced driver’s right (or left) foot.
Fast forward to the present, and not only
are road ABS systems much more evolved
and honed than the early ones, but there
are also versions developed specifically
for racing, such as Bosch Motorsport’s
ABS M4. Now, given the choice, racers
don’t want to compete without them.
“You can’t go as fast without ABS,”
states six-time SCCA Club Racing National
Champion Don Knowles. “Not over one lap,
and certainly not over a race distance.”
The accomplished racer, in addition to
his multiple SCCA Runoffs victories, has
numerous wins in professional racing
series in production-based cars. He recently
had a chance to test the Bosch Motorsport
M4 ABS system in an Ariel Atom at Virginia
International Raceway’s Patriot Course.
Lap times, he notes, are only one benefit
(albeit a significant one – 1.5 to 3 percent
faster over the course of a lap at VIR).
Consistency, tire preservation, tunability
and enhanced safety are the others.
“ABS allows the racer to find the
tractive point of the tire, so you can brake
as deep and late as you have to and still
maintain steerability,” explains Jim
Emerson, manager of Bosch Motorsports
North America. “The good thing with this
system that we’ve seen in some of our
applications is the ability to tune it around
a driver’s preference. Take a GT class car
with two different types of drivers; you
have the ability to have a system that is
adaptable to each of their driving styles.
You’re protecting and enhancing the
performance of both drivers.”
The fact that the M4 is developed
specifically for motorsports, and designed
with the higher grip limits of racing tires
and harder bite of racing brake pads in
mind, makes it more suitable for track use
than road car-based systems.
Even as they admit it’s faster, some
skilled and professional racers would just
as soon not race with ABS, saying it takes
away an advantage a truly skilled driver
has over the competition. But if anyone
ABS systems developed for motorsports increase overall brake performance,
while retaining car stability. The bottom line is faster, more consistent lap times.
In the wet, as well
as the dry, ABS
allows a driver to
be more consistent
in maximizing the
potential of a
racecar for the
RAIN OR SHINE