So, when two tires have to do all of the work, how can FWD cars even stand a chance against more endurance-racing suited race cars?
Front-wheel-drive cars generally wear out their front tires faster. It's so common, in fact, that you have to break something in the rear suspension, in order to make the tire wear at the back worse than at the front... Or maybe you have excess camber. Either way, in normal situations, the front wheels wear out faster on front-driven cars.
Why, then, would anyone ever want to race a FWD car for a 24 hour period? It seems absurd to race a FWD car against cars which would suffer less tire wear, in theory. How do you ever win a race, with predictably twice as many pit stops?
It's not actually as absurd as you might suspect. I mean, the cars will still need to pit more frequently, for sure, but, there are definitely ways to get around the excess tire wear of the front wheels, on FWD cars.
In this case, then, what sort of trickery is involved?
It's simple, really. There are ways to limit the amount of tire wear, to the point that it becomes necessary to refuel at the same time, meaning that the extra time it takes to change the two front tires adds nothing to the pit stop. Or, maybe there are other ways to go about it. Let's list them off by the series that strategy is used in.
1. Continental Sports Car Challenge - Fuel Cell Size Restrictions
The most simple solution to hampering the tire wear of the Miatas and Caymans, (the lightweight, RWD platform is ideal for making tires last a long time), is to limit the amount of fuel that the lightweight RWD cars are allowed to put in, matching the fuel cell sizes to the cars they're put into, meaning that the Miatas, Caymans, and Civics all have to pit for fuel at the same time. And, well, since you're getting fuel anyways, you might as well put on some new tires. Simple solution, right? It makes perfect sense! However, it disincentivizes tire conservation for the cars like the Cayman and Miata, which still gives them the upper hand. It's not perfect on its own. What else is there to do?
2. Touring Car Endurance - Limit the Class to FWD Only
I mean, if only FWD cars are entered, no one has any advantage. The TCR2 platform of the top class of TCE racing only allows supercharged 2000cc FWD cars. This is one solution that sorta works, but, perhaps it lacks the same sort of variety of the other series.
3. Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge - Allowing More Setup Variations
You were told that FWD almost always gets worse tire wear, compared to its RWD competition. Well, it's mostly true. But, it isn't always true. You see, the problem with FWD endurance race cars is their inate understeer. But, given the right setup, understeer becomes oversteer. FWD race cars are tuned to oversteer with even the most minute mistake. Brake a slight bit too hard, in a FWD race car, and you will be greeted with a big slide. Here's one such example:
But, by avoiding that huge understeer that comes with road-legal FWD cars (not including performance FWD cars), you can balance the tire wear out a little more evenly. Doing that in combination with the fuel cell size restriction I mentioned above might just be enough to finally make for a fair fight between FWD and RWD endurance cars.
So, there you have it. There are multiple ways to make your FWD car actually competitive in an endurance racing series. And, as endurance racing grows in popularity, and as more and more cars become FWD, this is important knowledge for the future of motoring.
Drew Geier is a Canadian petrolhead whose main mission is to make motoring accessible, enjoyable, and affordable well into the future, by improving the art, hobby and lifestyle of motoring. He builds cars, and he writes about other builds. He's built a Subaru WRX and is building a Honda Civic EK.