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Power is the easy part, you need ballast!

I've been into drag racing since I turned 16, and I've always found it interesting how FWD cars would lose so much ground off the line to RWD cars. I spend a good deal of my day around a dyno so obviously we talk about horsepower a lot. Ask anyone "what's your goal?" and you'll get a horsepower number of some sort, even if you were looking for something more broad like "I just want to run 9's" or "I just want something different."

So everybody's got a horsepower goal and that seems pretty obvious. But have you ever noticed that everybody is stuck in the 10.1-10.5 ET range at 140-148mph?! Guys with 550whp can run 10.5 at around 140mph pretty easily, and guys with 750whp still only run 10.3 at 145mph. So what's with that? The key to getting in the 9's isn't power. You need ballast! This is going to be your secret sauce, it's how you're going to go faster than the dude talking shit.

There are two reasons that people don't think ballast first: 

  1.  Ballast is literally adding weight, and that sounds counter-intuitive
  2. Horsepower is more fun to talk about, and easier to brag about

Let's address these issues one-at-a-time. To the first issue; yes adding weight to the wrong place on a car is bad. So you want to add weight to the right place on the car, and ideally not have the overall weight of the car increase. So you'll need to remove it from somewhere. In our world (FWD Drag Racing) you need to remove weight from the rear and add it to the front. If you remove 50 lbs of weight from the rear of the car you need to add it on the front of the car! The net weight of the car stays the same but more weight is on your drive tires, and less is on your rear tires. Think about that, instead of spending first and second gear on the rev-limiter you could be gapping the dude in the other lane! For every rotation of the tire, it could be gripping and moving the car out instead of free-spinning while you think you're impressing your friends with "all that power!"

To the second issue; horsepower. The fact that everyone else is going to focus on power instead of traction is your advantage because you're going to focus just as much energy on hanging fucking bricks of steel on the front of your car. Yes, bricks of steel.

1" thick steel plate welded and gusseted to the traction bar that fits the bumper outline. This ballast plate mounts the intercooler, radiator and the front bumper. It weighs nearly 100 lbs. It's as far forward as possible!)

First: Remove all the weight you possibly can, so you can add it back on the front! The goal is to get the rear of the car to weigh as little as possible while the front of the car weighs as much as possible. Your goal is 80/20 weight split. So if your car weighs 2,000 pounds you want 1,600 lbs on the front tires and only 400 lbs on the rear tires! 

Second: Add the weight as forward as possible. It's not enough to add weight to the front of the car. You need to add weight in FRONT of the FRONT tires! When you add weight in front of the front tires you're using the front tires as a fulcrum point and actually removing weight from the rear which is exactly what you're after in a FWD drag car. 

When you add weight in front of the front tires, you're actually removing weight from the rear of the car which is exactly what you want

When you add weight in front of the front tires, you're actually removing weight from the rear of the car which is exactly what you want

 

"What about traction control?" I'm not going to dive super-deep into this right now but I'll touch on it for a second. Traction control reduces power when the tires don't hook. Reducing power can make the car run quicker ET's but wouldn't you rather hook the power you have? We can talk about this until the cows come home but don't think that you're going to buy a Hondata traction control setup and all-of-a-sudden you're gonna be running 9's! 

The moral of the story is that most people aren't taking ballast seriously and that's why it's an advantage! Whether you bolt on some weight after-the-fact, or design your own front ballast bar just make sure that you do enough of it. 40 lbs of ballast isn't enough! Shoot for 100 lbs in front of the front tires. Move anything you can farther forward, and remove anything you can from the rear. The easiest, bolt-on way to remove 50 lbs of weight from the rear is to buy our Rear Trailing Arms. You can literally bolt on 50 lbs of weight savings in an hour! There's a reason that nearly every record-setting team uses them:

If $1,699 is a little (or a lot) too steep for you right now, I get it. So now you can buy the Rear Trailing Arm Kit in #TwoEasyPayments because you can get the brakes for your stock arms (Rear Drag Brakes) for $699, reduce some weight and then later on you can buy just the arms and you'll already have the brakes. 

Real-life example: 

1. In the KS tuned Outlaw car we had over 200 lbs of ballast weight hanging as far forward as we could and we ran 1.44 60' times in a 2450lb car! 

 

Short Version (for the Snapchat attention-span): 

1. Remove weight from the rear of the car

2. Add it to the front of the car

 

3 Comments

Chris, the price of steel changes all the time. We just buy it by the pound at a metal yard down the street from the shop. Then we waterjet the shape we want in it and go from there. It helps to have some basic CAD software, but if you found a local waterjet guy you could probably bring him a cardboard template and they would draw that for you and cut your plate to match your template. I hope that helps. Good luck with your build.

Posted by Reid Lunde on August 12, 2016

A lot of this information is always overlooked I can’t stress enough about it. Great read

Posted by Kwaku Donyina on August 05, 2016

Great read. Well said and I couldn’t agree more! What are you finding a 100lbs of ballast steel costing and where would you recommend picking it up from.

Cheers.

Posted by Chris Shane on August 04, 2016

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