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PAPER SERIES

2000-01-3554

The Effect of Chassis Stiffness on Race


Car Handling Balance
Andrew Deakin, David Crolla, Juan Pablo Ramirez and Ray Hanley
School of Mech. Eng., The University of Leeds

Reprinted From: Proceedings of the 2000 SAE Motorsports


Engineering Conference & Exposition
(P-361)

Motorsports Engineering Conference & Exposition


Dearborn, Michigan
November 13-16, 2000
400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA 15096-0001 U.S.A.

Tel: (724) 776-4841 Fax: (724) 776-5760

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2000-01-3554

The Effect of Chassis Stiffness on Race


Car Handling Balance
Andrew Deakin, David Crolla, Juan Pablo Ramirez and Ray Hanley
School of Mech. Eng., The University of Leeds
Copyright 2000 Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc.

It is often quoted that to be able to make a race car


handle properly by tuning the handling balance, the
chassis should have a torsional stiffness of X times the
suspension stiffness or X times the difference between
front and rear suspension stiffness [1].
This paper looks at the fundamental issues surrounding
chassis stiffness. It discusses why a chassis should be
stiff, what increasing the chassis stiffness does to the
race engineers ability to change the handling balance of
the car and how much chassis stiffness is required. All
the arguments are backed up with a detailed quasi static
analysis of the problem.
Furthermore, a dynamic analysis of the vehicles
handling using ADAMS Car and ADAMS Flex is
performed to verify the effect of chassis stiffness on a
race cars handling balance through the simulation of
steady state handling manoeuvres.

INTRODUCTION
It is well known that to make a race car handle correctly,
it must be possible to tune the handling balance. Tuning
the handling balance means adjusting the level of grip
available from either the front or the rear of the vehicle.
When both the front and rear axles can produce a force
to give the same lateral acceleration, the chassis can be
said to be balanced.
Figure 1 illustrates the non-linear behaviour of a typical
tyre used with Formula SAE racing cars. Figure 2 shows
the Leeds University Formula SAE car. It can clearly be
seen that if a pair of tyres on an axle had the same
vertical load, then they could both produce the same
maximum lateral force. If for example, the vehicle was
cornering, then the lateral acceleration would cause a
load transfer, equation 1. This lateral acceleration would
increase the vertical load on the outside tyre and
decrease the vertical load on the inside tyre by the same
quantity. The result of this load transfer is that the two
tyres combined can produce less lateral force.

LT =

ma Latacc hCG
t

(1)

where LT is the lateral load transfer for an axle, LATacc is


the lateral acceleration, ma is the mass supported by that
relevant axle, hCG is the centre of gravity height and t is
the track width. This assumes a flexible chassis.
3000

Maximum lateral force generated, N

ABSTRACT

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0
0

200

400

600

800

1000

1200

1400

1600

1800

2000

Vertical load, N

Figure 1 Non-linear behaviour of a typical Formula


SAE tyre, max. lateral force produced for a vertical load.
Therefore a car understeers (a car that has too little grip
at the front), the grip can be increased at the front by
reducing the load transfer at the front and increasing the
load transfer at the rear.

Figure 2 Leeds University Formula 1999 SAE car


Being able to control the load transfer distribution is
therefore the key to being able to obtain a good handling
balance. The lateral load transfer distribution can only
be controlled however, if the chassis is stiff enough to
transmit the torques.

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The question that is then raised is how stiff is stiff


enough. The objective of this work was to go some way
towards answering that question.

MODELLING

The real vehicle is much more equivalent to that shown


in figure 5, where the mass is evenly distributed along
the body. As long as the chassis is equally torsionally
stiff at all points along the chassis then it can be shown
that the idealised model still represents the actual
chassis.

There are two sections of modelling within this paper.


The first is a simple static analysis to determine the
effects of chassis torsional stiffness on being able to
maintain the desired lateral load transfer distribution.
The second is a dynamic analysis of the effect of a
flexible chassis using the ADAMS and ADAMS Flex.
STATIC ANALYSIS OF CHASSIS STIFFNESS A
model calculating the static forces present in the chassis
under steady state conditions has been developed. This
considers the racing car to consist of two point masses,
mf and mr for the front and rear respectively, connected
by a torsional spring, Kch, and a suspension at each end
of the vehicle represented by a roll stiffness, Krollf and
Krollr, figure 3.

mr
Krollr

Figure 5 Chassis model with uniformly distributed


mass
The real vehicle however, does not have an evenly
distributed mass with all mass having the same moment
arm and each segment of the chassis having an equal
torsional stiffness. In reality, figure 6 is something like
an actual vehicles mass distribution. Heavier objects
such as the engine, the driver safety cell and the driver
are located close to the centre of gravity of the car.
Also, the torsional springs may not be along the same
axis as shown in figure 6. Therefore there are likely to
be discrepancies between results from the idealised
model and a real vehicle.

mf
Kch
Krollf
Figure 3 Static model of the effect of chassis torsional
stiffness on lateral load transfer distribution

Figure 6 Mass distribution of real vehicle

From this model, equations 2, 3 and 4 were derived. 1,


2 and 3 are the front suspension roll angle, the rear
suspension roll angle and the chassis torsional twist
respectively. Mf and Mr are the front and rear moments
due to the lateral acceleration of the body masses.

Additionally, there are compliances in the suspension,


commonly referred to as the installation stiffness, which
reduce the chassis torsional stiffness as seen at the
wheels. These should also be considered as possible
errors between the idealised model which has been
proposed and the real vehicle.

Mf = Krollf1 Kch 3

(2)

Mr = Krollr 2 + Kch3

(3)

1 + 3 = 2

(4)

These equations represents a very much idealised


model of the vehicle as shown in figure 4.

MULTI-BODY HANDLING MODEL A model of the


Leeds University Formula SAE car has been developed
in ADAMS to understand further the effect of a flexible
chassis on handling. The basic model configuration with
a rigid chassis is shown in figure 7. Two extensions to
this model were created which included; a chassis
separated into a front and rear section joined by a
torsional spring along an axis at the wheel centre height,
and a flexible chassis incorporated into the ADAMS
model using ADAMS Flex.
In theory, the model containing a torsional spring could
be used to validate the static model results. The results
from the model incorporating an ADAMS Flex, flexible
chassis, could be used to understand the effect on a real
vehicle.

Figure 4 Idealised chassis model with two masses


connected by a torsional spring

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The model with the torsional spring was developed to


enable evaluation of multiple chassis torsional
stiffnesses on the vehicles handling performance, as
this just requires a single model parameter to be
changed.
ADAMS Flex takes a modal neutral file format which is
produced using the finite element method in a software
package such as ANSYS, figure 8. This model is loaded
such that a torsional force is put onto the chassis at the
suspension rocker mounts. Ideally it should be loaded
such that all the suspension wishbone and track rod
forces load the ADAMS Flex model, however, this would
increase the complexity significantly. As it was, there
were 18 mode shapes represented in the model, eight of
which were rigid body modes. The nominal torsional
stiffness of the ADAMS Flex model was 1,300 Nm/deg.

Subsystem
Value
rear susp.
17.93
front susp.
16.70
rr. antiroll
1.99
frt. antiroll
1.99
steering
5.90
frt. wheels
21.00
rr. wheels
21.00
chassis with driver
250.00
Chassis Inertias
Ixx (roll)
7.33E+06
Iyy (pitch)
3.56E+07
Izz (yaw)
3.94E+07
Chassis C.G. Location

kg
kg
kg
kg
kg
kg
kg
kg
[kg*mm^2]
[kg*mm^2]
[kg*mm^2]

frt. weight
46.5
%
rr. weight
53.5
%
height
300
mm
Spring Rates
frt. spring rate
61.5
[N/mm]
rr. spring rate
87.9
[N/mm]
frt. antiroll bar rate
150
[Nm/deg]
rr. antiroll bar rate
125
[Nm/deg]
Table 1 Data for Formula SAE Car model

RESULTS
Results were produced to indicate how chassis stiffness
effects, set up of the desired lateral load transfer. This
was conducted both through static analysis and dynamic
analysis.
Figure 7 ADAMS model of the Leeds University
Formula SAE Car.

STATIC ANALYSIS RESULTS The static analysis


results were performed for a range of vehicle, total
suspension roll stiffnesses representing different
vehicles. Dixon [2], gives a range of data values, table
2, for different types of racing vehicle. Total roll
stiffnesses for typical Formula SAE cars are also
included.
Car type
Saloon
Sports car
Sports prototype

Total roll stiffness, Nm/deg


300 800
2000
18,000

Formula One

20,000 25,000

Formula SAE

500 1,500

Table 2 Typical total vehicle roll stiffness, Nm/deg

Figure 8 ADAMS Flex chassis template.


The overall vehicle parameter data used in the ADAMS
model is shown in table 1.

Figures 9, 10, 11 and 12 show the difference in front to


rear lateral load transfer distribution for different roll
stiffness distributions. This is calculated for a range of
chassis stiffnesses and for total roll stiffnesses of 500,
1500, 5000 and 15000 Nm/deg respectively. All of these
results assume that both the static load distribution is
50:50 and the front and rear centre of gravity heights are
the same.

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90
80
70
60
50
Chassis stiffness 100 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 300 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 600 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 1000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 2000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 4000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 8000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 16000 Nm/deg

40
30
20
10
0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Front roll stiffness as % of total roll stiffness

Figure 10 Lateral load transfer from a racing car with


roll stiffness of 1500 Nm/deg
100
90
80
70
60
50
Chassis stiffness 100 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 300 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 600 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 1000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 2000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 4000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 8000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 16000 Nm/deg

40
30
20

100

10

90

0
0

10

20

80

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Front roll stiffness as % of total roll stiffness

70

Figure 11 Lateral load transfer from a racing car with


roll stiffness of 5000 Nm/deg

60
50
Chassis stiffness 100 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 300 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 600 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 1000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 2000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 4000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 8000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 16000 Nm/deg

40
30
20
10
0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Front roll stiffness as % of total roll stiffness

Figure 9 Lateral load transfer from a racing car with roll


stiffness of 500 Nm/deg
With a total suspension roll stiffness of 1,500 Nm/deg,
the modelled chassis stiffness required to produce a
front to rear lateral load difference of 80%, of the roll
stiffness distribution difference, is approximately 1000
2,000 Nm/deg, figure 10.
Similarly, when the roll stiffness is increased to 5,000
Nm/deg, a modelled chassis torsional stiffness greater
than approximately 6000 Nm/deg is required, figure 11.
For the vehicle with a roll stiffness of 15,000 Nm/deg,
using the same 80% guideline, a modelled chassis
stiffness of greater than 10,000 Nm/deg is required,
figure 12.

100

Front load transfer as % of total load transfer

Front load transfer as % of total load transfer

It is clear from figure 9 that all but the least stiff of


chassis shown, (100Nm/deg torsional stiffness),
produces a load transfer distribution of 34:66 or greater
at the point where the roll stiffness distribution is 30:70.
Therefore if the criterion is that the difference between
front and rear lateral load transfer is to be 80% of the
difference between front and rear roll stiffness, then for
softly sprung cars, (roll stiffness <500 Nm/deg), the
torsional stiffness of the idealised chassis should be
greater than 300 Nm/deg.

Front load transfer as % of total load transfer

Looking at figure 9, and the point where the roll stiffness


distribution is 30:70, the lateral load transfer distribution
can be anything from 30:70 to 40:60. If the difference
between front and rear lateral load transfer is to be 80%
of the difference between front and rear roll stiffness,
then the lateral load transfer distribution must be at least
34:66.

100

Front load transfer as % of total load transfer

The goal is to determine a chassis stiffness that ensures


the vehicles handling is sufficiently sensitive to changes
in the roll stiffness distribution. A large percentage of the
difference in front to rear roll stiffness must therefore
result in a difference in front to rear lateral load transfer,
for example 80%.

90
80
70
60
50
Chassis stiffness 100 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 300 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 600 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 1000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 2000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 4000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 8000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 16000 Nm/deg

40
30
20
10
0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Front roll stiffness as % of total roll stiffness

Figure 12 Lateral load transfer from a racing car with


roll stiffness of 15000 Nm/deg
Figures 13 and 14 explore what happens if the static
load distribution is changed so more mass is supported
by the rear suspension. The load distributions chosen
were 45:55 and 40:60.
In both cases, the point at which chassis stiffness has no
effect on the lateral load transfer distribution is where the
ratio of front to rear roll stiffness is the same as front to
rear weight distribution.
When the weight is moved more to the rear and the roll
rate at the front is higher than the rear, less lateral load
transfer difference between front and rear is achieved for

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the same roll stiffness distribution. Therefore a stiffer


chassis is required.

known, then this enables an approximate measure of


how sensitive the vehicles handling balance will be to
changes in roll stiffness distribution.
4.5

90
80
70
60
50
Chassis stiffness 100 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 300 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 600 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 1000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 2000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 4000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 8000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 16000 Nm/deg

40
30
20
10
0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Front roll stiffness as % of total roll stiffness

4
3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
0

Figure 13 Lateral load transfer from a racing car with


roll stiffness of 1500 Nm/deg with 45:55 load distribution
100

Front load transfer as % of total load transfer

Ratio of total roll stiffness to chassis torsional stiffness

Front load transfer as % of total load transfer

100

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

Roll stiffness difference not turned into lateral load transfer difference, %

Figure 15 Percent difference between lateral load


transfer distribution and roll stiffness distribution for
different ratios of roll to chassis stiffness

90
80
70
60
50
Chassis stiffness 100 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 300 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 600 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 1000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 2000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 4000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 8000 Nm/deg
Chassis stiffness 16000 Nm/deg

40
30
20
10
0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Front roll stiffness as % of total roll stiffness

Figure 14 Lateral load transfer from a racing car with


roll stiffness of 1500 Nm/deg with 40:60 load distribution
Figure 15 summarises the results from figures 9, 10, 11
and 12 for a suspension roll stiffness distribution of
60:40. From the graph it can be seen, for example, that
if it is acceptable for the lateral load transfer difference to
be only 80% of the roll stiffness difference, (lateral load
transfer distribution difference is 20% less than the roll
stiffness difference), then the ratio of total suspension
roll stiffness to chassis torsional stiffness should be
approximately 1.
If the ratio of front to rear roll stiffness is reduced so that
it is closer to 50:50, then the chassis torsional stiffness is
required to be slightly higher (up to 4% higher).
Conversely, if the front to rear roll stiffness is increased
above 60:40, a more flexible chassis can be used.
If the engineer desires a loss of no more than X% of roll
stiffness distribution ratio into lateral load transfer
distribution, then as a rule of thumb, equation 5 can be
used.
X/20 = Ratio

(5)

where Ratio is the ratio of total chassis roll stiffness


distribution to chassis torsional stiffness. If chassis
torsional stiffness and suspension roll stiffness are

DYNAMIC ANALYSIS RESULTS The dynamic


analysis presented uses steady state analysis features
contained within ADAMS. The vehicle was forced to
follow a constant path radius and the required steering
wheel angle and lateral acceleration generated for
different speeds were determined.
Figure 16 shows the lateral acceleration vs. steering
wheel angle for the vehicle configurations considered.
These configurations include a stiff chassis, a chassis
with torsional stiffness of 250, 1300 and 2500 Nm/deg
and the chassis from the ADAMS Flex model. All these
results were generated with the same suspension roll
stiffness distribution.
For the chassis containing torsional springs to represent
chassis stiffness, it is clear that the more flexible a
chassis is, the more the vehicle tends to understeer.
Subsequently, the roll stiffness distributions were tuned
such that each of the vehicle models with a flexible
chassis had the same total roll stiffness and achieved
the same handling balance. The increase in the front to
rear roll stiffness difference to give this same handling
balance for each vehicle is shown in figure 17. This
shows that the roll stiffness difference has to be
increased for more flexible chassis in order to generate
the same lateral load transfer distribution. An attempt
was made to correlate these results with those obtained
from the static analysis. This was not found to be
possible, the likely cause was attributed to large castor
angles on the front suspension which affect the height of
the tyre contact patch centre when a significant steering
angle is applied. The result of this kinematic effect was
to change the front roll stiffness compared to that
calculated from conventional theory. This will be the
subject of future investigations.
The ADAMS Flex model shows an oversteering
characteristic, figure 16. Looking closely at the torsional

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1
0.9
0.8
Rear suspension mount point

0.7
Front suspension mount point

Chassis twist angle, deg

stiffness distribution of the chassis, figure 18, it is


apparent that the front of the chassis is least stiff in this
mode. This weakness at the front of the chassis
effectively reduces the roll stiffness of the suspension at
the front, thus producing less front load transfer and the
oversteering characteristic.
To achieve the same
handling balance as the stiff chassis, the front
suspension roll stiffness had to be increased,
compensating for the weak area in the chassis, whilst
the rear was reduced, thus maintaining the same total
roll stiffness.

0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0
0

200

400

-68

1000

1200

1400

1600

1800

2000

Figure 18 Chassis torsional deformation along length


of chassis model used with ADAMS Flex, front = 0mm.

-70
-71
steering wheel angle [deg]

800

Longitudinal location, mm

-69

-72
-73
-74
-75
-76
-77
Rigid Chassis
250 N-m/deg
1300 N-m/deg
2500 N-m/deg
ADAMS/Flex

-78
-79
-80
-81
0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

1.4

Lateral Acceleration, g

Figure 16 Lateral acceleration against steering angle


for different ADAMS model configurations.

Equation 5, is very much a generalisation of the ratio of


chassis torsional stiffness to total suspension roll
stiffness, to produce a certain load transfer distribution
from a certain roll stiffness distribution. The calculations
suggest that if the vehicle weight distribution is
approximately 50:50 then equation 5 can be used as a
guide to determine how stiff the chassis should be.
However, in order to do this, an understanding of what
constitutes an acceptable loss of roll stiffness distribution
into load transfer distribution is required.
It has also been shown that more subtle effects from
changes in torsion stiffness along the chassis and
kinematic effects in the vehicle will influence the results.
Thus the chassis stiffness required will differ from
vehicle to vehicle, however, this analysis gives an initial
insight into the problem.

250.00
Change in roll rate distribution from baseline,%

600

200.00

150.00

CONCLUSION

100.00

50.00

0.00
0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

Chassis Torsional Stiffness, Nm/deg

Figure 17 Difference in roll stiffness for flexible chassis


to give the same handling balance compared to a stiff
chassis.

DISCUSSION
It is clear from the set of results presented that there are
discrepancies between the results obtained purely from
static calculations to those that are obtained through
dynamic analysis. With regard to the chassis with
different torsional stiffnesses, these differences have
been attributed to kinematic effects in the vehicle model,
reducing the effective roll stiffness at one end of the
vehicle. With regard to the ADAMS model containing
the ADAMS flex representation of the chassis, the
discrepancy is attributed to the distribution of chassis
torsional stiffness along the vehicle length.

Two modelling strategies have been developed. A static


analysis model can be used to calculate the effect of
chassis torsional stiffness on achieving a desired
handling balance. Also a dynamic handling model using
ADAMS can be used to predict the effect of chassis
torsional stiffness on dynamic handling manoeuvres.
It has been shown that to translate a certain percentage
of suspension roll stiffness distribution into a lateral load
transfer distribution, the chassis torsional stiffness to
total suspension roll stiffness must be a certain ratio.
Therefore the chassis torsional stiffness must be a
multiple of total suspension roll stiffness and not the
difference between front and rear suspension stiffness
as has previously been suggested.
The chassis
torsional stiffness referred to must include the installation
stiffness of the suspension.
It has been shown that a Formula SAE car which has a
total suspension roll stiffness of 500 1,500 Nm/deg
requires a chassis stiffness between 300 and 1,000
Nm/deg to enable the handling to be tuned.

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A Formula One car and vehicles with a similar roll


stiffness requires a chassis torsional stiffness in excess
of 10,000 Nm/deg to enable the handling to be tuned.
The dynamic results confirm that the stiffer the chassis,
the less the difference in roll stiffness distribution has to
be to achieve the same handling balance.
The ADAMS model demonstrates that the effective roll
stiffness distribution can be affected by kinematic
properties in the suspension which should be taken
account of in any analysis.
The distribution of chassis stiffness along the length of a
chassis also has an effect on the required roll stiffness
distribution to achieve a good handling balance. Indeed
a torsionally non-stiff region of a chassis close to the
front or rear suspension can effectively reduce the roll
stiffness of that suspension.

REFERENCES
1. Milliken, F.W.; Milliken, D.L.: Race car vehicle
dynamics, SAE Intl, 1995
2. Dixon, J.C.: Tyres, Suspension and Handling,
Cambridge University Press, 1991.

CONTACT
Andrew Deakin
School of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Leeds
Leeds, LS2 9JT, England, UK
a.j.deakin@leeds.ac.uk