Track Days in Your Aston Martin (Part 4)

Lose a Few Pounds

Weight is the enemy. It's a common saying for many fields, from fitness to engineering. It's especially true on the track. Weight holds the car back from everything you want it to do. The more weight a car carries, the more difficult it is to accelerate, stop, and change direction. Need a demonstration? Hold a tennis ball in your hand and thrust it forward (like a punch). It offers little resistance and moves forward very quickly. When you stop it, it stops easily. If you hold it in front of you and swing it side-to-side, it changes direction easily.

Now do that with a bowling ball.

Everything is more difficult. You have to put more effort into thrusting it out. When you try to stop it, its weight pulls you forward. When you swing it side-to-side, it tries to tear your arm out of your shoulder socket. And you look silly, which adds insult to [shoulder] injury.

The unfortunate reality is that cars are getting heavier and heavier to cope with ever-increasing regulations. Stricter emissions necessitate additional components, all of which add weight. Safety requirements bring about larger, heavier crash structures. And people are getting bigger, too, leading manufacturers to increase vehicle size every generation.

The V8 Vantage is a surprisingly small car, but it's heavy despite its size. Dropping some pounds benefits the car's performance in every way - especially on track. So if you're looking to improve performance, this is a great way to do it.

Reasonable Weight Loss

It's easy to pull weight out of a car at little-to-no cost. You can rip out all the carpeting, sound deadening, stereo system, and even air conditioning. It's actually really easy to do with a bit of basic tools and some elbow grease. But what you're left with is a car that's going to be terribly unpleasant to drive.

Instead, I focus on reasonable weight loss. These changes can be made without any negative effect on ride quality or driving pleasure. The only downside is cost. Some of that cost can be alleviated with "maintenance upgrades" - that is, items you swap with lighter components once the originals need to be replaced at the end of their intended service lives.

The best maintenance upgrade that I recommend is the tires. Replacing the original tires with Michelin Pilot Super Sports gives you not only a much better tire, but also sheds a couple pounds. It isn't much, but it's the most ideal weight to lose: it's unsprung rotating weight with a large rotational axis. Two-piece brake rotors, like the Wilwood rotors that I sell in my online store, are another maintenance item with a lightweight option. If you round that package out with lightweight wheels, you can drop an incredible amount of weight. By changing out my wheels, tires, and brake rotors, I've lost an incredible 44 pounds of unsprung rotating weight, and that's with more aggressively-sized wheels and wider tires!

Another great place to lose with is the battery. As I covered in a couple of my YouTube videos, the OEM Varta battery weighs 53.5 lbs. It's practically a lump of granite. Well, it's [almost] literally a bucket of lead. My lightweight battery kit drops nearly 30 pounds from the car by replacing the massive lead-acid battery with a much smaller AGM one.

Weight loss can come as an added bonus from other upgrades, too. A lot of us like to install aftermarket exhausts on our cars. A full exhaust swap can drop over 40 lbs from the car, as well as giving you better sound and extra horsepower.

Not Quite So Reasonable Weight Loss

The suggestions and options above come without any sacrifice regarding your ability to enjoy your car. Other options, however, do have drawbacks.

The seats in an Aston are lovely - they're made by Recaro, stuffed with features like electronic controls and heating elements, then covered in delicious leather by Aston Martin's craftsmen. Like everything else, it all adds weight. Recaro also makes racing seats, which is the only reason why most of us know who they are. Aston Martin Racing uses these seats in their race cars, and it's possible to swap them into a road car. Doing so can shed an estimated 40 pounds per seat (I'll be taking exact measurements as this project progresses), but you're losing all the creature comforts of the factory-installed seats. The biggest drawback is that you're going to be sitting in a much tighter seat that's more difficult to get in and out of. (The benefit here is that you'll be held in place far more securely while driving on track.)

You can also install a lightweight flywheel. The performance benefits are there - the car will be lighter overall and your engine will rev up faster, giving you more power, more quickly. However, those revs will drop off quicker as well, so you'll have to be more attentive to the throttle to keep the engine in its power band. For a street car, this will be most evident in situations where you're used to coasting while the engine reduces revs at a certain rate. The cost for installation is considerable as well, which is why this is something I'd recommend as a maintenance upgrade to be done with your clutch when it gets replaced.

Not Reasonable at All Weight Loss

Race cars use a hose of other techniques to drop weight from a car. Like I said in the beginning of this blog, you can remove the air conditioning, stereo, sound deadening, and carpet from the car to drop weight quickly and cheaply, but you're going to make your car very difficult to enjoy driving. The comfort losses just don't justify the performance gains.

Adding to those items are things like Lexan windows. This plastic material is used on just above every race car for both weight and safety reasons. It's far lighter than glass and, unlike glass, it won't shatter. Also unlike glass, it won't be so clean and clear, nor will it help reduce sounds from outside the car.

It All Adds Up

There's still plenty more to cover on this topic, and I'll continue to do so as I move forward with projects on my own car. The thing to keep in mind with weight loss is that there's no one thing to do to lose weight - there's no magic bullet. Every bit adds up, even if it's just a few pounds here and there.

It's like going to the gym. It takes steady progression... or, in my case, going at all...