Pete Epple Technical Editor
March 2, 2010
Photos By: Marc Christ, Stacy Reynolds

Ferro-carbon pads, like our Hawk pads, are constructed using a mixture of different metals and resins. The ferro-carbon pads come in many different compounds for applications from street to full-race designs.

Sintered metallic pads are used when grip is extremely important. They are used on airplanes, motorcycles, and in military applications. Although these pads offer a very high level of grip, they do wear much faster than organic or ferro-carbon pads.

Once our new Hawk pads were installed, we set out to break them in, or bed them. Bedding new pads in is a very important step with any brake pad. Racing pads are burnished or bedded in using a series of decelerations from medium speed levels. After decelerating six to eight times from 45 mph without coming to a complete stop, we raised our speed to simulate race conditions. After another six to eight decelerations from higher speeds, our pads were bedded in. The car then sat for about two hours to give the system adequate time to cool.

The burnishing process is important for a few reasons. Bedding in the brake pads slowly brings the pads up to racing temperature. This transfers a layer of friction material onto the rotor surface. Now when you hit the brakes, the brake pad is actually pressing against a layer of friction material instead of the raw rotor surface, allowing for longer pad and rotor life.

Bedding in the brake pads also helps prevent the pad from becoming glazed. The friction material needs to be brought up to temperature slowly to ensure ultimate performance. When the brake pads are brought up to temperature too quickly, parts of the compound can liquefy. This breakdown in the pad's components will cause the friction surface to glaze over, which greatly reduces braking performance.

At the Track Prior to heading out on track, we set our shock and strut combination, as well as our tire pressures according to the recommendations from the crew at Steeda. With only a few adjustable components on our suspension, our set-up was fairly simple. The Tokico D-Specs have infinite adjustments between full firm and full soft. With our shocks and struts set to full firm, our front struts were adjusted by making three turns towards full soft, while the rear shocks were turned twice towards the soft side. Our new Nitto NT01s were set to 28 psi cold in the front and 29 psi cold in the rear. The only other adjustable component of our suspension is the supplemental rear sway bar. Once the sway bar was set, we were ready to head out on track.

As we headed out on the track for the first time, we took it easy to get a feel for how our new suspension would react under hard cornering. The full course at VIR offers very long straights, tight corners, sweeping S-turns, and lots of elevation changes, which really gave us the opportunity to see what Steeda's suspension is all about. After running a few sessions with our instructor and building up our confidence, we started picking up the pace. The car felt very balanced and very controllable. The car's handling was near neutral, with a very slight amount of understeer, which wasn't nearly as noticeable as it was previously. The adjustable rear sway bar would have made any changes simple, and we could have induced understeer or oversteer by simply loosening or tightening the bar.

When engaging the brakes, weight transfer was very predictable. The upgraded suspension provided a balance that allowed our Mach 1 to rotate almost perfectly through the turns. Turn-in while on the brakes was easily controlled, and this inspired confidence in the driver and the car's capabilities. The flat attitude of the Steeda suspension allowed for smooth transitions from brake to throttle while turning, which prevents the car from being upset mid-turn. As well, all four tires stayed planted as we accelerated out of each corner, and Shake 'N Bake was neither loose nor tight under hard acceleration.

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