The Mark Ortiz Automotive


Presented free of charge as a service

to the Motorsports Community

November 2000





Mark Ortiz Automotive is a chassis consulting service primarily serving oval track and road racers. This newsletter is a free service intended to benefit racers and enthusiasts by offering answers to chassis questions. Readers may submit questions by mail to: 155 Wankel Dr., Kannapolis, NC 28083; by phone at 704-933-8876; by e-mail to: Topics are also drawn from my posts on the tech forums at and Readers are invited to check out these sites, and to subscribe to this newsletter by e-mail.

                                                                                                                                       Mark Ortiz





As the racing season winds down, Iím getting lots of requests for recommendations for off-season reading. Therefore, I have decided to devote this issue of the newsletter to sources of information to help readers advance their self-education.


Please note that it is impossible to include all works of value in a brief list. Omission of a work does not imply condemnation. Likewise, inclusion of a work does not imply infallible accuracy, although I am making an effort to recommend documents that are largely accurate and widely well-regarded.


Letís start with some of the best general-purpose texts on vehicle dynamics.


Race Car Vehicle Dynamics by William & Douglas Milliken, SAE, 1995: Widely considered the standard reference work on the subject. Some portions are by other authors. Some chapters are highly mathematical; others are more conversational. Includes a chapter on the history of vehicle dynamics. Authors operate Milliken Research Associates, Inc. in Williamsville (Buffalo area), NY.


Tires, Suspension, and Handling by John Dixon, SAE, 1996: Another excellent reference. Good discussions of tire and suspension characteristics. Author is Senior Lecturer in Engineering Mechanics at The Open University, Great Britain.


Fundamentals of Vehicle Dynamics by Thomas Gillespie, SAE, 1992: A somewhat shorter and very readable vehicle dynamics text. Author teaches vehicle dynamics at University of Michigan and Ford Motor Company.


Car Suspension and Handling by Donald Bastow and Geoffrey Howard, SAE, 1993: Third edition of a work first published in 1980. More conversational than the above books, with a large appendix devoted to calculations. Authors are engineers with long and varied experience in the English automotive industry.



A couple of sources specifically on dampers (shock absorbers) deserve mention.


The Shock Absorber Handbook by John Dixon, SAE, 1999: Not really my idea of a handbook. More of an engineering text on dampers. Good coverage of principles and history of damper design and ride tuning theory. Not much on use of dampers as a tool to control transient behavior of race cars.


For a good discussion of how to use low-speed damping to influence transient handling, plus a good brief overview of damper function, see a pair of articles in the March and April 1996 Sportscar, entitled Damper Physics: The Black Art of Adjustable Shock Absorbers, by Neil Roberts. These articles, minus illustrations, can also be read and downloaded for free at under the titles of Racing Dampers 201 & 202.



On aerodynamics, a couple of good ones are:


Competition Car Downforce by Simon McBeath, Haynes/Foulis, 1998: A fairly brief, highly readable work specifically dealing with downforce Ė therefore readily applicable to racing.


Aerodynamics of Road Vehicles, ed. by Wolf-Heinrich Hucho, SAE, 1998: Compendium of papers and articles by a variety of authors on aerodynamics. Fourth edition, originally published in Germany. Good general-purpose text on the subject, including lift/downforce, drag, and directional stability.



Some lesser-known magazines I like include:


Racecar Engineering and Race Tech, published in England, both available by subscription in the US from EWA Magazines, 205 US Hwy. 22, Green Brook, NJ 08812, phone 1-800-392-4454, web site More technical depth than most US car magazines.


Grassroots Motorsports, available from Motorsport Marketing, 555 West Granada Blvd., Suite B-9, Ormond Beach , FL 32174, phone (904) 673-4148, web site Good coverage of amateur road racing, autocross, and vintage racing.


Speedway Illustrated, P.O. Box 37574 , Boone, IA 50037, phone 1-888-837-3684, web site New magazine from former Stock Car Racing editor Dick Berggren.


For a good catalog of automotive books, contact Classic Motorbooks at or 1-800-826-6600. SAE sells books at or (724) 776-4970.


I have published 6 articles in Racecar Engineering. These comprise a 2-part series on suspension interconnection and a 4-part series on asymmetrical cars. I have photocopies available at $2/article, check or money order to me (postage included; NC residents please add 6% sales tax).