The difference between street brakes and racing brakes

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jul 12, 2024 | brakes | Posted in Suspension & Handling , Safety | From the Aug. 2020 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Ford

Similar cars. Different missions. Very different equipment.

The brakes for both the road and race versions of the latest Ford GT are supplied by the same company, but their specs vary. Greatly.

The street car’s brakes must perform at a high level while also remaining civil—no noise, no discomfort. The ones on the race car have a narrower purpose: to help win …

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Comments
300zxfreak
300zxfreak Reader
8/4/20 10:20 a.m.

Ford GT at a track day, you must be kidding. Only if it was enclosed in a plastic bubble with land mines around it. Ford could have fudged on the engineering since none of these things actually get driven. These are strictly investment grade jewelry. That said, I love them and the GT40 before them.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
8/4/20 10:28 a.m.

Interesting article, thanks.  I think that racing practice has improved street brakes in many cases. If Jaguar hadn't been running Le Mans they probably wouldn't have gone to discs as early as they did.

There are many cars made with perfectly adequate braking systems  but owners insist on changing them out for something larger, more colourful and most important fo many, praiseworthy in the eyes of their peers when nothing was needed  Some of them try and rationalize it by starting with older half thrashed ill maintained stock systems that they toss out and install new big brake kits and say that the huge difference proves they needed them, despite the fact that in many cases if they had first maintained their stock system and chosen optimal pads, there would have been little difference in the end result.

Nothing at all wrong with fitting stuff to your car for no other reason than you think it is neat - big brakes, alloy wheels etc. etc.  Not sure what the deal with the self deluding need to justify that sort of mod as being a safety necessity is all about.

In the old days, there were a bunch of cars manufactured with crap braking systems - take a look at the first discs used on the front of a Cooper S (I laugh every time I see one) or the rotors they had in the Tiger (wonder who said 'Why don't we make a pocket Cobra out of an Alpine by sticking a V8 in it, but lets stick with 13" wheels so we can't fit a competent brake in there for anyone that actually drives hard")

Tyler H (Forum Supporter)
Tyler H (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
8/4/20 11:34 a.m.
wspohn said:

There are many cars made with perfectly adequate braking systems  but owners insist on changing them out for something larger, more colourful and most important fo many, praiseworthy in the eyes of their peers when nothing was needed

Agree.  I think you just summed up a wide swath of the aftermarket industry these days, not just brakes.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/4/22 3:54 p.m.
Tyler H (Forum Supporter) said:
wspohn said:

There are many cars made with perfectly adequate braking systems  but owners insist on changing them out for something larger, more colourful and most important fo many, praiseworthy in the eyes of their peers when nothing was needed

Agree.  I think you just summed up a wide swath of the aftermarket industry these days, not just brakes.

Brakes are the #1 issue by a wide margin though, so many people think they need more braking power when they really just need more brake heat capacity/brake cooling. Fancy brake upgrades are a great way to end up with increased unsprung weight and/or a severely lightened wallet (up-front and ongoing, hello race-grade consumables!), while more aggressive pads, good fluid and a cheap brake vent system on a factory all-around disc setup can do the job just as well on most any car that retailed for under 6 digits in the first place.

LanEvo
LanEvo GRM+ Memberand Dork
1/4/22 4:38 p.m.

I've been building and racing an old Mercedes 16-valve for some 10 years now. So, I'm one of the few guys with real-world experience driving this platform pretty hard on the track. I've done ok for myself considering my modest skill and budget (regional champion twice; national champion this year).

There's a growing interest in tracking the 16-valve with a bunch of builds starting on various forums and FB groups. Every single one is obsessed with brake upgrades: 400E 4-pistons, 500E Brembos, Porsche kits, and others. Every thread is "which big brakes do I need for XYZ application" etc.

Meanwhile, I'm here quietly collecting class wins on stock single-piston sliding calipers with just upgraded pads (Raybestos ST-43) and fluid (Prospeed RS683). That setup lets me use lighter, cheaper 15" wheels and tires instead of "upgrading" to 17" for no reason. No one seems to believe this is possible.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/5/22 10:15 a.m.

Glad you all enjoyed the piece. It was informative to put together. 

Thanks. 

MockingbirdRacing
MockingbirdRacing
2/2/23 2:59 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH : One of my joys in life is seeing a car with a big break kit running on discount all seasons at track day. I do give 'em bit of a head start though. 

 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
2/2/23 3:25 p.m.

In reply to LanEvo :

My solution was using the ubiquitous Datsun 280ZX upgrade for the 1200 (used on 510s & 1200s). I allows me to use commonly available street pads. 

The caliper and disk add 3lbs of unsprung weight but I get that back because the Hoosier bias ply is 4lbs lighter than a radial tire.

I went with the bigger brakes because the are more available and I left foot brake which puts a ton of heat in the brakes.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
2/2/23 3:48 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH :

Elkhart Lake with its 3 long straights followed by tight 90 degree or tighter corners and a total of 14 corners  in 4 miles of race track tends to be the exception.   Well and Watkins Glen,  to a small degree Road Atlanta. 
  Especially big Fast cars like Corvettes and Jaguars. 
    Cars at the sharp end of the SVRA group 6  grid are making 650+ horsepower.  200-250 horsepower more than Back in the day. Original calipers were Iron.  Just replacing them with aftermarket saves 35-40 pounds. Not to mention more effective cooling. 

racerfink
racerfink UberDork
2/2/23 4:01 p.m.

In reply to 300zxfreak :

I posted a thread here (with a pic) about a Chin track day at Sebring about a year ago.  One guy there had a Ford GT, two Pagani's, and a FIA GT-3 spec Lambo Hurrican. He did spend more time in the Lambo, but he took all of them out at least twice.

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