Some off-road racers take a break when the cold weather comes, others take up carpet racing and then there are the guys who just can’t give up the dirt. These diehards migrate to indoor off-road. For experienced racers, making the switch is old hat. On the other end of the spectrum, many beginners still honing the fundamentals of racing such as driving lines and passing don’t really notice much of a difference. For the rest of us, there are some fundamental setup tips and tricks that will help us go faster on an indoor off-road track.
The first thing you should do when converting from outdoor racing to indoor is return your truck to the manufacturer’s baseline setup. This is generally the best course of action when going to any new track. When this essential step is skipped, the inevitable is the dreaded chasing-a-setup syndrome. When you start with an already altered setup and start adding even more changes, you may never find a working setup. An additional benefit of going back to the factory setup is that it gives you a good opportunity to clean up your truck and give it a good inspection.
I firmly believe in the mantra that tires are tuning and everything else is just fine tuning. Get the right tires, and you’re at least 90% there. If your truck is spinning out every time you touch the trigger, one degree less anti-squat isn’t going to fix a thing, but switching tires will. The good news is that–unlike outdoor off-road with the hundreds of types of surfaces–you can generally get by on most indoor tracks with any of the stereotypical indoor tires. Sure, experimenting with every indoor tire may lead you to the one that tire that helps you go a tenth of a second faster, but most indoor tires work at most indoor tracks. So, what is an “indoor tire?” The treads are what is generally called the bar type, but tires with small nubs such as Pro-Line’s Square Fuzzy can also work well. Start with a tire such as Pro-Line’s Suburbs.
Many companies offer a specific “clay” compound for indoor tracks, so it makes sense to start there if the surface is, indeed, mostly clay. The latest super soft compounds can also work, but if your truck starts traction rolling in the corners, a firmer compound will be in order.
Indoor tracks are typically harder and smoother than outdoor tracks. As a result, the closed-cell molded inserts that are so popular these days are perfect for indoor use.
Indoor off-road is sometimes closer to on-road than what we think of as off-road. As such, the shock fluids used are closer to what we would typically use for on-road. So, instead of 25- and 30wt fluids, you may want to start 5wt higher than the baseline setup. This will allow the truck to react faster and feel more responsive which is usually needed on a tighter indoor track.
Generally, most indoor setups call for at least one step up in stiffer springs. If you are not using sway bars, even stiffer springs may work better. Stiffer springs will keep your truck level as it corners. In reading the section about shock fluid and now this about springs, you should be getting the general idea that indoors equals a stiffer starting setup.
As you may have guessed, you can go lower with the ride height. One thing to keep in mind–contrary to popular belief–raising your ride height increases traction (because this aides side-to-side weight transfer). So, while you can easily lower your truck 2- to 3mm for indoor off-road use, you can still raise one end and find more traction as needed.
I am of the school of thought that if you’re going to make suspension tuning changes, you may as well mess with the ones where you can actually feel the difference. Rear toe is one of those adjustments. Odds are the indoor track you’re going to be running on is tighter than your outdoor stomping grounds. Having a truck that rotates around corners is essential and dialing out some rear toe with help the rear slide. If you have the right rear tires and need to navigate a lot of tight corners, dial out rear toe.
Action photographs by Rob Oompa