Shoe polish ain't always for your shoes!
Dialing-in defined: Selecting your estimated elapsed time based on previous performance and other constantly changing external factors. These factors include but are not limited to the following:
- Cloud Cover
- LightTrack Conditions
- Track Elevation
- Lane Choice
- Change in power level
- Suspension Changes
- Gear Changes
I could go on forever, but the bottom line is that you should keep the shoe polish handy, because due to constantly changing factors you Dial-In will be changing nearly every round! Even psychological factors come into play. Some days you'll be smooth and consistent and your dial in will change very little. Other days you'll be all over the place with your ET's forcing you to dial in conservatively to avoid breaking out ( Breaking out means that your ET is less than your dial-in).
Compensating for these elements requires you to understand how they affect you and your car. For example as the air cools toward the end of the day your engine will make more power requiring you dial in little faster. Also, as daylight decreases, you're eye's response time to the Christmas tree will decrease, forcing you to adjust your time. I guarantee you'll see a lot more people red-lighting and breaking out after dark.
On to the mechanics of this subject!
Unlike class racing, in Bracket racing there is a huge discrepancy between the performance levels of any two cars. It is not unusual to have a large disparity in ET's between the left and right lane. Many tracks try to minimize this by breaking the bracket racers into classes (eg. 12.00 - 12.99 and 13.00 to 13.99). Even so, a 12.95 Chevelle might be up against your 12.02 Buick GS (Fords don't count in any class!!). In order to make a close race out of it, each racer selects a "Dial-In" time. Dial-In's are the cornerstone of Bracket racing. Even if you cut a perfect light (See Tech tips #2) if you can't run close to your dial in you are going to lose! If your car was so consistent that it ran exactly the same ET every run then your job is simple, scribble that number on your window and you'll win a hell of a lot of races. In the real world however, no matter how hard you try your ET will vary from run to run. Really consistent cars may vary only a few hundredths but usually your looking at a tenth or two and that's where the work begins.
The fundamentals of dialing in work like this. You dial in a 13.05 and your opponent dials in a 13.25. When the starter flips the switch to start the countdown process your opponents countdown starts .20 seconds sooner than yours (13.25 minus 13.05 equals .20). So he leaves .20 sec sooner than you. Theoretically if you both have exactly the same reaction times and your cars both run exactly on their dial-in you will cross the finish line at exactly the same time. Well, in reality this will never happen, so who whoever runs closest to their dial-in, with the reaction time factored in of course, without breaking out wins.
Let's say you made three time trial passes. Your times were 13.31, 13.07 and 13.21. What this means is that while your car is fairly consistent, you need to be careful picking your Dial-In. You know your car is capable of at least 13.07 and as you go a few rounds night time will be soon setting in. As the air cools and the tree becomes brighter you can count on your car potentially running a few hundredths quicker. The safe thing to do here is to dial in a 13.05 to minimize the chance of breaking out and if you cut a good light and are ahead of your opponent around the 1000' mark you can always tap the brakes for extra insurance.
Sometimes you might be tempted to deliberately dial-in a lot slower than you know your car can run. This is known as "Sand bagging". This is a little risky. Here's the thinking behind this one. Your car runs a best of 13.07. You dial-in a 14.00. This puts you the 14.00 class where you find yourself running a car dialed in at 14.25. Your car is a more than a full second faster than your opponents. When you leave you can run him down and pace yourself a fender ahead and cross the finish line first and win. The down side to this is that if the other car runs close to his dial in your almost assured of breaking out and losing. It really isn't worth it. Sandbagging can only be effective if you have a better reaction time than your opponent. You are better off perfecting your reaction times.
Dialing in takes a lot of time and effort. You need to understand your capabilities as well as your car's limitations. Take your time and learn to be consistent and you will win races!