How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

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The roll control can make the difference between a smooth exit off of staging and a spin out. This two part series covers roll control options to put control back in the driver's hands at the starting line.

Have you ever noticed how some racers look totally out of control in the water box and during staging while others appear calm, cool and collected? More often than not, the driver with the calm approach will also trigger the win light. The reason for this smoothness isn't completely initiated by the driver. Instead, it's the synchronicity of man and machine. Over the years, there have been some masters of the smooth tactic and you can tell because they are (or were) incredibly fluid from the moment the car enters the water box to the point where the chute blossoms. And perhaps even more critical is the space between the burnout and when the car leaves the line. There’s a lot going on in those precious seconds. But what does this have to do with you and your car? Plenty. Part of the process is the correlation between the driver, the roll control (or line lock for grey beards like me) and the front brakes. One key is a simple instrument and that’s a brake line pressure gauge. While there are several different examples out there, AutoMeter’s Pro Comp mechanical gauge is pretty much the industry standard. It’s a 2-5/8-inch face example, and hookup is dirt simple: A -4AN connection on the rear of the gauge makes for easy installation and there is no electrical connection is necessary for operation. Essentially, it’s plumbed in line with the front brakes. Before going any further, let's take a look at how line locks, roll controls, stage locks and similar devices operate. In function, the roll control consists of an electric valve which is plumbed into the brake line(s), a micro switch to operate the system and finally, a red "On" warning lamp. The most common application is of course, drag racing where the roll control is used during burnouts and staging. In operation, the brake pedal is pumped several times (to provide line pressure and to engage the brakes). The amount of pressure shown on the brake PSI gauge (if one is in use) determines if the front wheels are locked up or will roll during the burnout (but this isn’t the only reason for the “stage gauge”). Next the roll control button is depressed. The brake pedal is then released. Pressure to the front brakes is maintained, but rear pressure is released. The result is of course, a pair of locked or partially locked front wheels which enables the car to either perform a stationary burnout, a rolling burnout or to inch slowly (and smoothly) into the drag strip pre-stage and stage beams. A warning lamp glows when the roll control is in operation. When the burnout is complete or when the Christmas tree comes down, the button is simply released, which in turn, releases the brakes. While staging the “smooth” guys will always maintain a certain amount of pressure on the front brakes. And it’s particularly important if you race a stick. The gauge is used so the car will roll just enough so that you do not roll out of the staging beams and consequently, lose. You can’t get here by Braille either. The gauge is necessary for consistency. The brakes will either lock up or won’t lock enough. That’s the reason a brake pressure gauge is important. It also makes for an incredibly smooth transition from burnout to launch. Although the installation of a roll control was (and still is) a relatively simple task, it is something you should look at very carefully. A botched installation of something so small, but so significant could have a critical effect upon your racing success. And that's the point of this story. Brakes are critical components. So are electricals. And so is the burnout and staging dance at the drag strip. The right method of installing a roll control is the very first step in a smoothness plan. In the next issue, we’ll give you some insight into how it's done. Click Here to Begin Slideshow

How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

The roll control can make the difference between a smooth exit off of staging and a spin out. This two part series covers roll control options to put control back in the driver's hands at the starting line.





Have you ever noticed how some racers look totally out of control in the water box and during staging while others appear calm, cool and collected? More often than not, the driver with the calm approach will also trigger the win light. The reason for this smoothness isn't completely initiated by the driver. Instead, it's the synchronicity of man and machine. Over the years, there have been some masters of the smooth tactic and you can tell because they are (or were) incredibly fluid from the moment the car enters the water box to the point where the chute blossoms.

And perhaps even more critical is the space between the burnout and when the car leaves the line. There’s a lot going on in those precious seconds.

But what does this have to do with you and your car? Plenty. Part of the process is the correlation between the driver, the roll control (or line lock for grey beards like me) and the front brakes. One key is a simple instrument and that’s a brake line pressure gauge.

While there are several different examples out there, AutoMeter’s Pro Comp mechanical gauge is pretty much the industry standard. It’s a 2-5/8-inch face example, and hookup is dirt simple: A -4AN connection on the rear of the gauge makes for easy installation and there is no electrical connection is necessary for operation. Essentially, it’s plumbed in line with the front brakes.

Before going any further, let's take a look at how line locks, roll controls, stage locks and similar devices operate. In function, the roll control consists of an electric valve which is plumbed into the brake line(s), a micro switch to operate the system and finally, a red "On" warning lamp. The most common application is of course, drag racing where the roll control is used during burnouts and staging. In operation, the brake pedal is pumped several times (to provide line pressure and to engage the brakes). The amount of pressure shown on the brake PSI gauge (if one is in use) determines if the front wheels are locked up or will roll during the burnout (but this isn’t the only reason for the “stage gauge”). Next the roll control button is depressed. The brake pedal is then released. Pressure to the front brakes is maintained, but rear pressure is released. The result is of course, a pair of locked or partially locked front wheels which enables the car to either perform a stationary burnout, a rolling burnout or to inch slowly (and smoothly) into the drag strip pre-stage and stage beams. A warning lamp glows when the roll control is in operation. When the burnout is complete or when the Christmas tree comes down, the button is simply released, which in turn, releases the brakes.

While staging the “smooth” guys will always maintain a certain amount of pressure on the front brakes. And it’s particularly important if you race a stick. The gauge is used so the car will roll just enough so that you do not roll out of the staging beams and consequently, lose. You can’t get here by Braille either. The gauge is necessary for consistency. The brakes will either lock up or won’t lock enough. That’s the reason a brake pressure gauge is important. It also makes for an incredibly smooth transition from burnout to launch.

Although the installation of a roll control was (and still is) a relatively simple task, it is something you should look at very carefully. A botched installation of something so small, but so significant could have a critical effect upon your racing success. And that's the point of this story. Brakes are critical components. So are electricals. And so is the burnout and staging dance at the drag strip. The right method of installing a roll control is the very first step in a smoothness plan. In the next issue, we’ll give you some insight into how it's done.

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

The time frame between the first photo (burnout) and this photo (the leave) isn’t very long. But in truth, there’s a lot going in those few seconds. There are mechanical ways to improve your consistency in those moments.

How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

(Credit: AutoMeter): One big key is this gauge from the folks at AutoMeter. It’s a Pro Comp series brake pressure gauge (part number 5426). AutoMeter offers several different versions, but this example is a no-nonsense mechanical gauge complete with an AN fitting on the backside (making it simple to install).

How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

This is an old Pro Stock car, but look closely at the gauge cluster. Right beside the tach (on the left) is a brake pressure gauge along with a roll control “on” lamp.

How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

Here’s another example. There is no tach (just a shift light). But there is a brake pressure gauge front row center on the dash.

How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

Hurst has offered different versions of the "roll control" for more than a few years. This version is the latest - complete with a finned, carved-from-billet look. Not only does it look better than old examples, it's also rebuildable with a special kit.

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1 Comment on How Roll Controls Can Change Your Starting Game Part 1

  1. Have used hurst products a long time have a rool control in my 32 roadster for hill holding.gThe switch is made cheaply and I’ve had two of them in at 18,000 miles(11/2 years) otherwise okT

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