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Is Carbon Ceramic Good for Racing

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  • Is Carbon Ceramic Good for Racing

    First, hi everyone, I'm JAJ, the new guy here. I don't actually have a Porsche, although a lot of my friends do, and I see them all over the local tracks I drive at. I'm in the PNW in Canada, and my main tracks are Area 27, Mission and (when the USA border is open) The Ridge. I spend more time at the Ridge than anywhere else (10 times in 2019), but the last time I was there was September 2019. I've been doing track days since 2003 and I've run two different BMW M-cars and three Fords. These days I drive a 2016 Ford Mustang GT350 and I've settled on it as the best bang-for-the buck street car for track days. Radicals are a vastly better value proposition, but I don't have room for a trailer car.

    The GT350 in the hands of a better driver than I am can run with GT3's. In fact, Ford Performance, whose product it is, benchmarked the car against the GT3 in development. It doesn't drive like any other Ford out there - everything on it is built for track days - the suspension is tuned, the brakes are massive, the cooling is epic and you can literally roll one out of the showroom and down to the track and run all day with no problems. Sound familiar?

    So, why am I here? Well, Warren at RB invited me. I put RB carbon ceramic brakes on my 2016 GT350 back in 2017 and I've kept up with every upgrade from RB since then. I have a lot of time and experience with RB. As the car stands today, it has RB CCM rear rotors and RB4M3 rear calipers and RB front CCM rotors with the OEM Ford front calipers. By the end of August, the plan is to swap the front calipers to RB calipers. as well.

    Something I want to be crystal clear on from the start - I DO NOT HAVE A FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENT WITH RB and I DO NOT SELL BRAKES. I buy them and I use them, that's it.

    And... I've bought and used a lot of them. My BMW E39 M5 had Stoptech brakes, my BMW E92 M3 had AP Racing brakes, my Mustang GT had Stoptech (again) and my Mustang GT500 (the 662HP one) had Brembo Racing brakes. I've installed and run lots of different brakes, and I've had good and bad experiences.

    I tend to be an early adopter, and that's how I got onto carbon ceramic brakes from RB. The GT350 comes from the factory with massively heavy 30 pound rims on the regular car, and 18 pound carbon-fiber rims on the GT350R. I decided I wanted the lightness of carbon fiber at the cost of alloys, so I put the RB kit on. The RB front rotors took 14 pounds off each side at the front, leaving my front axle unsprung weight essentially the same as having CF rims when I'm running the regular 30# GT350 rims.

    So, why do carbon ceramic brakes reduce the weight so much compared to the OEM GT350 brakes? Well, the GT350 OEM brakes are massive. The GT350 has iron brakes in a format borrowed from Brembo's OEM carbon ceramic product line. The front friction ring and caliper architecture from Brembo is substantially the same across a number of cars that come with carbon ceramic brakes - the Ferrari Enzo, the Corvette ZR1 (and variants), the Camaro 1LE and the Dodge Viper ACR-Extreme. The 396x36 rotors and pads are largely interchangeable between the different cars. That huge size makes the iron front GT350 brakes very heavy, but it's also how the GT350 can run flat-out at a track all day long on factory brake pads and factory brake fluid. Size matters, and heavier is better. Because the architecture is borrowed from Brembo's CCB product line, it makes swapping over to carbon ceramic rotors easy - back in 2017, you could buy the friction rings over the counter at a GM dealer's parts department. All it took was someone like RB to make a hat to position them properly in the caliper.

    And so, for the first 3 years of my carbon ceramic brake experience, my front rotors were GM OEM Brembo on RB hats. They were great. 31 track days, still visually perfect, no problem. And, because of the commonality across the various Brembo equipped cars, pads are easy - I ran Pagid RSL 29's as a year-round pad. No noise, no dust, no problem.

    In 2019 I installed the rear CCM rotors from RB. The CCM is a very different material than the Brembo OEM product. Looks more like Surface Transforms product. The rears now have 14 track days on them and they also look new. Along the way, I swapped to RB rear calipers. The OEM Brembo's were good, but I wanted radial mount calipers I could remove to make adjusting the rear suspension easier. That, and the stainless pistons and inset dust boots meant I didn't need to run titanium shims any longer to keep the heat out.

    This year, for the front, I upgraded to the RB CCM front rotors. Again, very Surface Transforms looking. I've done two track days on them and I'm still collecting data. If they're as good as the rears have been, they'll be on there a long time. They cool well too - they have angled radial ducts so they're "sided" left and right, unlike the Brembo friction rings.

    As for pads, well, I ran for a long time on Pagid RSL29's. I checked with Pagid Racing before I selected the RSL29, and Pagid confirmed that they're good for carbon ceramic brakes. Nice to know. This year, I needed new pads and Warren talked me into trying the new RB ST600 pad compound. Just to get a baseline, I also picked up a set of Pagid RSC1's to compare. And, I'm surprised and pleased to report that there's no comparison. I can't tell them apart. The RB pads are a little less expensive, but from a performance standpoint, I really can't tell them apart - same feel, same bite, same progressiveness. I don't have enough time yet to know if they're going to be comparable on wear, but so far they both look similar. I'll know more later after two more days at Area 27 in August.

    The one thing I'd say about having CCM brakes on my nose-heavy 3800# sports car is that once you have them, you can pretty much forget them. I'm active on a couple of GT350 forums, and every track season there's a bunch of "my brakes are giving me grief" threads. I try to be helpful, but frankly, I have no brake issues at all. They're quiet, they don't make dust, and they're absolutely fantastic on track.

    I know that early on, in the late 90's and early 2000's, PCCB's got a bad reputation for track use. I'm absolutely sure that new PCCB's are much better. But, they're crazy expensive. RB's have comparable performance at a more attractive cost point. As for comparing with iron brakes, the folks making and selling iron brake kits will tell all kinds of compelling and wonderful stories about how they're better than carbon ceramic. I've had lots of experience with iron brakes and, yeah, they're fine. There's nothing I can say that's negative about them. However, having had the different ones I've had, the only one's I'd consider having again would be Brembo Racing. To be clear, not the consumer products, the pro products. That's it. No anti-rattle springs, no dust boots, deep pads, they can take anything you can throw at them. I have no doubt that other manufacturers, like Brembo's subsidiary AP Racing, have comparable products, but it's hard to do better and the tricky bit is knowing whether you're being pitched a consumer package or a pro package. The Brembo Racing stuff is unambiguous, expensive and excellent.

    So that's it - I like CCM brakes because they work. Nothing more, nothing less.