A Late Braking History – The Origin Of PFC Brakes

The story of Performance Friction Corporation (PFC) Brakes takes us back to MC Hammer pants, the IROC-Z, and The Karate Kid. Yes, I’m talking about the ’80s. That was when a guy named Don Burgoon adapted the materials at his disposal and created what became CarbonMetallic pads. He knew these had an important place in motorsports, so in 1984, he convinced a young up-and-coming NASCAR team to use them on their car at the short course at Martinsville.

That team was Hendrick Motorsports, known then as All-Star Racing. With Geoff Bodine behind the wheel of the number 5 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and PFC’s CarbonMetallic pads in the calipers, the team earned its first-ever NASCAR victory. Both PFC and Hendrick Motorsports haven’t looked back since, winning race-after-race and championship-after-championship.

PFC Brakes CarbonMetallic pads are created with a patented, copyrighted, proprietary blend carbon recipe. This allows the brake pads to have a higher thermal threshold, making them more resistant to wear, compared to any other semi-metallic or ceramic pads, during temperature range testing.

Through the years, as the ’80s turned into the ’90s and people stopped wearing MC Hammer pants and started listening to Grunge, the PFC name continued to grow as racers became more familiar with its brake pad performance. Around this time, the team at PFC started looking at ways to improve the product. So, Don (who obviously always had a passion for racing) started racing F2000’s partially for fun, but also as another way to better test and develop pads further. His take on it was, at some point you have to go from an idea or theory on the dyno testing machine to the actual track to see where you stack up in the end. He truly enjoyed participating against some of the greats of that era while also getting great data.

What they found was braking ability wasn’t just in brake pad design, but in rotor design as well. In 1994, they started creating superior iron brake discs, using their ability to pour liquid metal into a casting without any air bubbles or holes.

“There is some magic behind that,” according to Justin Cockerham, PFC’s Motorsports Sales. “Now with better metallurgy, which is so good, there is no need for cross-drilling rotors. That just weakens structural ability.” With better manufacturing processes and better metals, in 1999 PFC created its patented slot-pattern design on discs. That design is still the “face” of its race discs to this day.

The patented slot pattern evacuates pad debris during hard stops. According to Justin Cockerham, “The slot pattern and aggressiveness in slot pattern enhances initial bite feel when brakes are applied.” Cross drilled rotors are a thing of the past.

The boys at PFC still weren’t satisfied. Even though they had pads and discs figured out, they still weren’t in total control of the entire braking system, and they saw a place where improvements could be made. In 2002, when people forgot about Grunge and Nirvana and started to listen to rapper Eminem, PFC began manufacturing brake calipers.

“We had an obsession to control the entire braking system,” explains Cockerham. “After we built rotors, it was only natural that we would begin to design calipers.” That development took them down the rabbit hole to invent their patented Zero Drag brake calipers, which are used by NASCAR and Indy racing cars today.

The Zero Drag caliper is designed to pull the pads away from the rotor using mechanical linkage between pads and the disc to make it more efficient. This helps with more disc RPM, less wear, less heat, and better lap times.

In 2011, a British girl named Adele filled our radio speakers, while PFC’s ZR43 Zero Drag caliper won the prestigious “Most Innovative New Motorsport Product” at the RACE TECH World Motorsport Symposium. With pads, rotors, and calipers all being manufactured in the United States by over 300 PFC employees, it is no surprise that the company started making brake fluid too.

RH 605 Brake Fluid is a “street” fluid, which has a dry boiling-point of 572 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the advantages of the fluid is how thin it is, which works well with newer complex ABS systems. PFC’s racing brake fluid, the RH 665 Brake Fluid, is a non-glycol based fluid similar to Castrol SRF. According to PFC’s Cockerham, “After a comprehensive study, our RH665 embodies the best characteristics of the other top brands in today’s market. With better stability in a broader range of climates for various racing disciplines around the world, plus a more affordable price tag, PFC’s proven fluid is a great addition to someone’s vehicle.”

PFC’s racing brake fluid RH 665 has a dry boiling point of 617 degrees Fahrenheit and costs less than the popular Castrol SRF. PFC boasts that this fluid will give you a “rock hard” pedal? Who doesn’t want to be rock hard?

All of PFC’s hard work in creating superior brake products paid off when Porsche Motorsport adopted its brake package in 2012. PFC is the first, and only, North American chassis-component supplier to Porsche. After two years of strenuous testing with German engineers, PFC brakes became standard on three of four of Porsche’s flagship vehicles: the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup Car, the Cayman GT4 Club Sport, and the 911 GT3-R. Each vehicle uses PFC’s pads, calipers, rotors, and fluid.

The Porsche 911 GT3-R of Manthey Racing just won the 2018 24 Hours of Nürburgring using PFC brake components, in what can be argued is one of the most grueling motorsport events on the planet.

In 2016, PFC Brakes became the official brake supplier to Indy Car Racing, but according to the staff at PFC, the real market is the weekend warriors. “It’s the SCCA, NASA, autocross, and road racers that inspire us. We are those guys,” says PFC’s Advertising Art Director Adam Keiser. “We are car guys. Racers in ChumpCar and LeMons events, we have a really strong brand loyalty with them. That is what makes up the core of our business.”

PFC makes brake pads and components for a multitude of performance and racing vehicles, like this Panoz, but they also make pads for your Ford truck that tows you to the track. PFC is distributed nationwide through small dealers as well as O’Reillys Auto Parts.

So, musically we have gone from MC Hammer to Adele, while at the same time, PFC started with a simple CarbonMetallic brake pad design and now provides the braking system on Porsche’s top vehicles. Braking performance has certainly improved substantially since the ’80s. Has music improved? Well, that’s debatable. Remember, “You can’t touch this!”

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About the author

Rob Krider

Rob Krider’s mantra is “Race Anything, Win Everything” and is a multi-champion driver who currently competes in the NASA Honda Challenge series.
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