Sport car aerodynamics, Auto racing technology and research

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Aerodynamics in Sports Cars

July 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

With the desire to go faster than ever before cars have been making use of the aerodynamic principles developed for aircraft for some time now. In many cases, good aerodynamics can be the key to success in sports cars, and so it comes as no surprise that millions of dollars are spend researching and developing this facet of auto racing each year.

There are two main factors to take into consideration when discussing the aerodynamics of an automobile: down force and drag. Down force is an aid for good, as it helps to push the car’s tires onto the track and so improves a car’s ability to corner and stay on the road. Drag, on the other hand, is not a favorable factor, since it is essentially air turbulence that slows the car down. Finding the right balance between the two can sometimes be tricky.

Altering the aerodynamic performance of race cars was something that was more or less started in the late 1960s. This is when the wings that are now commonplace on the racetrack were first added to cars. Early experiments with wings resulted in some rather spectacular accidents and so regulations were introduced to limit the size and location of wings in 1970. Race car wings are essentially upside-down airplane wings – instead of creating lift they create down force using something known as Bernoulli’s Principle. As the wind travels over the shorter and longer planes of the wings, it pushes the car down and helps it to stay on the road. Modern Formula One cars have this science down to such an art that the cars are capable of handling a lateral cornering force of 3.5g! The concept was further improved during the mid 1970s when Lotus engineers discovered that adding a wing to the car’s underside could further help to improve road holding. Over time a number of rules have been drawn up regarding this aspect of down force to ensure that no team has a distinctly unfair advantage over other teams. Today wings may be altered from race to race to improve the cars performance on a particular track.

When it comes to reducing drag, wind tunnels have certainly helped to make race cars more streamlined. By now every single aspect of the modern Formula One car has been investigated and improved to make it as streamlined as possible – including the driver’s helmet and the suspension! There is, however, one downside to a slippery smooth car: the incredible heat produced by a Formula One engine does need good supply of airflow to ensure that it doesn’t build up and cause problems. So designers are always careful to ensure that this is something that is provided for, even though they also spend hours trying to make sure that the air travels over the car as effortlessly as it can. No doubt, as racing cars continue to get faster and leaner, you will continue to see more and more of these developments take effect.

New ‘Start Your Engines’ Exhibit in Hayward

June 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

Hayward and San Leandro are certainly no strangers to the auto racing scene. This small corner of East Bay has been burning rubber on the racetrack for more than fifty years. While people continue to cram themselves into speedways around the country few people give much thought to the history of this legendary sport.

If you want to change this trend and learn more about the history of auto racing in the East Bay area, the Hayward Area Historical Society Museum is the perfect place to get yourself acquainted with the past. This museum, which is located in downtown Hayward, has just launched a ‘Start Your Engines‘ exhibit, which explores the auto racing history of the surrounding area. Few people today realize that auto racing was once king on the San Leandro flatlands and the Hayward Museum’s new exhibit recreates all the excitement of stock car, roadster, hardtop and midget racing in those early years of auto racing. While today this area is jam-packed with homes and businesses, between 1931 and 1955 it was the home of the Oakland Speedway (later the Oakland Stadium). Despite difficulties, the Speedway remained open during the Great Depression and it continued to carve a name for itself even after the AAA pulled out of the West Coast. In its day it was known as the “fastest dirt mile in the Nation”. This was the place where locals came to watch the biggest names in auto racing compete with locals for top titles and prizes. One of those big names was Tom Motter. Motter is now an auto racing historian who’s first hand experiences no doubt give his books an exciting edge. His books about Oakland Speedway and Oakland Stadium are currently on sale at the museum’s gift shop for those who would like some additional reading. The Oakland Speedway was finally replaced with the Oakland Stadium in 1946 after a grandstand fire and the fuel and rubber rations of WWII brought the old speedway to a close. The new track had a 5/8-mile paved oval combined with a quarter-mile oval and was every bit as popular as its predecessor.

Visitors to the museum are usually surprised to learn that the Bayfair Center shopping mall was once the location of the top auto racing stadium in the area. After the Oakland Stadium was torn down to make way for the shopping mall, youths between five and sixteen years of age continued to compete on quarter-midget tracks in Hayward for almost 30 years. Among them was the Rice family who are now famous for their quarter-midget racing cars. Many enthusiasts may feel saddened that very little of this once great legacy remains in Hayward, but a visit to the museum can certainly help to ease that feeling. A life-sized side-view cardboard cut-out of a 1915 Ford race car provides visitors with a great photographic opportunity and the museum’s shop has all the additional information and keepsakes you could want.