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Automotive Aero dynamics, a black art

The main task of automotive aerodynamics is in reducing: drag, wind noise, minimising noise emissions and preventing undesired lift forces and other causes of aerodynamic instability at high speeds. For some classes of racing vehicles F1 in particular, it is important to produce downward aerodynamic forces to improve traction and cornering abilities. Unlike airplanes wings, which give lift, racing car wings point in the opposite direction to provide downforce. As its name implies, downforce presses the car to the track. This provides extra grip, particularly in cornering.

The Wind Tunnel Craze

To develop an F1 car, aerodynamics teams spend an average of about $50 million to build a wind tunnel at their factory. It is one piece of equipment that separates the big budget teams at the front of the grid from the small budget teams at the back of the grid. As with airplane wind tunnels, a car wind tunnel is a massive tube joined at each end and with fans producing airflow. From an operating room beside the tunnel, a team’s aerodynamics engineers monitor a model of the Formula 1 car and study the computer signals that define the way it reacts. Rather than moving the model – most are half the size of the real F1 car, but some use full-scale models – the wind moves over the car wings as if the car were traveling at a given speed.

Prindiville’s heritage and specialism is in the art of designing and developing Aerodynamic parts in High Grade Carbon Fibre. In our business we call aerodynamics a black art.

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