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Motorsport Homepage

Welcome to the Physics of Motorsport Homepage

Aims of the Course

This course looks at the physics involved in designing and driving fast racing cars. It will concentrate mainly on four wheeled, petrol driven vehicles, but the same physical problems apply to all kinds of vehicles. By taking this course, I hope you’ll learn from:

  • applying physical principles to a real-world problem.
  • figuring out how to build a better racing car than those guys at McLaren.

There are five parts to the course:

  • Power Talk. We’ll discuss the meaning of a car’s performance statistics. For example, what do we mean when we claim our car has 150 bhp? How does it relate to its top speed?
  • Power or Torque? Engine performance is governed by the two numbers: maximum power and maxium torque. Together with the gear box, these determine how fast it accelerates; but should the designer concentrate on increasing power or torque, or simply making the car lighter?
  • The Straights. Tyres are the secret of motorsport sucess. We’ll discuss what limits a tyre’s ability to grip the road and propel a racing car forwards. `Weight transfer’ will explain why F1 cars have their engines at the rear.
  • The Racing Line. What is the quickest route around a corner? The secret is that larger radius turns require the tyres to generate less centripetal force.
  • Skids and Why They Happen. We’ll discuss the way the weight of a racing car is balanced between the wheels. Braking or accelerating in a corner shifts the weight distribution and the force a tyre is expected to generate. This leads to a skid.

Lecture Notes

A set of condensed notes are available at this link. These notes are not a substitute for attending lectures, but they will help you if something is unclear. Please e-mail me at the address below if you need more help.

Richard Bower ([email protected])