Pure racing car design has been stagnant for the last 20 years. From 1959 to 1979 was perhaps the most revolutionary time of car developement as mid engine cars, wide tires,disc brakes,spoilers, wings,ground effects all appeared in this time. The racing often became a parade of the fastest cars ahead of the rest and lost fans. Best example of this was the unlimited rules Can Am class, dominated first by Mclaren then by the Porsche 917 Can Am Turbo. I believe the 917 still holds the record for fastest closed circuit lap...Talledega at 240+mph. However the series soon died when all knew the Porsche would always win. Nascar meanwhile has just gotten rid of the 1957 Holley carburetor in favor of fuel injection!!
Beth: Jones said that the 200 data channels include some "math channels," which can crunch some of the numbers and help make sense of it all. That said, I think there's still a lot of manual data mining by the engineering team and the driver, too.
Beth, one effect of the tight rules is that driver skill, and luck on the track, is very important. Another is that the cost of the cars is kept within some limit. I saw a special where a famous driver talked about his cars in three series, Formula 1, Indy and NASCAR. The Formula 1 car cost ten times as much as the Indy car. Formula 1 has strict rules, but no standard for engines and chasis. This results in the high cost.
The engineering challenge in this highly restricted environment are still interesting and fruitful. It is just another twist on getting the most out of your mahcine.
I'm pretty surprised to hear that the Indy rules leave such little room for engine modification. It seems like everyone is competing on pretty much the same ground. That said, it's amazing how simple tweaks can cause the break out. I'm curious how the pit crews sift through all that data collected--is it a manual process, simply deciphering print outs or are they able to employ some modern data mining technology to help unearth the nuggets that will give them a competitive advantage?
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