Nice job Chuck, on translating the thrill of racing into engineering challenges that other engineers, even if they don't work on the race car circuit, can relate to and are grappling with every day for their own types of products. Those minor design tweaks and keen attention to simulation outcome are what can set one company's offering apart from another--whether it's a highly competitive IndyCar race or components for commercial cars.
Good point, Beth. It's amazing to learn that IndyCar's number one engineering challenge -- vehicle reliability -- is the same as for production cars. It's true they only need to go 500 miles at the Indy 500, but it doesn't mean that reliability is any less important. In fact, a simple failure -- like the one on Parnelli Jones' vehicle in 1967 -- can be devastating.
Absolutely, there is far less room for error (likely no room in fact) for those 500 miles since at those speeds, lives are at stake. One teensy, little glitch in something as small as a misplaced fastener, and you could be primed for disaster.
The comment about the aerodynamic vacuum under these cars at speed reminded me of the Chaparral 2J car from the Can-Am series in the 70's. The car has side skirts and an on-board "vacuum cleaner' powered by a snowmobile engine which generated a downforce which exceeded the weight of the car. It was so much faster than the competition that it was banned under a questionable rule interpretation. Unfortunately, engineering brilliance in car racing can be overruled by the need to put on a good race for the fans (unfortunate) or by the need to hold down top speeds for safety reasons (probably a good idea).
I fully agree with the reliability and handling of racecars. What good is a racecar if it breaks (fails) before the end of the race? I've seen many interviews from top competitive drivers sorely disappointed in their provided equipment that broke just before the race ended. Racecars that can't handle well look slow on the race tracks compared to the better handling cars, and that very much includes NASCAR. Tires and suspension adjustments are critical to success (tires can be adjusted by air pressure).
Architect is right about the IndyCar race this past weekend. Because all the cars need to be "spec" machines, they all look alike except for the paint. Now I believe next year other manufacturers can offer "aero kits" which supposedly will make the cars a little different but how much is anyone's guess.
Roger Penske himself said the cars are essentially giant vacuum cleaners and literally sucked up the temporary asphalt. One could argue that using asphalt to patch a concrete surface was just asking for it, but I will focus instead on the huge amount of downforce these cars create.
The reason why the teams spend so much time on shock absorbers, suspension tuning, and CFD is to make sure the car stays firmly planted to road surface so the aerodynamics can work. There is way too much attention being given to making sure the attitude angle and ride height don't vary much. Springs are incredibly stiff. Shocks are close to be overdamped. All in the name of aero.
While certainly some downforce is necessary to keep the cars from flying off the road, the huge amount now generated is clearly excessive. It is said that the current IndyCars generate 2 - 4 times the car weight in downforce. That seems absurdly high. It makes marginal drivers the equal of really good ones. To me, racing is about car control, not having the guts (or stupidity) to plant your right foot firmly to the floor and hang on.
Bituminous concrete is a poor substitute for cementitious concrete. The epoxy-cementitious concrete patch seemed to be good enough. I worried about the new bituminous patch at turn 5 but with only 15 additional laps it wasn't tested.
Another concern that bothered me,... The edge of the track has a low and curvingly tapered curb rising maybe 4 inches. The plan layout was such that round radiuses were used in the corners with a relatively short radius.
At turn 5 and 6 and 4 the cars were overriding the curb on one side so clearly the vacuum must be broken when this happens. I suspect that a proper plan ought to be developed so that they can turn the corners without riding the curb.
Seems like a simulation needs to be created for track layout to avoid lift off on the corners.
From my perspective, Detroit needs to be configured with a new layout and with a complete resurfacing with epoxie reinforced concrete or with a reinforced bituminous concrete surface.
Tests and Driver opinion should be input.
Bill Allison long ago said that we were going too fast and that losing a driver here and there was unacceptable. Satisfying the crowd's blood lust is not acceptable either. Surely someone must have thrown up at the Colloseum in Rome.
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