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April 2, 2020

Science of speed: the incredible tech behind today’s racing cars

Technology has become a force for change across many different sectors, and motor sport is no different in that sense. Indeed, it was technology, in the guise of the combustion engine, that gave rise to motor sports in the first place, and today’s racing cars continue to draw on technological change.


It is all about performance in motor racing, so key technologies include those that better enable cars to accelerate quickly, retain their grip on the road or track surface, and corner effectively.

In motor racing, and Formula 1 in particular, aerodynamics play a central role in performance optimization. With improved aerodynamics, engineers are hoping to achieve two goals. The first is better down force in order to “push” the vehicle further onto the road surface and boost performance when cornering. The second goal relates to the wings of a Formula 1 car. When air moves over both sides of a wing, there is a difference in pressure created as a result of the different speeds in airflow. The wing will move with the direction of the lower pressure and create lift on the vehicle as it corners.

Energy is another area of motor sport where technology is critical. For example, a kinetic energy recovery system collects the waste energy produced when a vehicle brakes, turns it into electrical energy, and uses that energy for acceleration purposes.

An ongoing challenge in the development of racing cars is to get vehicles to go faster while at the same time ensuring they handle the road surface better. This is where such companies as Transducer Techniques have a vital role to play. With Transducer Techniques’ load cells, incredibly precise technologies are at work to monitor the performance of cars and to ensure that every single piece of the machine is being optimized. In motor racing, the difference between winning a race and coming second can often be measured in sub-seconds, so anything that can help optimize performance is welcome. Load cells are sensors for the purposes of measuring gauge strain. On their own, load cells operate passively, so they must be connected into a second device, such as a computer, to produce any meaningful data for vehicle performance purposes. Using load cell technology, vehicle engineers can determine the weight supported by each tire as well as the movement of the wheels as the vehicle is being driven. Data produced by load cells enables engineers to see how the vehicle responds to each turn and how it performs at different speeds. Engineers can then make adjustments to improve performance.

Load cells are used in the main to support suspension systems, but engineers are finding other purposes for them. Load cells can be deployed in the measurement of force on a gearstick in order to determine impact on wear of the transmission. Load cells can also be used to measure braking performance because the brakes in a racing car respond to pressure applied by drivers as opposed to pedal travel.

In the future, racing car design promises to be even more technological, with techniques that have not even been thought of as yet likely to play a part in ensuring speed and maximum performance.

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