Ground Effect Aerodynamics On An RC Car

Ground effect aerodynamics will return to Formula 1 in a big way in the 2022 season, hopefully washing away the bad taste left in fan’s mouths after the recent controversial season decider. [Engineering After Hours] has experimented with F1 aerodynamics on RC cars before, and decided that it was time to try and implement a proper ground-effect design himself.

The aim of ground effect aerodynamics is to create a constriction for airflow between the bottom of the car and the ground underneath. This constriction accelerates the flow beneath the car, and as per Bernoulli’s principle, causes a corresponding pressure drop, sucking the car down onto the track. Viscosity also plays a role; from the car’s perspective, the road beneath the vehicle is moving backwards at some speed, pulling on the fluid thanks to the boundary layer on the ground itself. This further helps increase the strength of the effect.

A vacuum-formed undertray complete with side skirts was installed on the RC car in order to generate ground effect downforce. A quick test with a leaf blower indicates the system works, and that the side skirts are a key component.

Lateral acceleration was significantly improved by around 20% in testing with the ground effects installed, though [Engineering After Hours] admits that without a wind tunnel, the results aren’t the most scientific. However, with the undertray being relatively lightweight, we suspect the aero elements are likely providing plenty of benefit without too much of a negative effect on acceleration or handling.

Check out some of the other aero experiments [Engineering After Hours] has undertaken, too. Video after the break.

3 thoughts on “Ground Effect Aerodynamics On An RC Car

  1. New cars can’t magically wash away a season full of controversial and at times stupendously poor decision making by the race director… Intentional bias/bribe/ or not that sort of result fixing will come back to bite the second an even a remotely controversial decision is made again, even if in normal years it would be within the expected outcomes and accepted by most without issue…

    Real question is will there be more than one team on the winning design recipe out of the bat – ever other major rule change in the sport since it became so tightly regulated that there isn’t the scope for more lateral thinking has been one team got it really correct and the rest spend a few years playing catch up… Finally getting to exciting racing (that wasn’t Ferrari apparently cheating in some way) on the current rule book, so lets change it…

    On the topic of the article that RC car tray looks really neat, but would be utterly pointless on the rubbish road surfaces so common around here.

  2. Is the next step in the project to go down the Lotus 88 double chassis route? Only building an RC model version of that, with a working double chassis, would [1] be a serious test of modelling skill, and [2] utterly awesome if it could be made to work :)

  3. Not the first time ground effects has been on an RC car. Years ago an aerodynamicist named Paul Glessner developed the undertray for the Traxxas XO-1 RC car using the same principles as on full-size cars, he gave a presentation at my school about it many years ago and it was fascinating to see how it all comes together.

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