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. Continue reading “Ground Effect Aerodynamics On An RC Car”

Active Suspension On A DIY Racing Car

In automotive engineering, almost every design choice is a trade-off, like performance versus fuel economy, straight-line speed versus cornering, or strength versus weight. Inspired by controversial technology for the 2020 Formula 1 season, [Wesley Kagan] is fitting his DIY racing car with actuators to change the suspension geometry while driving.

The controversial technology in question is Mercedes’ DAS (Dual Axis Steering). By pushing the steering wheel in and out, the driver and change the wheel alignment to toe-out (wheels pointing outwards) for better cornering stability, or neutral for the straight sections.

Like many racing cars, [Wesley] used A-arm suspension on his racing car. By replacing the top arms with telescoping tubes with mounted actuators, the geometry can be actively adjusted. For this proof of concept, he used linear actuators but plans to move to a hydraulic system for improved speed and force. The length of the A-arms is sensed with ultrasonic sensors, while a potentiometer senses the suspension position.

Tuning the software for optimum performance will probably require some track testing which we hope to see in the future. This is not the first time [Wesley] has taken inspiration from a multimillion-dollar project and implemented it in his garage. Just check out how he converted a Miata and a Harbor Freight engine to a Free Valve system.

Continue reading “Active Suspension On A DIY Racing Car”

The Rise And Fall Of The Fan Car

The advent of aerodynamic wings in motorsport was one of the most dramatic changes in the mid-20th century. Suddenly, it was possible to generate more grip at speed outside of altering suspension setups and fitting grippier tyres. However, it was just the beginning, and engineers began to look at more advanced ways of generating downforce without the drag penalty incurred by fitting wings to a racecar.

Perhaps the ultimate expression of this was the fan car. Mechanically complex and arguably dangerous, the technology offered huge downforce with minimal drag. However, the fan car’s time in the spotlight was vanishingly brief, despite the promise inherent in the idea. Let’s take a look at the basic theory behind the fan car, how they worked in practice, and why we don’t see them on racetracks today. Continue reading “The Rise And Fall Of The Fan Car”