Physics of Car Racing

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This paper is a look at the physics behind car racing. We look look at how we can use physics to select tires, how physics can help predict how much traction we will have, how physics helps modern cars get there extreme speed, how physics lets us predict the power of an engine, and how physics can even help the driver find the quickest way around the track.

Tires are the most important part of race or any car for that mater. (Physics of Racing) After all they are the only thing that is contact with the ground! Tires work by having a high coefficient of friction. Some slicks have a friction coefficient grater then 1! (Physics of Racing) Typical normal street tires have coefficient of about .5 to .6 . In physics we learned that friction was equal to mew times the normal force. Since race cars are typical much lighter then normal cars, they use tricks to increase the downward force on the tires. Some drag tires run really low pressure, other drag cars tune the car to lift the front wheels to put all the weight on the rear tires. Indy cars use a wing to generate down force, and ventures to suck the car to the ground. (How to Make Your Car Handle)

Take a look at a good example of a slick and a normal street tire. The little holes on the slick are to check how much slick is left on the tire, since tires tend to ware on the edges faster. The gaps in the normal tires allow the tire to transfer water away from the tire, so the tire can make contact with the road. Goodyear makes a slick that is grooved for racing in the rain, but only crazy (Indy, F1) people do that!

The circle of traction is a important racing concept with applications from physics. From newtons equation f=ma we know that the more force we apply to an o...

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...turn, so you will end up off the track between points a and b. Because of this, many racing teams use a program called rars. (Physics of Racing) It has many popular tracks, and different styles of racing, and cars. It shows how the cars take the tracks, and has little lines for the apex. This can help the driver find the line.


All Physics equations are quoted from:

Physics for Scientices and Engineers 5th Edition

Serway and Beichner

Harcourt, Fort Worth 2000

Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving

The Skip Barber Racing School

Bentley Publishing, Cambridge 1997

How to Make Your Car Handle

Puhn, Fred

HPBooks, New York 1981

Chassis Engineering

Adams, Herb

HPBooks, New York, 1996

The Physics of Racing

Beckman, Brian


Auto Math Handbook

Lawlor, John

HPBooks, New York, 1992

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