Following on from several articles discussing the various elements affecting the aerodynamic performance of a race car, we will now discuss predictive tools used for aerodynamic development, starting with Wind Tunnel.
Wind tunnels have been used for several decades as the primary tool for aerodynamic development in motorsport. It offers a stable and controlled environment for measuring the performance difference for even small geometrical changes, allowing engineers to find incremental improvements and build larger performance packages.
Typical wind tunnel models in motorsport applications tend to be built at a scale of 50 or 60% of the actual size of the car. They are designed and constructed with a high level of modularity, typically formed by a structural spine with smaller modular parts attached to it to create the wetted surface. This approach enables a relatively quick rate of development by minimizing the time and cost of the geometrical changes.
As a result, a wind tunnel program typically requires a significant upfront investment for the model design, manufacturing, motion systems, and instrumentation. After that, the development costs will be dominated by the design and manufacturing of the modular parts required for the geometrical changes and wind tunnel operational costs.
Once the initial model’s hurdle is overcome, large numbers of geometrical configurations can be tested at a high pace. Also, several combinations of ride height, yaw, steer, and roll configurations can be evaluated during each run, generating large amounts of data very quickly.
This ability to test different configurations and quickly generate data makes wind tunnel a good proposition for motorsport teams.
In the following articles, we will discuss CFD as a predictive tool and later discuss each tool’s key differences, advantages and disadvantages from the perspective of motorsport aerodynamics development.