How do the experts maximize car performance?
We all know that our everyday runarounds are worlds apart from those snarling, turbocharged premium sports cars of Formula One, don’t we? However, you might be surprised to find that many of the technologies that go into making mass production cars began life in the hands of F1 designers and engineers.
Take transmission technology, for example. Recently, racing car engineers have developed direct-shift gearboxes (DSG), which save F1 drivers precious seconds by dispensing with the need for a clutch pedal. That also cuts down on driver error – with the heart-thundering quantity of adrenaline surging through an F1 racer’s system during a race, that’s no minor innovation. And they’re beginning to make their appearance in production cars, albeit at the high-end of the range (such as the sportiest Volkswagens and Audis).
Most of us tend not to think about the suspension on our car until we’ve bounced over a whacking great pothole. However, production cars have borrowed from racing cars the design of independent suspension for each wheel, thereby helping to keep each tire in safely maintained contact with the road. But whereas performance is the top priority for racing car suspension, comfort has to be factored in for production cars, so the adjustment of the suspension for the two types of vehicle is rather different (comfort isn’t part of the deal for F1 cars). Independent suspension brings us on to our next consideration: how cars are having their performance enhanced by new technology (if the tires are all in contact with the road, they help in the efficiency of the vehicle, transmitting all the power of the engine into propelling the car forward).
New technologies for enhancing car performance
Independent suspension has itself been further advanced by new, cutting-edge load cell technology (such as that developed by the Transducer Techniques company), which measures with unpreceded precision the load placed on each “corner” of a racing car during movement at different speeds. The measures yielded by these hi-tech strain gauges help engineers shave off unnecessary vehicle poundage, and accurately calculate the fatigue life of a vehicle’s drive train components.
To perform at their best, car engines also need plentiful supplies of airborne oxygen. Cold air freely entering an engine during combustion helps thicken the fuel/air mixture that’s being burned, allowing the engine to extract considerably more energy out of it, which means that design features such as the snazzy “hood scoops” beloved of boy racers across the planet really do have a purpose beyond fashion: they cool the engine compartment and enhance performance.
The changing face of car technology
New green technology is radically slashing the volume of environmentally destructive carbon emissions produced by cars, and has fundamentally transformed the way that the car manufacturing industry works. Demand for high performance cars is still rising, but they’re increasingly becoming environmentally clean high performance cars. This is real trickle-down technology – what’s good for specialist, smaller production factories, such as the exquisitely hand-built, high performance Nissan GT-R – will eventually become equally good for high volume production cars as well (although engineer-built cars will always be produced in small numbers because of the extraordinary degree of skill and craftsmanship needed to assemble them).