What are the drivers performance in motor racing?
Lets start with Newtons Laws of Motion:
- In the absence of force, a body either is at rest or moves in a straight line with constant speed.
- A body experiencing a force F experiences an acceleration a related to F by F = ma, where m is the mass of the body. Alternatively, force is equal to the time derivative of momentum.
- Whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force −F on the first body. F and −F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.
How do they relate to motor racing?
F = Force
Force is one of the most important aspects of going fast! Force comes from a number of areas:
- Engine – the force that is transmitted to the wheels to accelerate the mass of the vehicle comes from the torque that is created.
- An equal and opposite force is reacted on the vehicle as it goes round a corner which comes from the grip of the tyres on the road.
- Downforce coming from the aerodynamics of the vehicle
- Drag which is part of aerodynamics resists the car traveling through the air, which relates directly to the first law above
- Tyre drag is another force opposing forward motion
Mass, another important one, but most racing series stopped engineers reducing mass beyond a certain level long ago! Otherwise engineers would have kept going. So mass used to be a first order performance driver in most racing but was removed as a variable. Now it is part of the second order drivers of performance, not directly effecting a basic law of physics, but effecting things like dynamics and handling.
Another important law of physics is Coulomb friction: F = mu . N
In motorsports grip is associated with mu. Mu is proportional to a number of factors such as surface, tyre compound, temperature and load fluctuations just to name a few. What you will notice is that N is directly proportional to downforce and mu is proportional to the performance of the tyre.
So we find that the three main first order performance drivers in motorsports are (in no particular order):
- tyres (tires)