If you have ever wished you could drive a Formula One car, you might be closer to your goal than you think. Racing car technology, developed for optimum power, speed and safety on the track finds its way into domestic cars more often than we might expect. This makes plenty of sense when you consider the financial investment made by manufacturers to develop world beating car tech and race tech. Where better to transfer the results of that investment in racing technologies than to sales in the domestic market.
There can be no doubt about it, racing technology, be it in-car technology, race engine technology or car development, has more impact on our domestic driving experiences than we think. We take a look at how racing car technology has improved our driving lives and made us safer on the roads.
Electric car technology
With sustainable transport firmly on the public agenda and government-led financial benefits looming, the race to provide optimum electric car performance is on. Formula E investment continues to lead the way in this. Not only does Formula E provide a popular platform for electric car technology and performance, it continues to provide the push behind research into a whole range of domestic car development opportunities.
During the initial Formula E seasons, battery life was so limited that drivers were forced to change cars mid race in order to complete the full distance. This proved unacceptable for both drivers and audiences so the car tech developers went to work and battery life in Gen2 cars improved to the extent that the car swap is no longer required. With travel distance high among the concerns of those considering a domestic electric car purchase, this improved car technology has obvious advantages for manufacturers.
FIA insistence on the same Formula One body and battery pack with a set maximum power output of 250kW has led to interesting race tech developments in other areas as teams fight to gain the competitive edge. Mass reduction has played a key part in this with advances in the use of lightweight composites, 3D printing and conductive materials all contributing to astonishing weight improvements and technological advancements that can be shifted onto production line manufacturing.
Formula E drivers have suffered in the past from the tricky combination of friction braking and regenerative braking. Issues with this have led to the development of racing car technology to offer a brake-by-wire system that allows for a more balanced and steadier braking effect. This braking software has already been transferred to the domestic market, for example, BMW’s electric Mini Cooper shares motor control programming with their electric i3 race car.
Race tech for speed and performance
Although the rulebook emphasis these days has as much to do with slowing cars down as speeding them up, car technology developed for racing continues to have an impact on the experience of every day drivers. This has been a long-lasting impact, for example, disc brakes are cited as a contributory factor in Jaguar’s win at the 1953 La Sarthe 24 Hours of Le Mans. From tyre technology to the rear view mirror, motor racing technology has long impacted commercial vehicle development and continues to do so today.
One of the less well-kept secrets of engine performance is the turbocharger. The greater access to air an engine has, the better its combustion and therefore performance will be. A turbocharger recirculates and compresses hot exhaust gases to give the engine a power boost. Being able to increase power without expanding engine capacity has obvious fuel-saving and ecological implications. It also delivers a much sought-after ‘racing driver’ experience.
The motoring community is a demanding one that wants more horsepower from increasingly fuel-efficient engines. From 2021, Formula One cars will retain the current 1.6 litre turbo powertrain with increased restrictions on materials and a standard fuel pump. FIA standards and the corresponding development of race technology continue to filter down to road cars.
Direct-shift gearboxes offer all the benefits and excitement of a manual transmission alongside speedy and accurate clutch-free gear changes. This modern-day pleasure was originally a key racing technology breakthrough that allowed drivers to experience clean and error free gear changes without any loss of power or speed. Racing type transmissions in a variety of modes are now common in many sports models and their convenience is enhanced by the placement of controls on the steering wheel.
Race Tech – Suspension
Independent suspensions are important elements in motorsport performance because they allow all four tyres to retain contact with the track and deliver engine power where it is required. Both Formula One and NASCAR use types of suspension that are also available on production line vehicles but they are differently set up. Domestic drivers are allowed a degree of comfort that their racing counterparts have to sacrifice for stability and force.
Steering wheel technology
Today’s Formula 1 steering wheel looks more like a complicated games controller than anything but each of the buttons brings essential performance control directly within the driver’s line of sight. Cars created for the domestic market may not need to adjust fuel mixture or brake bias but road drivers are seeing more and more steering wheel functionality using in-car technology originally developed for racing.
Racing car technology for safety
It stands to reason that, if motorsport racing technologies have produced the most powerful and fastest cars on earth, they will have also developed corresponding safety technologies. Modern motorsport cars are designed to protect the driver. Utilising the strength of carbon fibre and a web of roll cage structures they aim to absorb crash impact in the same way as production line vehicles. The only difference between say a NASCAR roll cage and a production car safety cage is its visibility. Only the truly hardcore want their protection on show. Most people prefer it to be hidden inside trim and beneath carpets.
Motorsport has improved our driving lives
So there we have it, just a small sample of the ways in which motorsport has improved motoring life for all of us. If you are a motorsport fan you will probably already appreciate the positive impact racing technologies have had on our daily lives. If you needed a bit of persuading about the virtues of this most exciting of sports, have a think next time you look in your rear view mirror. If it wasn’t for the advancement of motorsport, you might still be looking over your shoulder.
Motorsport medical services
No matter how far advanced race tech becomes, motorsport will always be a relatively dangerous activity. Medical equipment and cover at all motorsport events must continue to take top priority. Our team at MDD can offer an extensive range of advice, equipment and expertise. Get in touch today to find out how we can support you with your motorsport event.
Call +44 (0) 1992 568 737 to find out more.