Welcome to the Physics of Motorsport Homepage
Aims of the Course
This course looks at the physics involved in designing and driving
fast racing cars. It will concentrate mainly on four wheeled, petrol driven
vehicles, but the same physical problems apply to all kinds of vehicles.
By taking this course, I hope you'll learn from:
- applying physical principles to a real-world problem.
- figuring out how to build a better racing car than those guys at
There are five parts to the course:
Power Talk. We'll discuss the meaning of a car's performance statistics.
For example, what do we mean when we claim our car has 150 bhp? How
does it relate to its top speed?
Power or Torque? Engine performance is governed by the two numbers:
maximum power and maxium torque. Together with the gear box,
these determine how fast it accelerates; but should the designer
concentrate on increasing power or torque, or simply making the
The Straights. Tyres are the secret of motorsport sucess. We'll discuss
what limits a tyre's ability to grip the road and propel a racing car
forwards. `Weight transfer' will explain why F1 cars have their
engines at the rear.
The Racing Line. What is the quickest route around a corner? The secret
is that larger radius turns require the tyres to generate less
Skids and Why They Happen. We'll discuss the way the weight of a racing
car is balanced between the wheels. Braking or accelerating in a
corner shifts the weight distribution and the force a tyre is
expected to generate. This leads to a skid.
A set of condensed notes are available at this link.
These notes are not a substitute for attending lectures, but
they will help you if something is unclear. Please e-mail me at the
address below if you need more help.
Richard Bower (R.G.Bower@durham.ac.uk)
Monday October 23 16:09:30 BST 2000