Racecar Vehicle Dynamics explained

Racecar Vehicle Dynamics explained

Understanding Vehicle Dynamics is key to unlocking the performance of any racecar. So here’s how it all works. 

Racecar Vehicle Dynamics
CREDIT: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

A less understood but fundamental branch of motorsport engineering is racecar vehicle dynamics. Vehicle dynamics can often seem like a ‘black art’ that is sometimes feared by engineers and enthusiasts alike. So to de-mystify this vital area of motorsport engineering, we have written an exclusive series of articles, explaining everything you need to know about racecar vehicle dynamics. 

Racecar Vehicle Dyanmics roll pitch yawFirst, let’s obtain a clear definition by breaking it down into it’s constituent words – ‘Vehicle’, self explanatory, and ‘Dynamic’, which is an adjective indicating something that is in a state of change. So, vehicle dynamics refers to the characteristic behaviour of a vehicle in response to a change in its external environment. That change could be in the form of longitudinal or lateral acceleration, roll due to a steering input or a wheel deflection due to a road input – anything that acts to induce a change to move the car away from its equilibrium can be classified as vehicle dynamics.

The fundamental task of a vehicle dynamicist when optimising a vehicle’s performance is to ultimately maximise the longitudinal and lateral accelerations the vehicle is capable of generating through maximisation of the tyre forces.’

With the the tyre being the only part of the racecar in contact with the track’s surface it’s important to understand that every other associated component, such as wheels, suspension, chassis and even aerodynamic devices, are all designed to work in symbiosis to provide the best possible conditions for the tyre. In an effort to maximise the cornering forces each tyre generates, it is crucial to first understand exactly how and why a tyre generates grip, and why it doesn’t – this forms the foundation of the first topic in this series of articles.

Racecar vehicle dynamics tyre contact patch
Michelin. (2001). The Tyre – Grip. [Online]. Available at: http://www.dimnp.unipi.it/guiggiani-m/Michelin_Tire_Grip.pdf (Accessed 28/10/19)

Racecar Vehicle Dynamics articles 

Tyres – coming soon!

  • How tyre rubber works
  • Tyre grip

As the sole point of contact between the vehicle and the track – the tyre is the most important determinant of racecar performance. These articles will help you understand the mechanisms of grip generation and adhesion as well as slip angle, cornering stiffness and what conditions allow a tyre to perform at its better.

Racecar Wheels and Suspension – coming soon!

The configuration of the wheels and suspension system influences a racecars vehicle dynamics greatly through variables such as mass and inertia. This article will also delve into the engineering behind why the double wishbone is the most attractive solution for wheel control in motorsport.

Racecar Kinematics and Compliance – coming soon!

The influence of suspension kinematics on wheel movement relative to the body as well as the importance of controlling camber, toe and the influence of caster and other key characteristics.

Racecar Springs and Dampers – coming soon!

Springs and dampers are key in defining and optimising both the variation in contact pressure and how the vehicle’s mass loads the tyre in transient conditions. This article will also reveal what an optimum setup may look like for different racecars and conditions.

Racecar Chassis – coming soon!

The relationship between mass, Centre of Gravity (CoG) and weight transfer will be explored, as well as concepts such as the roll centre, roll couple, polar moments and their influence on racecar vehicle dynamics. Also to be considered are the modes of chassis displacement generated by force and moment inputs: roll, pitch, heave and warp.

Racecar Data Acquisition – coming soon!

The current state of hardware and software development has enabled quantitative analysis techniques to be employed across all levels of motorsport such as rig testing, instrumented track testing and lap time simulations. In this section we will introduce some of the key data conducive to racecar vehicle dynamics development, how it’s gathered and how it’s analysed.

Practical Applications – coming soon!

How the above knowledge is applied to racecars to optimise set-up as well as how subjective and quantitative feedback from the car and driver is used to improve performance.


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