The SAE Motorsports Aero Challenge

Comparison and Evaluation of Aerodynamic Tools for the Race Car Industry

Current Problem: While the fundamentals of aerodynamics are well known and characterized in the aerospace, automotive, and motor sport communities, there are still advancements needed when comparing computational predictions and test data. There are also a number of areas of race car aerodynamics that would benefit from a better understanding.

Proposed Solution: It is proposed that a series of evaluations combining both experimental and numerical methodologies be undertaken on several, common race car chassis. Special emphasis will be placed on understanding the physics and applications, thereby improving aerodynamic performance. Problem areas defined by current racing activities will be highlighted for the technical community and universities to discuss and propose as subjects for future research and solutions.

The approach is further clarified as follows:

  1. Obtain several types of non-proprietary race car physical properties and their corresponding digital models, e.g. stock car, open wheel and sports-prototype.

  2. Define the problem or situation to be addressed and researched.

  3. Specify, in sufficient detail, a series of aerodynamic conditions (depending on the model) to be investigated. These testing conditions would be prescribed in advance.

  4. Obtain numerical solution(s) for the prescribed set of conditions. This is to be done by the code developers.

  5. Test the model(s) in wind tunnels using the prescribed set of conditions. To be done by the test facilities.

  6. Compare the numerical and experimental results. The coordinators of this activity would be SAE (as honest brokers of technical information).

  7. Send the anonymous results back to the participants and have one-on-one discussions. However, the results would be published in anonymous form.

Benefits: The wind tunnel facilities get their capabilities characterized and recognized for future testing. The CFD code developers get their products characterized and good experimental data to compare and develop codes. The race teams get some insight into aerodynamics to ultimately improve performance. The whole racing community gets improved codes and testing facilities as well as an awareness of fundamental aerodynamic issues and compromises.

We welcome participation and contributions in any or all of the above topics. We plan to develop the content with individual contributors and meet in person as a working group in Charlotte as part of the Motorsports Engineering Conference (December 2-4, 2008) to solidify the details and begin to produce results.

Please contact the SAE Aero Challenge sub-team below:

Bob Welge,, 714-593-2312
Tom Ramsay,, 937-309-9977
Don Taylor,, 626-250-2232

Or the SAE point of contact:

John Miller,, 248-273-2464