Race Car Design for the 21st Century Using 19th Century Tools 2004-01-3557
The modern day quest for speed in ground vehicle design utilizes advanced aerodynamic simulation methods using high-performance computers and calls for experienced engineers to interpret the results. The current widespread use of computational fluid dynamics analysis (CFD) in particular, is helping produce aerodynamically and thermally correct racing cars that can take full advantage of complex ground effects aerodynamic technology. The same CFD technology can greatly improve high-performance engine fuel efficiency and combustion as well as assist to develop the ultimate in under-the-hood thermal management systems.
The use of these tools owes much to a related quest for speed that developed in the 18th Century by supply ships sailing from the western shores of Europe, to the eastern shores of the America's. In that quest for speed, mathematicians at some of Europe's leading Universities sought to resolve the underlying physical and mathematical models for the motion of such vehicles.
Of particular interest was the fundamental work done to describe the decaying motion of a pendulum swinging through air lead directly leading to understanding the concept of viscous drag. This work, conducted by Par Navier (1827) at the University of Paris, and Sir Gabriel Stokes (1845) at Cambridge University, England, culminated in the famous Navier-Stokes equations that described virtually all fluid motions to a degree that still withstands the highest modern scrutiny. These equations have had their greatest impact in modern day aerospace design, including both airframes and turbine engines.