Efficiency is a single word that means quite a lot in the modern world. Resourcefulness stems from creativity. A clever solution is often the best solution towards minimizing waste and maximizing the value of the project. In modern times, this is becoming more and more clear, as people become more cautious with the resources allocated to certain projects.
Efficiency has long been at the center of racing. Why? Allow me to give an example. The* example. This is the best example anyone will ever find:
Dan Gurney, the racing legend who created the Gurney Flap and has various other significant contributions to racing to his name, was leading the 3 hour long race at Daytona when his crankshaft had failed. This meant that his car came to a stop… Mere feet from the finish line. The efficiency aspect of this? He waited a full lap at the start/finish without crossing, in order to only complete the number of laps he needed to finish to win. If he had begun another lap within the 3 hour time frame, he would have been expected to finish it. Another lap would have been unnecessary and wasteful. His ailing engine would not have made it; he would not have won. But, with the assistance of the banking, he simply coasted across the finish line, allowing the gravity to do the work for him.
See, this race from 1962 actually speaks volumes about the future of motorsports. Now, it’s no longer about just being the fastest - it never has been so specific as just being the fastest. Now, more than ever, it’s about conserving the cars, the fuel, the tires, and the brakes. While there are some tips for making the drivers more efficient within this online magazine, there are also some ever more vital steps that began way before the driver ever saw the prototype of the race car. Engineers are now expected to make the cars more environmentally friendly, more fuel-efficient and more aerodynamically effective than ever before.
The best part? Some of the devices invented by Dan Gurney are still some of the most utilized devices in modern race car designs. You see, racing has - despite everything you may have heard - always been somewhat obsessed with efficiency. Long before the daily driver cars of the public ever saw any use from the aerodynamic wind tunnels that racing teams were using, there were cars like the 1937 Auto Union Type C “Streamliner,” which proved that our obsession with speed was not meant to be wasteful, but which actually created the modern idea of speed through efficiency. Compare the streamlined Auto Union Type C with the 1937 Fords, and you will notice one of perhaps the largest, most striking differences between performance-built race cars and public-built road cars, that ever existed. You see, even to this day, the Auto Union Type C is one of the fastest cars ever built. The speeds it hit were incredible. How was this possible in 1937?
The answer to that question is staring at you, literally. The striking design meant that the relatively low-power (by modern standards) 560 horsepower engine was able to accelerate the “tear-drop shaped death trap” up to absurd speeds. Even the road cars were slightly rounded for aerodynamic benefits, but they still had the frontal surface area of 3 Type Cs, and several unnecessary “separation zones” (a term used by aerodynamicists to refer to areas of inefficient aerodynamic design which cause the fluid flow to separate from the surface of the vehicle.) Picture a car with a giant invisible bubble behind it, where the invisible bubble is the turbulent air which has been forced away from the bodywork of the car by an overly sharp angle or an unnecessary piece of bodywork, like pop-up headlights. The more efficient, the smaller the “bubble.” In actuality, it’s not always that simple, but it gives a good indication of the idea. The most aerodynamic design is a waterdrop; that’s not just a coincidence. The water drop is formed that way by the air around it, that it is falling through.
Jump ahead 80 years into the future, and the cars are much faster, and the engineers have a more thorough understanding of how aerodynamics work. But, it’s still as important as ever, or more important. You see, with the way that fuel continues to cost ever more, and the increasingly strict environmental regulations, every racing team on the planet wants to go faster with less money. Smaller tires, smaller engines, more power, less fuel… The design expectations of modern race cars are an immense undertaking for even the best design firms.
One such design, however, shook the world, recently. The Deltawing, which is a bizarre monster of a Le Mans Prototype, is probably the smallest race car to ever race at Le Mans. It still has four wheels, but it uses half the fuel and half of the tires of the other cars. It does this by reducing its weight and reducing its aerodynamic footprint. It still generates lots of downforce, but with less drag simply due to the frontal surface area being much lower, and having a very small coefficient of drag. This car can reach the same speeds as the old 1937 Type C mentioned above, but with approximately 1/10th of the amount of fuel required. Oh, and the Deltawing is much, much safer.
Road cars are the same way. But, the question begs be asked, what would have been if racing had not existed? How much fuel would modern cars burn, if racing had been frowned upon sooner? The answer to the world’s pollution problems is not to stop racing. Oh no, the answer to the world’s problems right now is to race even more, and to relax the restrictions on ideas to save fuel and make the cars more efficient, safer, and smarter. This is why racing matters.
Andrew Geier is an accomplished automotive enthusiast, with 15 years of automotive experience. At age 22, he created Melons' Better Driving in an effort to make people rethink the automotive world with insightful vision and articles about the future of the automotive culture and all of its subcultures, including motorsports. Seen in the site's background image, examining a road which was torn up by rally cars with his friends, his passion is clearly demonstrated by his excited pose.