• Jon Tomlinson

Aerodynamic Data Mapping

How well to you know the aerodynamic performance envelope of your race car? Where does it excel, and where are its weaknesses? Do you have different geometric configurations that need evaluating? Understanding your car’s aerodynamics could give you the performance edge you need to beat your competition.

To help understand the aerodynamic performance, a well know practice by motorsport engineers has been to complete an “aeromap”. This is a scientific way to visualise various aerodynamic parameters (such as downforce, aero-balance, drag) with respect to various geometric properties of the car (such as ride height, yaw, steer, or perhaps different configurations such as rear wing angle). This data can then be plotted, and given sufficient data points, contour plots can be generated. For instance, the level of downforce can be plotted as a function of front and rear ride heights. By completing multiple plots of the various parameters, the car’s aerodynamic performance envelope can be better understood, and the strengths and weaknesses of a car can be easily visualised.

As well as understanding the load on the car (downforce, drag), it’s also possible to visualise the aero-balance of the car – which is a measure of the distribution of downforce at the front and rear axles. This can be very useful in determining whether the car has understeer or oversteer across its performance envelope.

By acquiring data from the track (such as the ride height data), it’s possible to overlay the actual track data with the aeromap contour plots. This enables the aerodynamic performance of the car to be evaluated through a lap, and by each corner (braking, mid-corner, exit), for a given track.

This has been proven to be an excellent tool for setting up a car for a given track and maximising the aerodynamic performance available. In addition, it allows optimisation of the best configuration (such as rear wing, front splitter), tailored for a given track.

So, how can you create an aeromap for your car and understand its aerodynamic performance? Well, not easily. The aerodynamic loads on the car will need to be accurately measured, and to achieve sufficient clarity and visualisation, a reasonable number of data points will be required for each range of geometric parameters. With sufficient budget, the ideal option is to build a scale model and complete some wind tunnel tests – however, this requires significant investment and commitment. Full scale testing is certainly a possibility but can be very time consuming to produce the geometric variations necessary. The best budget approach is to utilise Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations. This approach requires a 3-D model of the car, which can be achieved fairly easily by scanning the car. Once completed, multiple configuration cases would be required to build up sufficient data points, but this can be achieved without significant expense. This data can then be utilised directly to plot the required aeromaps, the visualisation of which will help greatly in understand the aerodynamic performance of the car.

If you want to know more about this process and understand the aerodynamic performance envelope of your race car, then contact Dynamic-Aero to arrange an initial consultation.

Dynamic-Aero can arrange the necessary testing (CFD or wind tunnel tests) and provide expert analysis for your car’s aerodynamic performance.


Motorsport Aerodynamics

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