By Mohammad Ali
The automotive world was shocked when Lamborghini claimed the Nurburgring production car lap time record. The reason for that disbelief was the car that it beat, the most advanced road car to ever grace the ring, the Porsche 918 Spyder. The Huracán Performante paled in comparison to the previous record holder. The Porsche has a hybrid powertrain system to eliminate the combustion engine’s lag when accelerating out of corners and shifting gears. The hybrid powertrain also gives the 918 an extra 200 horsepower. From a technological perspective, the Lamborghini could not have beaten the Porsche. This record-breaking lap was shrouded with mystery, many condemned the Huracán Performante’s lap time, stating that the footage was edited and the lap was actually faster than what it appeared. It was only when Porsche reclaimed that record six months later beating the Huracán by another five seconds did the public accept the dark arts of aerodynamics. Like the Lamborghini, the GT2 RS was only equipped with a combustion engine and a big rear spoiler. Both of these cars were able to beat the time of the 918, due to the big wing; more specifically the air pushing down on the big wing.
The Huracán’s dominance of the Nurburgring Nordschliefe can be attributed to an all-new aerodynamics system developed by Lamborghini; Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (ALA). This system provides perfect aerodynamic conditions for all driving scenarios. This technology, reduces drag in a straight line by opening flaps underneath the spoiler, and opening flaps on the front wing. These measures allowed the Huracán to reach a higher velocity in a straight line. However, when the all of the flaps are closed, the Huracán’s aero package acts like a normal rear wing and front splitter. The added aero dynamical advantages of the Huracán Performante over the regular Huracán allows the latter to generate an extra 750% of maximum downforce, highlighting the effect of aerodynamics.
Downforce is the force acting on a moving vehicle in a downwards direction due to an aerodynamic package installed on the vehicle. Increasing the downforce generated by a vehicle will increase the weight pushing down on the vehicle, allowing the vehicle to have more grip. The increased grip results from the increased vertical forces on the tyres.
A rear wing is able to generate downforce, due to the pressure difference which it generates. In order for a rear wing to generate downforce, the air travelling over the wing must be travelling at a slower velocity than the air travelling underneath the ring wing, to exert a greater pressure. As pressure is directly proportional to force, a net downwards force is generated.
There are a multitude of other factors which affect the downforce generated such as the vehicle’s velocity and the area of contact between the aerodynamic components and the wind. The Porsche 911 GT2 RS was able to shatter the record, beating both the Lamborghini and the 918, as it was able to maintain a higher velocity through the corners and the straights. The GT2 is around 200 kg lighter and produces 100 horsepower more from its combustion engine than the 918, and it produces 70 hp more than the Huracán, however, is around 80 kg heavier.
The GT2’s extra power allows it to have a higher peak velocity in straights, and it also allows it to accelerate faster out of corners, all of which enabling to generate more downforce. When comparing both the Huracán and the GT2 RS the differences become apparent. At the end of the Nordschliefe’s main straight, the Performante reached a speed of 303 km/h, whereas the GT2 RS peaked at 311 km/h. This difference in speed was visible throughout the whole track, the Porsche was also able to carry more speed through the corners, resulting in 5 seconds being taken off the record time.
Aerodynamics obviously was not the only factor which enabled both cars to better the 918 Spyder’s time. Both cars were substantially lighter than the Porsche. Although both the 918 Spyder and the GT2 RS were fitted with Michelin’s Pilot Sport Cup 2, the one on the 918 was a compound developed four years before that of the GT2 RS. Michelin’s improvements regarding these tyres has allowed the GT2 RS to produce more mechanical grip than the 918.
It would be foolish to disregard the role that aerodynamics plays in the time it takes for a car to get around a circuit. Historically, aerodynamics has been crucial in motor racing, especially in the world of Formula one. Pre- rear wings and front splitters, F1 racers were designed to look like a rain drop or a bullet, for aerodynamic efficiency. Currently, every single body panel of the cars is placed to harness the dark arts of aerodynamics.
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