Many years ago (OK, 13), when the Mk1 Lotus Exige was new, everyone was very excited that it had downforce – you know, like a racing car and all. So we set off to do a feature on it. On the road, it gripped and gripped, but then we went to a track. The lateral g was too much for me to explore, but one of our testers was a bit handy on a track, so set off down the pitlane with a cheery wave. At the first corner, he decided to throw it merrily sideways, and we all stood by to enjoy watching the rest of his lap. No sooner had the tyres started to squeal on that first bend, he was in the gravel. The Lotus engineer who’d come along to shepherd the car turned to us spectators, shrugged his shoulders and deadpanned: “That’s the trouble with wings. They only work in one direction.” Once the air was no longer passing exactly fore-aft over the rear wing, it became a whole lot less effective. So the car lost rear-end grip at the exact moment our man needed it. Road-car aerodynamics, then, are no simple matter. And they can’t even be… Read full this story
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