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Fast Car Physics

Chuck Edmondson

Publication Year: 2011

Revving engines, smoking tires, and high speeds. Car racing enthusiasts and race drivers alike know the thrill of competition, the push to perform better, and the agony—and dangers—of bad decisions. But driving faster and better involves more than just high horsepower and tightly tuned engines. Physicist and amateur racer Chuck Edmondson thoroughly discusses the physics underlying car racing and explains just what’s going on during any race, why, and how a driver can improve control and ultimately win. The world of motorsports is rich with excitement and competition—and physics. Edmondson applies common mathematical theories to real-world racing situations to reveal the secrets behind successful fast driving. He explains such key concepts as how to tune your car and why it matters, how to calculate 0 to 60 mph times and quarter-mile times and why they are important, and where, when, why, and how to use kinematics in road racing. He wraps it up with insight into the impact and benefit of green technologies in racing. In each case, Edmondson’s in-depth explanations and worked equations link the physics principles to qualitative racing advice. From selecting shifting points to load transfer in car control and beyond, Fast Car Physics is the ideal source to consult before buckling up and cinching down the belts on your racing harness.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xi

Before I can pull the retractable ladder down from the ceiling of my garage and retrieve our Christmas decorations from the attic, I have to move a stack of tires. I sit and stare at two full sets of wheels and five sets of tires and wonder, how did this happen? Between the tools and tires, there is no room for the ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Many people have made this text and my time behind the wheel possible. I owe them all a sincere debt of gratitude. First and foremost, I would like to thank the owner and my co-drivers at Team Paco's Parts House. The owner is the love of my life and my wife JoAnne. My co-drivers are my son Tristan and daughter Brittany. With the three of them at my side, every day of racing and ...

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Chapter 1. Torque or Horsepower? Finding the Shift Points

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pp. 18-34

I was watching an international broadcast of A1 Grand Prix involving 550 horsepower open-wheeled racers. Each car represented a different country. The British announcing team tossed around the names of European drivers and gave the show an air of intelligence. Their apparent knowledge and self-confidence were impressive. An in-cockpit camera revealed a bar of lights that ...

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Chapter 2. Horsepower, 0 to 60 mph, and the Quarter Mile

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pp. 18-44

We made it all the way through the discussion in the first chapter without really defining horsepower. Power, P, is the rate of doing work, W/t. Work, W, in physics is a force, F, acting along a distance, d. Combining these definitions, P, ...

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Chapter 3. Finding the Racing Line: Road Racing

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pp. 45-81

In road racing, the tracks look like sections of public rural roads. The asphalt or concrete turns both left and right. The radius of the corners varies, as do the elevation and camber of the roadway. A well-built track will feature large runoff areas where cars that lose control can scrub off speed without collisions. A typical track will cover 1.5 to 3.5 miles with 10 to 15 different turns. For a ...

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Chapter 4. Basic Vehicle Dynamics: Load Transfer and Tires

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pp. 82-122

The most fundamental physics quantity involved in vehicle dynamics is the center of gravity. In physics, we tend to talk about the center of mass, while engineers talk about the center of gravity (CG). The good news is that as long as the local gravitational field is uniform, the two are identical. Like everyone else, we'll use the terms interchangeably. The center of mass is the ...

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Chapter 5. Steering and Suspension

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pp. 123-178

We now have some criteria for choosing a racing line, and we understand a little more about how tires work. It is time to tune the handling of our car. To understand handling corrections, we need to integrate what we have already learned with new ideas from suspension and steering design. We will start with steering basics, steering problems, and common suspension layouts. We ...

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Chapter 6. Green Racing

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pp. 179-219

To this point, we have considered many of the factors that make race cars work and drivers win. It is time to shift our focus to the future and look at potential new technology. We call this future "green racing," and at its heart is the study of energy. The most fundamental need in the universe is energy. Without energy ...

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Conclusion. Get Off the Streets and Go Racing!

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pp. 220-222

We have explored a few of the basic physics ideas behind fast driving and fast cars. Perhaps the point of this exercise, as much as any, is that first-year physics is incredibly powerful. Its insight is not limited to the world of blocks on inclined planes. Physics can be a key that unlocks our most fun activities and explains our most demanding and complex challenges. ...

Suggested Reading

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pp. 223-224


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pp. 225-229

E-ISBN-13: 9781421401140
E-ISBN-10: 1421401142
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801898235
Print-ISBN-10: 0801898234

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 9 halftones, 116 line drawings
Publication Year: 2011