10 Unexpected Everyday Car Technologies That Came From Racing
Are there car technologies that came from racing?
Car racing is probably one of the most adrenaline pumping and fun sports out there. Whether it’s Formula 1, IndyCar or NASCAR, sports junkies cannot deny that there’s no other event that keeps the action on the high than tearing down the road track with a Hyundai Elantra or a Ford Mustang. As an enthusiast, you can even feel the thrill on your own Honda Fit or Toyota Corolla (drive safely, folks)! Don’t believe us?
This might come as a surprise for you but those two cars are quite similar to race cars. We’re not even talking about tuned and modified Fits or Corollas. Straight out of the factory, car racing tech has influenced the production of general public cars in more ways than one. You may have a race car experience sooner than you might think!
SEE ALSO: 10 Effective Tips for Buying A Car
Without further ado, here are the 10 everyday car technologies that came from racing that you might find in your car:
Engine Air Intake
Getting enough air is vital for car engines to create power through combustion. The engines will not work without it. Engines should be allowed to breathe because the more air that gets into it, the more power it generates.
Additionally, cold air is the best! Engines give the best performance when cold air is available to thicken the air/fuel mixture the engines burn. This produces more energy. For this purpose, superchargers and ram air intakes are incorporated.
Although important, superchargers aren’t allowed in Formula 1 and NASCAR racing. Superchargers are more seen on dragsters for events that focus on straight-line speed. This has convinced automakers to use the technology for production cars.
You’ve probably seen hood scoops—nostril-like openings of various shapes and sizes on car hoods. Those little details in the design allow more cold air into the engine. Although they’re not as efficient as superchargers or ram air systems, they at least bring more cool air to bring down the engine’s temperature and improve performance.
Keep reading for the next one of the car technologies that came from racing.
As explained above, exterior details often have performance purposes. The same is true when it comes to race cars. In fact, every inch of a race car is designed carefully to serve a specific purpose. It’s not all for appearance.
Nonetheless, because we associate race cars’ smooth, flowing shapes with power, performance, and elegance, these designs are frequently transformed into production cars. Wind tunnel testing was used by racing teams and race car designers to develop the most aerodynamic forms. Because race cars travel at such high speeds, race car engineers and designers devised spoilers and air dams to keep the wheels stable at high speeds. Those aerodynamic elements looked so good on race cars that automobile companies quickly got in on the act and have now introduced them to many production cars – albeit in a slightly toned-down form.
Keep reading for the third of the car technologies that came from racing.
A manual mode on an automatic transmission allows the driver to switch gears without using the clutch pedal.
Most American drivers use automatic transmissions, which sets cruising around town apart from a hard-shifting lap on a Formula One track. However, the function of a transmission in a race car and a production car is the same: it transfers engine power to the car’s wheels. A manual transmission allows the driver to control the flow of power from the engine to the wheels, whereas an automatic transmission shifts gears with no input from the driver (other than the initial selection of Drive). Race car drivers want the control of a manual transmission, but it can be slow and prone to human error.
Clutchless manuals, or automatic transmissions with a manual mode, on the other hand, take the concept of engine control without a clutch pedal and sequential shifting and apply it to production vehicles. These systems are becoming more common in passenger vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions. They are basically automatic transmissions that allow the driver to choose when the car changes gears without the use of a clutch pedal. These systems, like racing transmissions, only allow drivers to shift in sequence.
That’s another one of the car technologies that came from racing. Keep reading for the next!
Disc brakes are standard equipment on most vehicles today but they first appeared on race cars in the 1950s.
Race car brakes are designed to provide sure stops under extreme situations. Manufacturers have decided to incorporate this technology into road cars.
Unlike the drum brake design, racing teams approved of disc brakes in the 1950s due to them being more powerful and easier to maintain than the former. They’re also easier to keep cool.
Didn’t expect that? You’ll be surprised at the next of the car technologies that came from racing!
Push button ignitions are popular now in car production. Porsche oddly puts them on the left side of the steering wheel, for some logical reason: Left-hand ignition allows the driver to start the car and shift into first gear almost simultaneously. This is Porsche’s own racing strategy and they have transferred it to production cars.
Numerous production cars are using push button ignition racing technology and manufacturers have their own touch to the system. For example, BMW requires drivers to first insert a key into the slot to be able to push the button. Other manufacturers like Infiniti have an electronic fob that communicates with the car. When the fob gets near to the car, the doors will unlock. When the fob is inside the car, the button is activated.
Don’t be tired yet! Keep reading for the next one of the car technologies that came from racing!
Most drivers ignore their tires until they blow. Sad, because tires keep the car on the road and the driver in control. Car racing teams know this. That’s why they use high-performance tires designed for their sport. Its technology has trickled down to production cars.
You’ve probably noticed that your car’s tires have grooves. The groves help the tire channel water, snow, and slush away from the car. Off-road or all-terrain tires have deep grooves and bumpy rubber. To grip uneven or loose surfaces, the car needs this tire type. A sports car’s tires have fewer grooves and are usually shallower. This allows more tire rubber to contact the road, improving handling. Racing spawned all of these innovations and tire types.
Like most racing technologies, high-performance racing tires have been adopted into everyday cars. For example, F1 and NASCAR cars use soft rubber tires. Heat makes the rubber sticky, which helps keep the car on the track. That’s great, but don’t go out and buy racing tires just yet. Most production tires are designed to last for tens of thousands of miles, whereas the softer rubber used in racing tires has a limited lifespan. Many basic tire designs have evolved from racing innovations, but are now used in production cars.
We’re not done yet! The next one of the car technologies that came from racing on this list will surprise you.
Your car’s suspension is one area where racing technology has almost directly translated to production cars. In racing, it’s best if all four tires stay on the track. That increases the car’s stability and ensures that all of the engine’s power is used to move the car.
Most race cars have independent suspensions. These suspensions allow each wheel to move independently of the others. N.A.S.R. cars use MacPherson struts, while F1. Several production cars offer both suspension types.
So, why isn’t your car a race car? While the suspension types may be the same, NASCAR and Formula One suspensions are adjusted very differently than your car’s suspension. In a race car, the suspension must keep the car stable during extreme acceleration and braking. Forget about customizing your car’s suspension to match a race car’s: It’s tuned for comfort and performance. Most race car suspensions aren’t designed for comfort.
Suspensions take a spot among the car technologies that came from racing. Keep reading for the next!
One of the reasons race cars can post such fast track times is their lightness. Of course, a race team can build a lightweight car that can only carry one person and has no interior but racing cars use lightweight materials to make them faster. Of course, lightweight materials aren’t enough; otherwise, race cars would be made of paper. Race cars are extremely stressed, so every component must be strong.
Carbon fiber is a high-tech material used in race cars. The bodies of F1 race cars are almost entirely carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is a lightweight, strong material that is starting to appear on production cars, mostly as decorative elements. Carbon fiber’s lightness could dramatically improve fuel economy. The issue: It’s too costly for most cars.
Aluminum is another strong and lightweight material used in race cars, mostly for the engine block. Aluminum engine blocks have been in production cars for a while, but some automakers are now using aluminum for exterior body panels. Aluminum hoods are now more common than ever. Because aluminum is less expensive than carbon fiber, it has been able to enter the production car market faster. Aluminum is popular among automakers because it is lightweight, improves fuel economy, and is strong.
Keep reading for the ninth of the car technologies that came from racing.
Dual Overhead Camshafts
When you were shopping for a car, you probably heard the term “DOHC” or saw it in a brochure. But what does it mean?
Engines use valves to let air in and exhaust out. A cam opens and closes the valves. With dual cams, the valves can open and close faster, improving performance. This engine design first appeared in early 1900s race cars and is still used in many production cars today.
We’re almost there! Find out the last of the car technologies that came from racing!
Car racing requires extreme performance and safety. Fortunately, for those of us who don’t race, that safety technology is embedded in our everyday cars. It’s so intertwined that you might not even think of it as related to racing.
The most vital piece of safety technology is invisible. All race cars have a driver protection structure. In open wheel racing, such as IndyCar or Formula One, the car’s body is made of carbon fiber to protect the driver. It is used in NASCAR and drag racing. The roll cage is a steel tube network that protects the driver. Production car safety cages use the same principles as NASCAR roll cages. They’re hidden under the carpet, headliner, door trim and other interior features that race cars lack.
Want to know another race-derived everyday safety feature? Every car has it, but you’d never guess it came from a race car: Mirrors. In the early 1900s, race car drivers discovered that mirrors could be used to see their competitors. Since then, millions of drivers rely on rearview mirrors for safety. It’s a banal piece of car tech, but it has a racing history.
What do you think of the 10 technologies we listed?
The primary goal of car racing teams is to build the fastest and best-performing cars. To do that, they’d need the participation of top designers and engineers. These important people experiment, brainstorm, conceptualize and bring sketches to life. When they have a breakthrough, the manufacturers apply it to mass-produced cars in whatever way possible.