Duke University Motorsports is a student group that designs and builds open wheel, single seat race cars to compete in the Formula SAE competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The team consists of Duke students from both Pratt and Trinity, in all classes. The purpose of the team is to provide students with a way to gain practical design and manufacturing experience in a fun and challenging setting.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Big Picture

Another year, another car. So what's new for 2012?

Well, this year's car will be a major redesign from previous years. There will be a large focus on
aerodynamics, and in fact the entire car will be designed with aero in mind. If everything goes to
plan, we will have a new frame redesign to reduce wheelbase and increase stiffness, suspension designed for our aero package, a complete repackaging of the rear half of the car to accommodate the new frame, and hopefully incremental improvements everywhere else. But the overarching theme is downforce.

Why aero?

We're always looking to build a better car - and in one of the metrics we're scored on, faster is better. So how do we go faster with the resources we have on hand, and what design choices will yield the largest gains? Changing engines would be one option, but we simply don't have the funds or (especially) manpower to make that change in one year (or probably even two). In fact, most of the changes we make to our car are two year projects, with a year of testing to convince us of reliability and fix potential issues. So given our engine probably isn't going to change, I think we're to the point where it's hard to shed a lot more weight. Suspension design is another point, and that is something we're going to address this year. I think our biggest problem last year was tire temperatures - the tires simply weren't getting up to temperature, even after a mock endurance. Downforce allows for both more grip and more heat in the tires. Some people will argue that aero isn't worth it at the speeds we run, but if the aero is designed with our speed ranges in mind, there are large gains to be had as testing last year showed.

Last year I was able to advise a senior design
team that worked on a preliminary aero package design, consisting of a front wing and a rear wing. They went through the design through CFD, verified the CFD in the wind tunnel, built the wings, and then we went out and track tested their work on an old car. I was happy with the results - the car was much more planted, stable, and we saw a very noticeable improvement in grip at speed. Our testing time was limited though, and the venue wasn't ideal. But the data that we did get pointed towards aero as a viable method of improving the car's grip.

This year I'm stepping it up a notch by redoing the wing designs and adding an undertray. I'll talk more about the aero design later, but for now, everything is moving along, and I think I'll have the changes to the car designed in CAD before we get back to school.

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