1st May 12, 13:53 #1
Has Motorsport Become Underpowered?
Recently I have been watching F1 and Indycar races and i've been thinking to myself - have the cars become underpowered? Its undoubted that in lap time terms both Indycar and F1 are very rapid, but its telling that in F1 terms many of the lap records are from around 2003-2004. Now, I accept that at that time F1 was in the midst of a tyre war which breeds tyres that are made to go as fast as possible, not to be as conservative as possible (Bridgestone) or to spice up the show (Pirelli). However it must be remembered that by 2004/2005 the top teams were running in excess of 900BHP, some even claim that by the back-end of 2005 Honda were pushing out over 950BHP from thier 3 litre V10, so before they start the current cars are losing out by as much as 200BHP and thats only in top power terms, in terms of power through the range and torque I understand that the cars have lost out even more. So I got thinking about when the peak of power for each of the major categories of motorsport was, I came up with the following, some might surprise you.
F1 - circa 1986, BMW 1.5 litre turbo - approx. 1200BHP (late season qualigying trim, Benetton reported a 5.5bar spike in boost in qualifying at Monza, this is estimated to around 1300BHP!). Today's cars have approx 750BHP from rev limited and tightly specced "frozen development" 2.4 litre V8 engines.
Indycar - early 1970s, unlimited boost on 2.65 litre engines, over 1000BHP & circa 1999/2000 in Champ car 2.65 litre engines with limited boost that had approaching 1000BHP. 2012 Indycar engines produce in the range of 550-700BHP, dependant on track configuration from a 2.2 V6 turbo engine.
NASCAR - bucks the trend, the latest fuel injected breed of 5.86 litre V8 engines are also the most powerful, with what has been described as "approaching 900BHP".
British Touring Cars - 1989 Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, 2 litres, turbocharged, 550BHP going through a rear axle equipt with standard width wheels and tyres. The current breed of NGTC cars produce aorund 300BHP.
Sportscars - A Porsche 917/30 in unrestricted Can-Am spec was fitted with a turbocharged 5.4 litre flat 12 capable of delivering 1580BHP in qualifying trim, racing with over 1100BHP. The current class of the Sportscar field is the Audi R18, powered by a 3.7 litre V6 turbo diesel engine producing 532BHP in it's latest guise.
Its a little dissapointing that power has been reigned in so much, as I would argue that stright line speed isnt the biggest factor affecting safety, as high cornering speeds which have come to dominate most categories thanks to the inexorable rise of aerodynamic development are a much bigger factor in safety. However, if you think about it, massive power combined with massive downforce is perhaps and even more leathal combination!
3rd May 12, 14:29 #2
I wouldn't say cars are underpowered. For the most part aerodynamics have been a euphemism technology and consequently never had such radical rule changes.The world according to Taki Inoue: https://mobile.twitter.com/takiinoue/status/301406167249326080
3rd May 12, 21:17 #3
Actually, I'm with Phillipbain on this one. I mean, it's telling when you have cars (such as the Corvettes in ALMS) that actually have to have horsepower reductions in order to be legal to race in the series. The street version of the ZR1 is well over 600hp, the race version is some wheresouth of 500.
Even NASCAR has felt the pain of this. Yes, the top level Sprint Cup cars are probably now in excess of 900 (NASCAR released some chassis dyno numbers about a year and a half ago that showed that ECR and Penske were pushing over 880 at the rear wheels so that's possibly close to 930-940 at the crank). But the lower levels have been saddled with a smaller carburetor (the Nationwide and Truck Series do not use FI as of yet) and a tapered spacer and are "only" putting out 650 or so. They sound sick as they go by, too.
It's all about aero these days. Too much, if ya ask me. Every form of racing now suffers from the dreaded "areo-push" which makes it impossible to pass without some sort of gimmick (like DRS and KERS in F1 and push to pass in Indy Car).
But, what does one do? With today's technology, all forms of racing would almost be too fast to be safely viewed by fans at the track if they were allowed to have unlimited horsepower. NASCAR would be hitting 230+ at Daytona and Talladega if not for the restrictor plate they use. Champ Car had to cancel their race at Texas several years ago as they were hitting over 240 and drivers were experiencing ill effects from the G-forces in the turns. And in F1 even the great Michael Schumacher had started to complain that they may be going a little too fast back in the early 2000's.
I wish they would put the racing back in the drivers hands. More power, less down force, (I mean A LOT less), and make the cars heavier, too. Make the cars harder to handle. It has worked in NASCAR over the years at the smaller tracks and it really shows on the road courses they run on twice a year. Sprint Cup cars have tons of HP and handle like absolute pigs. Its telling when guys like Montoya and Hamilton get their hands on a cup car for the first time and the first words out of their mouth are "Wow, now that was fun, and the cars have alot more power than one would have thought!#29 2007 Daytona 500 , 2003 Brickyard 400, 2011 Coke 600 Champ: 854 starts, 73 wins, 293 T5s, 465 T10s, 33 poles, 2x NNS champ
5th May 12, 01:56 #4
A very interesting subject, and one I'm surprised hasn't gained more replies.
Furthermore, I believe that those 'fans' to whom speed is everything are the product either of a dumbed-down modern age or an undue obsession with numbers over actual competition.
5th May 12, 08:34 #5
I would gladly take more power and less grip, any day of the week. More actual passing without having to resort to stupid gimmicks like overtaking buttons.
7th May 12, 12:17 #6
Originally Posted by theugsquirrel
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However, I doubt the Manufacturers and tyre companies would agree.WRC: On the long way to Recovery............
Is there a better sound than that of Porsche engined Flat-6 ???
7th May 12, 16:23 #7
I don't think that manufacturers and tyre companies care one jot. As long as their brand can be seen to be beating Citroen, Ford, Toyota, etc or Bridgestone, Dunlop, Pirelli, etc they're happy. All they want is enough potential buyers to watch and be impressed. It always surprises me that the TV coverage of F1 focuses so much on the drivers and almost ignores the manufacturers - no wonder there's only Mercedes left now Renault, Toyota and Honda have quit (as manufacturers).
As to the main topic, I feel that the current problem is an excess of grip (aerodynamic and mechanical) which is disturbing the power: grip balamce. If cars have more power than the tyres can handle which puts a premium on driving skill and makes cars cornering a spectacle in itself. We then need to limit the aerodynamics so that cars can run closewithout aerodynamically destabilising each other - if Indycars can do it surely F1 can! Once you do that there will be no need for artifical means to make the racing closer: KERS, DRS, tyres that last only 50 miles, a race director chucking his hat on the track to induce a safety car period (Yes, it happened in a NASCAR race!), etc. People will watch for the spectacle and enjoy an overtaking move when they see one. The absolute speed is largely irrelevant provided the FIA don't take measures that cut it "at a stroke"
Last edited by D-Type; 5th Jul 12 at 09:49.Duncan Rollo
The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know.
4th Jul 12, 22:07 #8
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Hi, new to the forum.
In F1 I think the cars are underpowered, can be seen as mentioned before regarding historic lap times in spite of having super soft tyres. We must also bear in mind that the current F1 cars suffer a fuel restriction. No Refueling! We cant have our cake and eat it. More power means more fuel. More fuel means refueling etc. which is banned. On the rallying front I think the cars are fast enough. The sport is spectacular and we are not having the tragical accidents of the group 2 era. However, this is the best F1 season I have seen. I have followed F1 since 1964!
4th Jul 12, 23:28 #9
In regard to F1 and Indy Car, I think the aero capabilities have gotten too far in front of the horsepower. So yes, I agree that too much aero depence and not enough horsepower means the cars are often quicker (lap times) than they used to be, but not always as fast (top speed). From memory, Emmerson Fittipaldi was doing over 250 down the straights at Indy back in the early 90's, when Penske had that trick Mercedes "push rod" Indy special. But through the corners, Emmo had to brake enough that the modern spec cars have as good or better lap times. As Will Power said recently, the cars need more horsepower. IMO, that would better separate the "real" drivers from the pretenders, who need the cars to be stuck to the pavement.
I'm OK with the horsepower that NASCAR and ALMS have. They could have more, but at least there (in GT, at least), the horsepower restrictions don't seem to be dumbing down the racing as much as in Indy Car. As for F1, as Navigator pointed out, the racing this year has been so incredible (yeah, primarily because of the tires), I wouldn't change a thing. In order to give F1 more horsies, the FIA would have to radically cut down on the aero - otherwise the cars would be too quick/fast. Plus, as completely ugly as all the cars are (except the McLaren) this year, I'm almost afraid of what any new aero changes would look like."Every generation's memory is exactly as long as its own experience." --John Kenneth Galbraith
5th Jul 12, 13:51 #10
It's a complicated issue. Effectively "underpowered" means too much grip and too little power. But what can be done?
Although not generally admitted I think the prime concern of the FIA and the race organisers is a car leaving the circuit and going into the crowd (although some years ago, Le Mans 1955 and Monza 1961 come to mind). And of course driver fatalities.
You can provide barriers, debris fencing and run off areas but the prime concern is cornering speeds. Remember that the kinetic energy rises with the square of the speed - twice the speed means four times the energy while a 10% increase means a 20% increase in energy. Barriers must not only be made stronger, they also have to absorb energy progressively to limit the loads on the unfortunate driver and the width of run off areas also goes up with the square of the speed.
So how can we reduce cornering speeds -or at least keep them down? Reducing power reduces the entry speed and hence the cornering speed but also reduces the spectacle. Reducing grip, either aerodynamic or mechanical, also works but arguably increases the chance of a car going off. I doubt it does really as no driver wants to go over the limit.
I think the answer is to do both, but do it in such a way that there is more of an excess of power over grip than at present. Reducing power is easy - restrict the air inflow (NASCAR style) or reduce engine size. But this can lead to less safe racing as it is more difficult to overtake. That's one reason why the 1961-65 period produced more fatalities than immediately previously. Reducing aerodynamic grip means: (a) eliminating ground effect by increased ground clearance and flat bottoms, (b) limiting wings by size and even a spec profile (Indycar-style), (c) restricting diffusers etc which acn only be done by dimensional restrictions - but this turns into a contest between designers stretching the rules and rule makers reacting by tightening them. To reduce grip by mechanical means: (a) limit the track, (b) restrict tyre width, (c) introduce tyre regulations that effectively require tyres to last the race. The last is easier said than done: ban tyre changes except in an emergency (but how can you define or enforce it), slow up tyre changes by banning power tools and requiring five wheel nuts (a bit artificial).
Average speeds and maximum speeds will fall. But does this really matter? Could you see the difference between a bunch of cars doing 200mph and a bunch doing 150mph? Admittedly there is a psychological barrier to be cleared: for example in the US the lower average speeds of F1 cars on street circuits compared to the NASCAR taxicabs on the high banked ovals remains a problem sellling it to the casual fan. If we can reduce the grip/power ratio to former levels the spectacle will improve - cornering will become hairier and the difference between the "ace" drivers and the "journeyman" drivers will be more significant and apparent to the casual fan. Racing will be more entertaining to watch. [British] touring cars and the likes of Formula Ford can be entertaining at far lower speeds than today's F1 cars. Yes, racing is about speed but absolute speed is only a number. With less induced aerodynamic instability overtaking will be easier and there will be less need for pit stops "to liven it up".
Sorry for the long post, but it is a complex issue with no easy answer - if there were, it would have been introduced.Duncan Rollo
The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know.
6th Jul 12, 23:27 #11
[QUOTE=navigator;1049064]On the rallying front I think the cars are fast enough. The sport is spectacular and we are not having the tragical accidents of the group 2 era.
Perhaps you really meant to write something other than Group 2? I consider what might be described as the Gp2 era to have been the best one. Certainly no major track record for injury/fatal accidents. By far the best regulations for most of the period - reasonable production quantities for the basic car, modifications that were broadly in line with what the non-International competitors were already doing to their cars (thus allowing true club level drivers to enter Internationals with few changes) body strengthening allowed (unlike the over-hyped Gp1 which, for that reason alone, was never as cheap as claimed) etc.
8th Jul 12, 22:40 #12
We certainly dont see the 20,000+ RPM that BMW and others were reaching in the early 2000's thanks to the limiting of revs. It was more impressive back then. But at a cost of the amount of engine failures. At least costs are down now."In F1 too many things overshadow the Racing" by Kimi
"Like DRS, soft tyres and "The Show"." by Me
8th Jul 12, 23:15 #13
The other thing I really miss about the high revs is that you would actually get retirements. The recent Valencia GP was like a real throwback to the olden days. For me, the whole not knowing if cars will retire from top positions was one of the major factors of the appeal and drama of F1 for me and added a whole new dimension to the story of a race. It is with horror that I now behold an era when a team suffering 2 or 3 mechanical failures a season is considered unreliable! But I agree at least the costs are now more managable and the engines are more evenly matched making performances closer and more competitive.SPAM - Going off topic to give you the deals you don't want. - (I'll change my avatar back soon)
9th Jul 12, 21:20 #14
I think the unpredicatbility of F1 in days past was more exciting. When some weeks you had a race where the tops cars raced hard to the flag, then the next week a race where 10+ cars retired and smaller teams could score points.
Remember Minardi scoring points when only those top 6 scored points. Now Caterham, Marussia & HRT dont get anywhere near a point even with 10 people getting points.
Those were the days."In F1 too many things overshadow the Racing" by Kimi
"Like DRS, soft tyres and "The Show"." by Me
9th Jul 12, 21:41 #15
10th Jul 12, 01:03 #16
Look at Texas. Who needs HP when you can take DF off to sort the men from the boys.
In LMP cutting HP has created a problem. HP means nothing and so minimising the time loss in traffic is everything. They say GTs can do similar corner speeds to the LMPs.The world according to Taki Inoue: https://mobile.twitter.com/takiinoue/status/301406167249326080
10th Jul 12, 13:43 #17
In the US, when the media shows the qualifying order for a race, they show the driver's avg speed for the lap. Matt Kenseth sat on the pole at Daytona this past weekend, his lap is listed as 192.386 mph, not the 46.781 seconds it took him to cover the 2.5 mile lap.
In F1 (well really most forms of international motorsport) they say that Fernando Alonzo sat on the pole with a time of 1:51.746, not the 189.784 KPH he averaged over the 5.891km lap at Silverstone ( or 117.910 mph over the 3.66 mile road course for us Americans who don't understand metric-in the rain no less!)...to be more fair Alonzo's 2010 track record lap is 1:30.874 (233.374kph or 144.995 mph)
For us it has always been "How fast will it run?" and for the rest of the world it seems the question is more like "How quick can it get there?"
So yes, 192.386 mph sounds more impressive than 144.995 mph-until one considers that an F1 car would be circling Daytona International Speedway at 230+mph and a Sprint Cup Car might lap Silverstone at maybe 115 mph on a dry day, and 0 mph on a wet day.#29 2007 Daytona 500 , 2003 Brickyard 400, 2011 Coke 600 Champ: 854 starts, 73 wins, 293 T5s, 465 T10s, 33 poles, 2x NNS champ
11th Jul 12, 14:17 #18
17th Jul 12, 01:20 #19
1st Aug 12, 13:29 #20
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I feel you can only push a car so far. You have to give up something in the way of either grip or aero. Great topic though and love the replies here.