Here is a group of racing...
Here is a group of racing "scientists" at work. Jimmy Spencer works on his Hooters car's front air dam while Jay Fogleman and others watch. This type of research and development becomes second nature to circle track racers.
While it can be said that the modern racer does not see himself or herself as a scientist, by definition, it is certainly the case. There are many areas of science used in developing performance in our race cars. We all have become researchers and inventors by deed. Every week we tune, refine, and design because we have a deep need to make the product better.
No one ever said you needed a specialized degree in order to be a scientist. Thomas Edison, one of America's greatest scientists and inventors, did not possess a degree. Neither did Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, or for that matter, Smokey Yunick. A true scientist, with a degree or not, is one who does scientific research and finds answers to questions and problems that have been observed. That's the definition of a racer.
Remember that many new devices and improvements on existing devices were born out of the everyday racers' desire to improve all areas of the racing package. If not for organized racing, we wouldn't enjoy many of the advanced designs of suspensions and improved engine systems that are now incorporated into the modern passenger car.
Bill Simpson is a typical...
Bill Simpson is a typical example of a racing scientist. He has worked to improve driver protection from fire for decades. Here he demonstrates a remarkable new fire-resistant material that is used in driver suits.
Fuel injection, disc brakes, independent suspension systems, gas pressure shock absorbers, steering systems, and especially safety systems all benefited in their refinement from data accumulated through the process of racing. We are still learning how to improve the motor vehicle by observing and adapting to conditions encountered while racing.
Scientific Method Defined
The so-called scientific method (SM) is a process sometimes used by scientists to study elements in our environment that we need to know more about or that need fixing. Our race cars are all about science, and we need to study ways to make our cars handle better and go faster.
Here is how we commonly define and apply SM. In most definitions, it involves these five steps:1.We observe and describe an occurrence or trend, e.g., the driver states that the car is loose in the turns.
2. We further define the problem by discovering exactly what is happening: The loose condition starts on turn entry and gets worse in the middle. The tire temperatures show a loose car.
There are numerous schools...
There are numerous schools where future racing scientists can go to learn all about the many technical aspects of race cars. Mark Davis instructs a couple of students who attend his Carolina Motorsports Tech Center located in Hickory, North Carolina. It's all about hands-on learning and racing.
3. We then formulate several hypotheses or theories as to why this is happening: The rearend might be out of alignment; the rear brakes may be grabbing more than the front brakes; or the car might need more crossweight.
4. We then perform a series of experiments to attempt to isolate the problem to one or more of the theories. We first align the rearend. Then we proceed to adjust the brake bias, and then adjust the crossweight percentage.
5. Once we have experimented and isolated the actual source of the problem, a conclusion is reached as to the real problem. Once we aligned the car, it was perfect. We still worked on the other theories and found we could use some more front brake bias, and we found we were a little high on crossweight once we straightened out the alignment problem.
Does this sound familiar to you? We all go through this process continually with our setups and also with engine and driveline problems. We are acting and performing exactly the same as a scientist. While we may not want to be known as scientists, we need to get over it and come to understand how significant our contributions are to the science of motorsports.