Sophomore Seminars

Aerodynamics of Race Cars

AA 109Q

Almost as soon as cars had been invented, races of various kinds were organized. In all its forms (open-wheel, touring car, sports car, production-car, one-make, stock car, etc.), car racing today is a very popular sport with huge media coverage and significant commercial sponsorships. More importantly however, it is a proving ground for new technologies and a battlefield for the giants of the automotive industry. While race car performance depends on elements such as engine power, chassis design, tire adhesion and of course the driver, aerodynamics probably plays the most vital role in determining the performance and efficiency of race cars; front and/or rear wings are visible on many of them.


During this seminar, you will learn about many other critical components of a race car including diffusers and add-ons such as vortex generators and spoilers. You will also discover that due to the competitive nature of this sport and its associated short design cycles, engineering decisions about a race car must rely on combined information from track, wind tunnel, and numerical computations. It is clear that airplanes fly on wings. However, when you have completed this seminar, you will be able to understand that cars fly on their tires. You will also be able to appreciate that aerodynamics is important not only for drag reduction, but also for increasing cornering speeds and lateral stability. You will be able to correlate between a race car shape and the aerodynamics effects intended for influencing performance. And if you have been a fan of the Ferrari 458 Italia, you will be able to figure out what that black moustache in the front of the car was for.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Charbel Farhat

"I am currently the Chair of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. I specialize in the numerical simulation of high-speed flows and related multidisciplinary problems for the design and analysis of complex systems in aerospace, automotive, and naval engineering. I have worked on several fighter jets, a Formula 1 car, and tire projects. I have flown with the Blue Angels in an F/A-18 Hornet, and have driven several supercars."