Old tech revived from the ground up
MOTOR Magazine Australia|October 2021
A once outlawed speed enhancement is back from the brig to revolutionise modern racing and clean the air
CAMERON KIRBY

EVERYTHING FROM THE 1970S and ’80s is in vogue again, from Lamborghini reviving the Countach, to Nissan’s unashamedly retro design for the new Z. It seems the world’s racing fraternity aren’t immune either, with ground-effect designs returning next year.

But instead of simply rehashing old systems, motorsport has found ways to innovate on the early rudimentary aerodynamic thinking of old. Ground effect development ended in Formula 1 in 1982 when the technology was outlawed, and while Group C sportscars picked up the baton for a period, the era of huge underfloor aerodynamics was largely short-lived. For nearly three decades motorsport has almost entirely focused on increasing downforce by utilising over-body aero such as wings and spoilers, and centred around using flat floors not venturi tunnels.

New regs are changing that, with Formula 1 shifting to a ground-effect inspired design for2022, while Peugeot is returning to top-flight competition at Le Mans without a rear wing on its 9X8 racer. It’s a radical design that could upend how teams approach the iconic endurance race.

The new Hypercar (LMH) rules the 9X8 will compete under regulate a minimum drag coefficient of 1.0, and maximum downforce drag coefficient of 5.2. But beyond that, the ruleset has lifted many of the restrictions around the size and placement of aerodynamic bodywork. While rivals have followed a traditional over-body route, Peugeot’s engineers have found a solution that falls within the pre-set window without traditional wings.

“It is a combination of ground effect and upper rear bodywork that has been worked out in a bit of a different way compared to the old LMP1,” Peugeot Sport Technical Director, Olivier Jansonnie, told Racecar Engineering. “We basically have a combination of the front splitter and rear diffuser. The front of the car is more traditional.”

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