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EURECA 2013 Calculation and Optimization of the Aerodynamic Drag of an Open-Wheel Race Car

Calculation and Optimization of the Aerodynamic Drag of

An Open-Wheel Race Car
Chung Sun Lee*, Abdulkareem Sh. Mahdi Al-Obaidi
Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering, Taylors University, Malaysia
*Corresponding author:

Abstract Aerodynamic drag reduction is one of the important
factors to make a race car achieve a faster lap time. Additional
drag is produced due to the air channel for radiator cooling of the
student designed open-wheel race car. This paper presents the
aerodynamic drag optimization of the race car through studying
the effect of the angle of the radiator air channel. A reduction of
23.8% in drag coefficient compared to the current setup is
achieved by tilting the angle of cooling channel to 72.5 degree.
Keywords Aerodynamic drag, Drag reduction, Drag optimization,
Automobile drag, CFD
1. Introduction
A number of students from Taylors University had conceived,
designed and built an open-wheel race car to participate in the
national competitions. Due to the competition rules and constrains,
the radiator is placed directly at the back of the driver which blocks
most of the cooling air from entering the radiator. Thus, an air
channel is fabricated to direct the air above the drivers head into the
radiator which results in additional aerodynamic drag. The cooling of
the engine is extremely important during the endurance race.
Overheated engine will affect the efficiency of the engine or even
engine failure might occur during the race.
The objective of this paper is to find an optimum solution for
drag reduction of the race car by studying the effect of the angle of
the radiator cooling channel on aerodynamic drag.
2. Theoretical Approach
The total drag of an automobile can be separated into two major
components; the skin-friction drag and pressure drag.
= C
+ C
where C
is total drag coefficient, C
is the skin-friction drag
coefficient and C
is the pressure drag coefficient.
2.1. Skin-Friction Drag
Skin-friction drag is mainly caused by the fluid viscosity, surface area,
and surface roughness of the body. Theoretical relations for skin-
friction drag at different Reynolds numbers are obtained
experimentally. The Reynolds number is calculated using the reference
length of the race car which is in the range of 10
at the operating speed.
Prandtl and Von Karman suggested an empirical formula for skin-
friction coefficient for Reynolds number at the range of 10
[1]. Skin-
friction can be estimated using the coefficient of flat plate multiplied
by the wetted area over the reference area. Viscosity of the fluid (air) is
the main source of skin-friction which produces itself in form of a very
thin layer adjacent to the surface, boundary layer.


where C
is the skin-friction drag and R
is the Reynolds number.

2.2. Pressure Drag
Pressure drag is caused by the pressure differential throughout the
automobile. It is mainly caused by the shape and design of the
vehicle. As fluid (air) flows through a body, there will be a change in
pressure and velocity thus causing momentum changed [1].

= (3)
where D
is the pressure drag force, P is the pressure, is the
angle between relative velocity to the normal pressure force and A is
the frontal area [2].
Numerical Approach Using Computational Fluid
Dynamic (CFD)
Ansys Fluent 14 software is used to simulate the aerodynamics of the
automobile to obtain the drag coefficient numerically. A simplified
vehicle shape called Ahmed Body was used for verification and
validation of the software [3]. It is also used to determine the proper
meshing, turbulence model and CFD solver input settings for the
external flow simulation for the race car model. Table 1 shows three
different simulations on Ahmed Body using different turbulence
models; Realizable k- solves two transport equations to obtain
turbulent kinetic energy, k and dissipation rate, . Reynolds Stress
Model (RSM) solves 6 components of Reynolds stresses and
dissipation rate, and Large Eddy Simulation (LES) solves the large
eddies and model the smaller eddies [4]. LES Smagorinsky-Lilly
model was used for the simulation. The results dont differ much
from experimental value [3, 5, 6]. Hence, using less computational
time to obtain similar results is highly recommended.
The results from Table 1 shows that the numerical results is in
acceptable range hence the similar meshing and solver input
methods were used for the external flow race car simulations.

Table 1. Comparison of CFD results of Ahmed Body.
Realizable k- RSM LES
Drag coefficient (C
) 0.316 0.316 0.284
Experimental Drag Coefficient 0.299 0.299 0.299
accuracy (%) 5.3 5.3 5.2
Computational Time (hours) 0.5 3 8
3.1 Geometry and Meshing
Figure 2 shows a full-scale simplified drawing of Taylors University
Race Car named Imperica in Solidworks 2011. A computational
domain similar to a wind tunnel test section is created around the car.
A domain of 3 car lengths upstream and 5 car lengths downstream is
created to accommodate for the flow development at the front and
turbulence formation at the rear end. A hybrid meshing approach
tested using Ahmed Body is also used on Imperica. Prismatic layers
are created near the surface of the body and also the road. This type
of meshing is suggested by Marco Lanfrit using inflation of first
aspect ratio of 5, growth rate of 1.2 and a total of 5 layers [7]. A
rectangular box mesh with smaller element size is created near the
EURECA 2013 Calculation and Optimization of the Aerodynamic Drag of an Open-Wheel Race Car

body to capture the flow condition near the surface body and also the
wake region at the rear end [7]. Figure 3 shows the mesh condition
near the surface body of the car.

Fig. 2 Simplified full scale Fig. 3 Mesh condition near the
CAD drawing. surface body.
3.2 Turbulence Model
Realizable k- with non-equilibrium wall function is recommended in
this external flow simulation and it is also tested using Ahmed Body.
Non-equilibrium wall function is highly recommended for near wall
modeling as it can capture and predict near wall boundary flow
condition and also flow separation [7].
4.0 Results and Discussions
The first CFD simulation was conducted to obtain the total drag
coefficient of the current basic setup on the race car with the radiator
cooling channel relative to velocity. Figure 4 shows the relationship
of the drag coefficient relative to velocity obtained through CFD.
The figure shows that the drag coefficient doesnt vary much when
the velocity increases. The total drag coefficient obtained is
approximately 0.624 with the current race car setup. The results also
match with theory where the drag coefficient doesnt vary much
when velocity increased at subsonic speed [1].

Fig. 4. Variation of drag coefficient, CD, with velocity.

From the graph shown in Fig. 4, a velocity of 18.3 m/s is chosen
as an overall average speed for next simulation by considering the
race car is maintained at an average speed of 18.3 m/s throughout the
Melaka International Motorsport Circuit (MIMC). The effect of the
angle of radiator cooling channel is investigated through CFD at the
mentioned speed. The original setup of the cooling channel is angled
at 36 degree where it completely directs the flow into the radiator to
cool the engine. Multiple simulations were conducted to analyse the
effect of increasing the angle of the radiator cooling channel. The
effect of drag coefficient by varying the angle of the cooling channel
is plotted in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5 Drag coefficient as a function of angled radiator cooling channel.
The race car without any radiator cooling attached shows a drag
coefficient of 0.517. Malcolm Campbells Blue Bird achieved drag
coefficient of 0.45 for an open-wheel race car [1]. The result obtained
shows some similarity in drag coefficient. The current setup of the race
car which attached the radiator cooling channel at 36 degree produces a
drag coefficient of 0.625 which increased the drag coefficient by 20.8%
compared to the one without. Attaching the radiator cooling channel
produced negative pressure region at the rear of the car which increases
the drag coefficient. The cooling channel is then angled to reduce the
drag coefficient but on the other hand it reduces the air flowing into the
radiator. Increasing the angle of the cooling channel actually reduces
the drag coefficient towards the drag coefficient of the race car without
the cooling channel. The radiator cooling channel angled at 90 degree
shows similarity in drag coefficient with the one without the cooling
channel which is in the range of 0.51 to 0.52. There was less resistance
of air when the radiator cooling channel is angled at 90 degree similar
to the one without.
When the radiator cooling channel is angled at 72.5 degree, the
drag coefficient is 0.479 which is lower than the one without the
cooling channel attached. A reduction of 23.4% in drag coefficient
compared to the current setup is achieved. The drag coefficient after
this angle returns towards to the one without the cooling channel.
This phenomenon might be caused by the turbulence created from
the cooling channel. This particular angle introduced turbulence into
the negative pressure region at the rear end of the car which increases
the pressure coefficient, C
at the rear reducing the pressure
difference. 72.5 degree cooling channel setup has a C
of -1.5 at the
rear whereas the current setup has a C
of -2.0.
5.0 Conclusions
Based on this simulation, 72.5 degree cooling channel produced least
drag but the cooling of the engine need to be compromised. Hence,
an automated system with temperature sensor can be implemented to
optimize the drag produced and cooling of the engine. When the
temperature of the engine increases, the angle of the cooling channel
will be properly changed to direct more air into the radiator to cool
the engine and vice versa. Heat transfer effects from the radiator
could be taken into considerations for future work.
I would like to thank my colleagues for giving me valuable help and
support throughout this final year project.
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