The Math Used in Professional Auto Racing

Article Summary: It's Not Just About Going in Circles! The math used in professional auto racing covers virtually every mathematical concept taught in school today. The successful professional racing teams use every mathematical advantage they can to win. They design their cars, measure their car's average speed, calculate instantaneous speed, and more.

The math used in professional auto racing covers virtually every mathematical concept taught in school today. The successful professional racing teams use every mathematical advantage they can to win. They design their cars, measure their car's average speed, calculate instantaneous speed, and more. Many teams have full time statisticians to keep track of all the numbers and how they can use the numbers to win more races.

Along with the cars, drivers have their own mathematical statistics to calculate and define their level of performance in numbers. These include their driver standing, driver rating, number of laps lead, number laps on lead lap, laps led in races, average speed, average finishing position, instantaneous speed at specific points on the course, quality passes - passing other cars in the top 15, and the most important total winnings in money. These are just a few of the types of math used in auto racing.

Everything that a professional driver does on the race course is measured to compare where improvements are not needed. For example, how fast a driver makes his/her way around a corner compared to other drivers? How fast the driver goes down a straight away? These are compared during practice, qualifying, and during the race. The reason is to determine if any adjustments need to be made to the car or help for the driver. This is also done to check the driver's skills throughout the race.

When the tires are removed during a pit stop, the depth of the remaining tread is measured to determine how the car is handling. All for tires are measured and the data is used to determine the forces that are being applied to the tire. If a particular tire shows more wear than the other tires, an adjustment will be made to the car. Speaking of pit stops, even the pit stops crews are timed and observed to see if they can speed up the process. Less time in the pits means a better chance of winning.

When designing a car for racing, math is used in every component of design and construction. Typically professional auto racing organizations have specific templates that the car must fit. Templates are based on the shape of the car from many different angles (math). So the designer must measure everything about the car to fit within the templates. A perfectly designed car will ride smooth and win.

Other things that complicate the designer are the weight restrictions that the car must fall within to meet specifications. They have to take into account the weight of all materials to construct the car: roll cage, engine, transmission, driver's seat, fuel tank, weight of full fuel tank, weight of half empty fuel tank, oil, tires, the weight of the driver, weight of driver's equipment, and many more items.

Not only do designers take weight into consideration, they also have to determine precise measurements to cut materials. These measurements are typically down to the millimeter (mm) range. High performance professional auto racing requires that cars be built within a mm of design specifications, so that the car will work properly on the track. A professional car designer needs to know lots of math and have a degree in engineering.

Another use of math in professional auto racing is to using electronic timing as cars go up and down the pits, so they do not speed. A similar system is used to determine a car's exact location on the track when a caution flag is waved. This helps racing officials know where the cars belong when the race restarts.

As you can see math is used everyone in professional auto racing and this is just an overview of the big measurements. The engine builder must use precise measurements to construct the engine from raw metal materials. The all important sponsor stickers on the car must be placed in the right location through measuring their relationship to other stickers. Math is everywhere in professional auto racing.