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More than 15 years ago, a young David Coulthard said he was "very excited" about a new development at Williams, going on to say that "machine is working better than man". The reason for his enthusiasm was that he had just tested Williams' revolutionary continuously variable transmission (CVT) system. This was in 1993, and the system so worried other competitors and the FIA that it was banned before it could be raced. There is video on the internet of the car being...

Transmitting power

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With the adoption of independent, or de Dion rear suspension by racing car constructors during the 1930s, some means of transmitting the torque from the transmission into the wheel hubs had to be devised that accommodated the vertical motion of the wheel. When using a swing axle, this was usually achieved by using a ball-and-socket arrangement integrated into the differential output shafts, while fully independent and de Dion systems required some form of universal joint at each end of the...

Using tractive effort curves to analyse gearing

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In the last edition of Monitor we introduced the concept of 'Tractive Effort' curves plotted against road speed to analyse performance. Most 'racers' are familiar with using the traditional straight line plot of road speed against engine rpm as a method of choosing ratios. Whilst this gives an indication of maximum speed in each gear and helps to assess the drop in engine rpm associated with changing up into the next ratio, its use is otherwise limited. In particular it...

Tractive effort

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In recent RET-Monitor features we have considered several aspects of transmission design and engineering, each time with the implicit assumption that some means of gearing between the power unit and road wheels was a prerequisite feature. Why should this be so, and how do we then determine what we need? Essentially we seek to transform rotational motion and energy at the engine flywheel into linear motion and kinetic energy at the vehicle tyre contact patch. To do so we require a...

Transmission and driveline offset

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One of the problems faced by race car designers is the conflicting requirement of keeping a low centre of gravity for the engine (and transmission), whilst keeping the driveshaft within acceptable values. Whatever the chosen method of coupling excessive angularity will lead to increased power losses and ultimately, failure of the joints. Putting some numbers to this, consider a Formula Three car whose engine is dry sumped and running a 140 mm diameter race clutch on a lightweight flywheel....