Sometimes, the futuristic single-seater vehicles we watch whizzing around race tracks at improbable speeds seem a world away from our sensible five-door family hatchback. But in fact, many technologies we now take for granted in day-to-day motoring were first pioneered in motorsport. Here are some of the best examples.
It’s strange to think, but before the 1950s disk brakes were unknown on road cars. Then Dunlop came up with a calliper-based disc system which it installed on the Jaguar C-Type racing car in 1953. The solution was good enough to help Jaguar win several Le Mans 24-hour races, demonstrating reliability and endurance in high-velocity braking over extended periods of use. Nowadays, every car on the road uses a variant of this basic concept.
The tyres you see on a typical F1 car look very different to those on your own car – soft, smooth and not built to last very long. But look at the world of rally or off-road racing and things start to look much more familiar. The first grooved and patterned tyres were pioneered in the world of motorsport by manufacturers looking for extra traction and control. The fact that modern cars are now able to go around a corner on a wet surface at reasonable speed without losing traction is all down to innovations from racing.
Sports car manufacturers recognised long before their commercial counterparts the importance of designing the body of a vehicle in such a way that it protects the driver in the event of a collision. The solution that become standard was the roll cage – a reinforced structure built into the struts and supports surrounding the driver designed to absorb impact. Nowadays, similar cages are mandatory in the passenger section of every road car. You might not see it, but it goes a long way to protecting your life in the event of a crash.
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