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STRAIGHT TALK – RICARDO DIVILA Rules is rules But all should be examined to see if they pass the common sense test A

ny sport is but a confrontation of individuals doing a less deadly version

of combat. Initially, it was to the death, but the subsequent taming of mankind brought us to the substitution of enemy’s heads with shiny cups. And, as the first rule was born (avoid killing your opponent), it then entrained a whole slew of others. Let’s just pause and see what

we are afflicted with today, in Ye Holy FIA Book Of Rules. Said tome has slowly been adding girth (as most of us have with the passing years) and the shelf where they reside in my office lists decidedly to the right, as of course they are in yearly order, from 1969 to 2005. Luckily, for the shelves, from then on they’re in electronic form. That the use of rules be

restrained to enforce safety is perfectly understandable, as most drivers would sit in an electric chair if it gave them a chance to set pole or win a race, but all other rules should be examined to see if they pass the common sense test. Let’s assume that we at least need some sort of restriction on the means and methods of getting from point A to point A (start line to finish line). History is littered with examples of the law of unintended consequences, not least in the fiscal horsepower used in European countries for taxation purposes, which skewed the entire automobile industry and had a series of corollaries we still live under. Taking the devil’s advocate position, the artificial rules encountered in the Japanese Super GT Championship, whereupon the winner of a race receives a weight handicap, has led to a strong, stable and competitive series, despite the engineers’ obvious chagrin at being penalised for doing a good job. So pragmatism can work in a given environment.

On the other hand, many

rules are invoked for laudable reasons, but end up being distorted as they, in turn, cause newer rules created to sort out the problem these earlier rules brought on, ad infinitum. When wings first came into

racing in the ’60s (well, they came in earlier, but that’s a subject for another column) we had them applying downforce directly onto the suspension.

to the wind flow a surface area equivalent to 7m^2. Add in the ability to travel at 300km/h and surprise! Cars took off. So stage two of the rules

introduced the dreaded plank, as a means of impeding the running of the car too low, and the raising of the sides, to avoid having a too effective flat bottom, led to increased cornering speeds and more aggressive diffusers, plus rear wings that have to work

“When the spirit of the regulation, rather than the

wording, is the binding process, life can get a lot easier ”

at the same time increasing the drag and making cars look silly and making a mockery of most aerodynamic efficiency precepts. I propose that somewhere

here we should go back to first principles and say putting Band-Aids on gangrene will not solve the problem, but will only bring new ones in their wake. Aerodynamics of close to the ground bodies has advanced enough nowadays to give an opportunity to review our goals, and apply engineering to it. Why not have cars with ground effects via a tunnel? Why not have active aero with moving surfaces? Perhaps following Mies van

Rule books get thicker as race cars get quicker, says our man

A series of structural failures brought that to an end, but the concept could not be un-invented, and the consequences of fixed aero then led us to ground effect cars with big tunnels, and that eventually led to a cascade effect in endurance racecars. But due to the rules restricting big tunnels in Sportscars, introduced to restrict cornering speeds and seen as dangerous because the size of the shunt obligingly respected mv^2, we ended up with flat bottoms. That, in turn, gave us cars with vestigial diffusers at the rear and a huge flat surface that, under some circumstances, offered

more to compensate for the loss of under-body downforce. Unfortunately, the raised edge of the body sides makes for a very good entry into what is now a vaguely aerofoil shape in yaw, which then produces lift again… At the same time, cars are running too quick, so reduce the power. Ah, now we have to reduce rear wing, reduce overall downforce, run the car as flat as possible, or even slightly nose up, to reduce drag again. So nose up, lift, take off again… And so we go to stage three:

introduce big holes into the bodywork to reduce the lift when car incidence goes to positive,

der Rohe’s ‘less is more’ dictum here would help. After all, the only time I was involved with a NASCAR racecar I was surprised to see the thin epistle the rule book was, just 36 pages covering the entire technical regulations, and most of them concerning engines. The chassis and bodywork side had the particularity that every paragraph ended with the phrase, ‘decision on the interpretation of this rule will be at the discretion of the NASCAR inspector, whose word is final.’ No semantic wrangling of meaning there, no counting of angels on pinheads. When the spirit of the regulation, rather than the wording, is the binding process, life can get a lot easier. The erstwhile chief scrutineer

at Le Mans, Alain Bertaud, quickly put my F1 tainted view of rules into perspective when I first tried to argue some points of the Group C I was running at La Sarthe. ‘I know what I mean by this rule. You know what I mean by this rule. Don’t play the lawyer with me.’ Lest we think everything is

easy, I will quote van der Rohe again, ‘the devil is in the details’. Having now upset everybody, and not really proposed a suitable correction, I exit stage left, giggling.

July 2012 • 5

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