Why are ground effects important on performance cars?
Have you ever wondered what all that junk is for on the underside of a supercar? In truth, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on down there, and we are far away from the mostly flat-bottomed cars that dominated the supercar and even the racecar design language for decades. This is all because of ground effects. Why are ground effects important on performance cars? We’ll answer that, but first we have to look into what lift is and how it works.
How does lift work?
The wing of an airplane typically has a flat bottom with a curved top. It works by allowing the air on the bottom to flow freely while forcing the air on top to move faster to catch up with the air on the bottom.
Air is always pushing on every surface, but in simplified terms, the air on top has less time to push down on the wing than the air on the bottom has to push up. If you get enough air to go over and under the wing fast enough, you generate enough lift to allow several tons of metal to float through the air.
What does a plane wing have in common with a supercar?
You read the description of a plane wing up there right? Flat on bottom and curved on top. What does that remind you of? The cross-section of a wing is the spitting image of a supercar. In fact, it’s close enough to cause problems if enough care isn’t given to the aerodynamic profile of the car.
Modern supercars do a few things to combat this. For starters, the nose is often wedge-shaped as opposed to blunt, which generates some counteracting downforce. Other things like spoilers and wings are also a big help to keeping a supercar from literally flying off the road, but ground effects are the biggest help.
What are ground effects?
To put things simply, ground effects are aerodynamic tricks applied to the underside of a car, especially a supercar or racecar that help generate downforce. Even in a car like the Diablo, do you see how the back of the car curves up? This creates a negative pressure zone which helps pin the back of the car to the road.
Read More: History of the Lamborghini Diablo
Modern examples are even more aggressive with specific vanes and channels all designed to generate downforce, promote stability, and still make for one wild ride. In short, supercars would not be able to do what they do today without ground effects.