Aero and People-Focus in Motorsports

Aero and People-Focus in Motorsports

There are a lot of voices out there talking about Motorsports. Some of them are talking about coaching, some about driving, some about suspension, and some about aerodynamics. Those voices are on blogs, on podcasts, and on YouTube. Scott is already a part of those voices, in-person as a coach and online with the Track Walking Podcast.

Why, then, does a Buffalo need to add to that cacophony? How does what I have to say tie-in to what Scott's already doing? How does Aerodynamics, of all things, relate to People-Focused themes in Motorsports? Especially when a sizeable portion of Motorsports speaks or treats Aerodynamics with the belief that it "ruins" the sport; while another sizeable portion treats Aerodynamics as an impenetrable veil of mystery that's too math/CFD-focused... such that it must be left up to "The Big Brained Boovs" to handle, or that a "simple cookbook" of options will suffice for any Motorsports Aero Installation?

For me, it comes down to the essential mission of Robertson Racing, about putting the Focus on People. In order to be a good coach, one has to embrace the complexity of the person they're coaching. In order to be a good racer (whether that be wheel-to-wheel, time attack, drift, or any other discipline), one needs to embrace the complexity of any racing environment: changing tracks, changing weather conditions, changing tire grip, and the unknowns of the other drivers around you (yes, even in TimeAttack). It could be the changing goals a driver or team has, their changing budget, the changing of rules. There is a lot of Chaos out there when it comes to racing. Which is good, because that gives us a common ground to begin embracing the complexity and chaos of Aerodynamics.

Those same priorities, of putting the person first have been a motivating priority for me. Placing the person, their budget, and the subject rules first is an important focus. It is a lens that I feel should be brought to discussion of Aerodynamics in Motorsports, that I feel is lacking in the current discourse.  It's a lens that through which I've viewed competition and engineer in pervious designs efforts I've participated with even before I was involved with Robertson Racing.  It's outside the scope of this post to get in to the what/how of those experiences, which we'll save for a future post.

Related to that are: Humility and Empathy. I bring to this conversation a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering. That might seem an odd place to begin talking about Humility. However, the further I delve into these flow regimes, the more I realize there is a significant amount of difference between the  types of flows found in Motorsports Aerodynamics, and the simplifications that most of my Aerodynamics studies in University circulated around. I've learned a lot over the last few years, in helping Scott and Robertson Racing. But, I know that even though I know the fundamentals of Aerodynamics very well, there's a long ways to go before I can produce 3D models and their CFD estimates. I have an inkling of my limitations, with respect to (wr.t.) many other people currently in the Motorsports Aerodynamics spaces. I do not feel that that precludes me, or others from speaking in these spaces. The complexity of these flows can mean that there will be differences of opinion. As such, assuming one has their fundamentals sound, that anyone should be shown respect for their arguments, and that their arguments be seen as such, and less as "facts". I wish to encourage others in this space to speak with that humility for... both of what they may not know, and to have humility for the complexity of the subject under discussion.

I hope that people speaking in the Motorsports Aerodynamics space will share, and show, more Empathy. I think that empathy is important for those speaking in this space, for the solutions offered, and for the people making the rules that limit our solutions. We should show empathy for the drivers, the team members, the designers, and the part makers. There are tradeoffs in benefits and disadvantages to be considered in any design or rule. One does a disservice to designers and rule makers if they don't think about those tradeoffs first when considering any given rule and/or design. That empathy of giving that consideration comes to me from a lesson that I've learned from Dr. William H. Mason, and to a lesser degree Daniel Raymer:

There is no Single Solution, when it comes to Aerodynamic/Aerospace Engineering. 

Over time, I believe I can bring a new perspective to the discussion of Motorsports Aerodynamics. One that helps improve the whole level of understanding and discourse around this subject to a place that is higher and more complex. One that values the designs of the past, while also throwing a critical eye on the historical, but inaccurate, terms used in this space. Terms which often lead the less-experienced down errant Aerodynamic Philosophical pathways. I hope to encourage more people to spend less money, and have better performance. I hope to learn myself, and grow in my ability to analyze, design, and construct. I hope that y'all'll come along for the ride, and take away some new insight, consideration, or value.

Until the next time,

Tim "Sleepyhead the Buffalo" Miller

Standard Buffalo Caveat:

I am an Engineer, and a Buffalo.  I do not have an English Degree. While an effort has been made to catch any any grammatical mistakes, there are bound to be some.  Similarly, there's every chance I've screwed up some math somewhere. Hopefully you can look past any of the compositional/grammatical errors, to find value within.  If there are mathematical errors, feel free to engage us constructively via social media, or one of the options available on our Contacts Page.

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