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Race Car Tech: Improving The Breed, Or Ruining The Racing?

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Red Bull Racing at the 2011 Formula 1 European GP

Red Bull Racing at the 2011 Formula 1 European GP

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Carmakers love motor racing. The phrase "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" didn't come about for no reason - racing is a great way of raising the profile of your cars and the buying public love knowing that some of the technology in their cars has filtered down from the race track.

That's the theory anyway, but most top-line modern race cars have as much to do with your road car as the space shuttle has to do with a Cessna. In an effort to draw comparisons between racing and road cars, sports like NASCAR and Formula One, with fuel injection and kinetic energy recovery respectively, are increasingly being used to develop road car technology.

This isn't going down well with everyone though. Australian F1 driver Mark Webber isn't a fan...

The Aussie star drives for front-running team Red Bull Racing, and in an interview with T3 he expressed his concern with how the sport is spending too much time developing technology for road cars and not enough on the racing itself.

F1 is undergoing a drive to go green - not an easy task for an international circus that follows two dozen 800 horsepower race cars. Webber argues that the sport doesn't make much difference when looking at the bigger picture.

“We have 20 events a year, there’s more fuel burnt by aeroplanes taxi-ing out to runways so it’s absolute peanuts what we do in the scheme of things, it’s more of a messaging thing obviously".

It's not set to get any better for Webber either, as the sport is heading towards smaller and less powerful engines - better for the environment, but causing rumbles of discontentment for drivers, teams and fans.

"[The] technology restricts us in a performance aspect" explains Webber. Smaller engines, hybrid-like kinetic energy recovery and active aerodynamics are seen by many people to add unnecessary weight and complexity to a series that prides itself on being the purest form of racing.

The introduction of fuel injection to NASCAR has raised concerns after over half a century of simple carbureted engines, and they've recently started testing the new units. Though carbs are old technology now, teams and fans like them because they're simple, and easy to regulate.

Fuel injection is more relevant to road cars, but what would it do for racing if the more "creative" teams exploited their extra complication?...

So, what do you think? Should race cars be used to improve road car development directly, or is it better for the racing and more relevant to road cars if improvements naturally filter from sport to street? Tell us on Twitter @allcartech or on our Facebook page.

[T3]
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