It's long been known that race car technology eventually filters down to and improves cars designed for the road. However, the technology can also benefit the way cars are designed and the speed at which they are developed.
That's what Ford is discovering by getting its race car engineers to work more closely with their counterparts from the road car side.
Just one example is the sharing of a tech center built in North Carolina in 2014 originally to develop and test race cars virtually. However, Ford has found that the center's advanced vehicle simulator is also suited to developing road cars thanks to some recent upgrades that allow for better three-dimensional modeling.
With the upgraded simulator, Ford is able to test car body designs for aerodynamic performance without resorting to an actual wind tunnel. How accurate is it? Ford's 2019 NHRA Funny Car program will have no prototype bodies physically created before the racing body is built.
The simulator can also be used for highly accurate virtual test drives and even virtual manufacturing. One of the first cars taken for a virtual test drive was the Ford GT. Before it ever put its tires on a racetrack, a virtual GT racked up hundreds of hours of testing on virtual racetracks around the world.
Along with the simulator, other breakthroughs include supercomputer modeling of race and regular tires to improve rubber wear and performance.
“The tech center and this new driving simulator are two of the most important steps we have taken to help our mainstream engineering partners make sure the next Edge or F-150 is great to drive,” Ford Performance Global Director Mark Rushbrook said.