Why it's a big deal...

Champ car racing is one of the fastest forms of motorsport on the planet. The sport fits into the Open wheel category along with Formula 1 and Indy Racing League amongst others. Like the cars in these sports the anatomy of a Champ car is truly a marvel of modern engineering. Although the basic component list used in these cars are similar to your everyday road vehicles (engine, gearbox, wheels etc) the technology behind the scenes is far in advance of your average roadster. Lets take a closer look at some of the major components:

Engine: Champ cars all use a 2.64 litre Turbocharged V8. The boost limit is set to 19psi and produces about 900bhp on methanol fuel. Aiding this figure is the fact that the engines rev up to about 15,000 rpm (that's about double what your honda will do). It is able to rev so high for several reasons but cheifly that the stroke is very short (the pistons travel a shorter distance for every RPM) and the use of lightweight alloys which reduces the inertia of the pistons.

Aerodynamics: The ability of the car to stay on the track is obviously quite important. To keep things settled at high speed the cars use several aerodynamic devices - mainly wings and a flat underbody. The first is obvious - an aeroplane wing produces lift so you turn it upside down to get negative lift or downforce. The flat underbody actually has 2 tunnels in it. These are shaped to speed up under-car airflow and utilise the Bernoulli effect which helps keep the car stuck to the track. The faster the car travels the more downforce it produces and at 200mph (well within the range of these cars) the downforce is so great that they could actually drive the things on the ceiling and not fall off. On street tracks all manhole covers are welded down prior to the race as the cars tend to flip them out of the road and into nearby trees, buildings, spectators etc (watch the movie Driven to see this in action - yes that is real). All this comes at a price however - you can tell just by looking at a champ car that it isn't the sleekest thing around - uncovered wheels, suspension, wings etc all produce drag. Drag is bad. So how do you overcome all of this drag? Well that 900hp engine is a good start...

Chassis: If you pulled a champ car apart you would notice that the only thing connecting the rear wheels to the rest of the car is the engine. That's right - the transmission and rear wheel assembly bolts onto the engine and the engine bolts into the rest of the car, thus becoming part of the chassis itself. In automotive jargon this makes it a Stressed Member - not just a bolt in part like your street car. The advantages of this arrangement are obvious when you consider that the engine/transmission assembly is about the heaviest part of the car - as it bolts directly to the chassis it doesn't move even under the most demanding cornering. This overall balance and stability give the car otherwise unachievable handling (the same method is used in F1 and F3000 cars for the same reasons).

What does it all mean?: Well the figures are impressive to say the least - an average champ car will sprint from 0 - 100kph in about 2.4 seconds. It will do 0 - 160kph in 5 seconds flat and eventually top out at about 380kph, by which time it is creating about 1.4 tons of downforce. Sharpish corners are taken at over 100kph in 2nd gear and several lateral G's. How's that sound? (hint - your VW can't do any of that, or even come close)

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