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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beauty in Racing

When looking at an open-wheel race car as a piece of art, there are many differing opinions on its physical beauty.  To most people, modern cars possess little to no inspiration in their design.  They are just an amalgamation of airfoils, winglets, and scoops.  To others, that is the beauty of the design, the process by which all those little pieces unify to create a blisteringly fast car that seems to cheat fluid dynamics and defy the laws of physics.
Still, nothing can ever compare to the classics...

The mid-engined cigar-shaped race cars of the 60s have always looked absolutely brilliant.  The flowing, uninterrupted lines of the Lotus 38 and 49 have brought casual fans as well as tech nerds to their knees.  From Colin Chapman's mind came the finest examples of grace, elegance, and raw power.

The 38 caused a complete shift in thinking for what an Indy car should be.  In 1965, this monocoque, mid-engined rocket produced 500hp from its Ford V8 and carried Jim Clark to victory in the Indy 500.  Lotus went on to replace the 38 with the forgettable 43 but redeemed itself in 1967 with the Lotus 49.

The Lotus 49 used its Ford-sourced Cosworth V8 as a stressed member, much like the 43 did.  This meant that there was no need for a cradle in which the engine sat.  It was a part of the chassis itself with the front being bolted to the monocoque chassis and the suspension directly attached to the rear.  Without a traditional frame or chassis for the motor, precious pounds were saved.  Developed and refined in 1967, Graham Hill won the '68 Formula One championship with it after Clark suffered a fatal accident in an F2 race.

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