WATCH: The science behind a McLaren’s extreme speed
Woking, Surrey - A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (well, actually, in 1687 at the University of Cambridge) a clever fellow called Isaac Newton proved that force can be defined as mass multiplied by acceleration.
Since both mass and acceleration can be easily measured it was thus possible for the first time to define a unit of force, which was named the Newton in his honour. However, if you change the subject of the equation, it can be written as A=F/M, or acceleration is equal to force divided by mass - and that’s the rule that applies to automotive performance.
If you’re an American drag racer, you increase acceleration by adding more force; if your name is Colin Chapman you do it by reducing mass. And at McLaren, they do both. The Woking whitecoats also get very serious about reducing drag, by improving the airflow over the vehicle. This was something Isaac Newton didn’t have to contend with, because seventeenth-century air molecules showed proper respect and simply got out of the way.
In this video, however, it’s very much a factor in analysing the performance of the McLaren 750S from a scientific point of view, as Ryan W Conversano Ph.D - who really is a rocket scientist! - shows us how to quantify the huge forces acting on a high-performance vehicle, and how complex equations come together to create a supercar.
Conversano’s laid-back approach makes the ‘Science of Speed’ very accessible, and his explanations make sense to the least mathematical iof gearheads - but the science is rigorous and visuals fascinating.