Downforce on demand.

Formula 1 is the undisputed pinnacle of worldwide motorsport. While most of you would see it as the spiritual home of the best racing drivers in the world, it also attracts the best engineering talent. As such, Engineering After Hours’ latest video profiles one of the wildest innovations to ever grace the F1 grid – the fan car – by modifying an RC racer.

Before we begin on the experiment, let’s talk about why the idea of fan cars was so attractive in its day. Most of you will know that modern racing cars utilise wings to produce downforce. Sure, it produces a tremendous aesthetic, but the aerodynamic appendages come with inherent disadvantages: drag production and linear performance – more speed results in more downforce. Meanwhile, the fan concept produces hardly any drag and a constant amount of downforce at any speed.

Thanks to the magic of 3D printing, Engineering After Hours applied the concept to one of his existing RC cars with tremendous success – it produced roughly three times the weight of the vehicle in downforce alone. So therefore it should easily be able to drive upside down right? Not so fast.

One of the biggest issues with getting the fan car to work – and part of the reason why the technology was banned – is getting the underbelly to seal with the racing surface while moving. As such, the early tests would work while the car remained stationary but would fail after any sort of movement interfered with the seal. However, after using a more flexible material for the skirts, the RC car could successfully drive upside down at an extremely low rate of speed.

Contrary to popular belief, we’ve seen a mild resurgence of the fan technology with road vehicles like the Murray T.50 – built by the same man who originally proposed the technology. Innovations in motorsport are much more reserved nowadays, but it’s clear that race teams are still just as committed to bending the rulebook without breaking it.