I have been interested in racing since the age of three, and Physics since I learned about it in high school. There was once upon a time when I was writing a racing simulator and reading up on some heavy duty Physics stuff.

Very interesting and exciting stuff.

During that time I first read the Physics of Racing by Brian Beckman. I recently came across it again and as it’s free distributable, I thought I’d put it up here for fellow racing fans to enjoy. Who knows, it may make you understand how a car works a little better and help your lap times … enjoy.

Introduction to the PhORS articles

By Brian Beckman

“I started this series in 1991 for my local racing club’s printed newsletter. The web had just been born, though the Internet was not yet public. Nonetheless, I distributed the articles over the Internet at that time and they become reasonably well known, especially amongst the autocrossing community in the US. The first 13 parts were written in 1991, so they contain some very dated ideas, such as using Scheme for writing simulations. However, the entire series is presented here, as originally written. Perhaps at some later time I will consolidate and update the series, but for now, I am focusing on writing new parts. There are currently a number of ‘live threads’ in the discussion that I wish to pursue at length.

My overall goal with the series is to present a fresh outlook on racing physics, understandable to the technically inclined non-specialist. The problems I consider come from a variety of sources. Often, they’re motivated by computer simulation, and just as often they arise from competition experiences. Some of the later articles get very technical, but I always try to balance conceptual discussion, which everyone should be able to understand, with mathematical analysis, which might be of interest only to specialists, and with numerical results, which, again, should be universally accessible.

When I first started the series, I purposely avoided the standard reference sources, preferring to figure things out myself from first principles. In the past ten years, a number of superior source books, papers, and programs have become available, and it is no longer sensible for me to avoid them. I’ve had my fun, now it is time to ‘get real.’ So, in the later articles, I refer to the well known books by Milliken, Gillespie, Genta, and Carroll Smith; as well as to free simulation packages such as RARS, TORCS, and Racer.

There is a tremendous amount of activity in racing simulation nowadays that computer hardware is fast enough to permit extremely detailed modelling of racing cars in real time. The realism of Grand-Prix Legends, for instance, was unimaginable in real time in 1991. Despite this growth, I continue to hope that the Physics of Racing series can fulfil its original dual roles of translating racing lore and craft into hardcore physics and of making that physics understandable to real-world working race drivers and teams.

Finally, I wish to point out that these articles are FREE. I retain the copyright ONLY to prevent the kind of theft that would make the articles difficult to copy, meaning that I grant to everyone, everywhere a perpetual, transferable, universal, royalty-free license to copy, host, post, translate, convert, transform, and reproduce the articles in any form whatever, asking only that the content and attribution not be changed and that the rights of anyone, anywhere to further copy the articles not be restricted, say, by charging money for copies.”

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