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Fundamentals of Physics by David Halliday, Robert Resnick, Jearl Walker

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Can a race car be driven upside down on a ceiling?

A car traveling through a flat turn in a Grand Prix race depends on friction to stay in the turn. However, if the car is going too fast, friction fails and the car slides out of the turn. In earlier times, a car had to take the flat turns rather slowly. However, modern race cars are designed so that the passing air pushes down, allowing the car to travel much faster through a flat turn without friction failing. This downward push is called negative lift. It is due to the way air is forced to flow above and below the vehicle. The negative lift on a modern Grand Prix can be large.

The answer is in this chapter.

6-1 What Is Physics?

In this chapter we focus on the physics of three common types of force: frictional force, drag force, and centripetal force. An engineer preparing a car for the Indianapolis 500 must consider all three types. Frictional forces acting on the tires are crucial to the car’s acceleration out of the pit and out of a curve (if the car hits an oil slick, the friction is lost and so is the car). Drag forces acting on the car from the passing air must be minimized or else the car will consume too much fuel and have to pit too early (even one 14 s pit stop can cost a driver the race). Centripetal forces are crucial in the turns (if there is insufficient centripetal force, the car slides into the wall).

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