The upcoming Indy 500 is one of the most iconic racing events of the year, so I thought I would do a simple analyst of the race and track. Hopefully, it will make watching the race more enjoyable.
The Indy track is 2.5 miles in length. The track consists of two long straights that are 3300 feet in length and two short that are 660 feet long. The four corners are 1320 feet long.
The drivers and cars spend 40% of the time in a corner.
This year the fastest qualifying lap was 232 MPH, but for our analysis, we will lower that number to a boring 220 MPH, which is 323.4 Feet in a second, more than the length of a football field in a second. Blinking your eyes takes .2 seconds; therefore, the vehicle will travel 64.7 feet in a blink of an eye.
At an average speed of 220 MPH, it would take the vehicle 10.2 seconds to go the length of the long straight, and 2.04 seconds to travel the short straight, and 4.1 seconds in each corner.
Depending on the vehicle’s path and speed it will produce 3.5 G’s pushing on their Center of Gravity. That means that there is 3.5 times the weight of the vehicle pushing the vehicle away from the middle of the corner. So four times a lap there is 3.5 times the weight of the driver pushing on the driver.
Throughout the race, you will hear the announcers mention the cars are pushing or it is loose. That is announcer talk for under or over steer.
Under Over Steer-Understanding the Basics
The phrase Under and Over Steer are used often used to explain vehicle characteristics.
Understeer (the Announcer guys call this “push”) – in a turn, understeer is the condition where the front tires lose adhesion while the rear tires remain in contact with the pavement. The car tends to travel straight ahead, even though the driver is turning the wheel. So imagine as you enter one of the Indy corners at 220 MPH (323.4 Feet Per Second), turning the steering wheel, and the car does not turn it continues traveling straight (towards the wall).
Oversteer (Announcer guys call this “loose”) — In a turn, oversteer is the condition where the rear tires lose adhesion while the front tires remain in contact with the pavement. Again imagine as you enter one of the Indy corners at 220 MPH (323.4 Feet Per Second), you turn the steering wheel to enter the corner, and the back end of the car slides out, if it is severe oversteer, snap out is a better explanation.
If you have ever driven on ice you have experienced under and over steer, think what those experiences would be like at 220 MPH.
You will also hear the announcers talk about the vehicle changing from under to over steer, or vice versa, as the vehicle is moving through the corner. As mentioned above the driver will be in the 1320-foot corner for about 4 seconds, moving about 160 Feet in a half of second, with a car changing from understeer to oversteer, that can create some exciting driving.