Motorsport has provided some of the greatest technological advances in the world of automobiles, aerodynamics and manufacturing, and we see the impact of some of the greatest racers in the world in cars you can buy today.
The increasing speed of motorsport gears led to the development of the semi-automatic gearbox (sometimes affectionately known as “flappy paddle gearboxes”), whilst active suspension and traction control are seen on even some basic models of road car.
However, with so many technologies that did race, often to be banned soon afterwards, it is interesting to look at the cars that had technology that did not ultimately see the racetrack. Here are some of the best examples.
- Continuously Variable Transmission
The idea of continuously variable transmission (CVT) is very complicated in practice but aimed to create a system that would automatically change smoothly as the car increased in speed.
This made it different from a manual gearbox, where the driver has to change gears themselves, or a standard automatic gearbox that travel through a series of gears in the same way a manual gearbox would.
Allowing a driver to constantly use the optimal level of revs gave the driver a considerable advantage whilst racing, and a test card developed by Williams in 1993 allowed test driver David Coulthard to set some incredible times.
It was very quickly banned, along with a litany of “driver aids” for the 1994 season.
- Four-Wheel Steering
One of the most unique technologies that never raced was four-wheel steering, where the rear wheels could subtly alter their angles to aid with cornering.
Despite adding fail-safe modes and the ability to turn it on and off at will, it did not find any support from the FIA and was banned along with other technologies for 1994.
- Four Wheel Drive
There has been a history of six-wheeled cars, with the Tyrell P34 winning a Grand Prix and becoming one of the most famous race cars ever made.
However, it was flawed in a lot of ways, not least of which the fact that the tiny front wheels and tyres it used were very expensive. Ferrari simply added extra wheels to the rear axle, whilst Williams had a more innovative solution.
By using two sets of the smaller front wheels on their FW08B, they could get the grip advantages without having to design bespoke tyres and even found that they only needed to use wet tyres on the front four wheels, as the back two could run on slicks and improve grip.
The car’s design aimed to run very long skirts to take advantage of the ground effect. However, once word got out that the car was actually competitive, the FIA swiftly moved to ban six-wheeled cars and four-wheel drive with it.