Three Surprising Motorsport Innovations That Were Too Good To Last

Few industries require the precision of motorsport, and the use of precision tools and some of the most exotic technologies and materials in the world have led to some of the most advanced vehicles ever made.

However, in championships such as Formula One, some of these technologies were so ahead of their time and so seemingly insurmountable they were destined to be part of the banned list.

Here are three of the most surprising motorsport innovations that ended up being banned.

Beryllium Engine Parts

Formula One’s technical regulations are an imposingly large document, and the reason for this is that the FIA attempt to avoid any attempts by some of the smartest people in engineering to get an unexpected advantage.

There are tons of examples of this in action, from the Michelin tyres in 2003 that expanded slightly to the various diffuser innovations in the late 2000s such as the double-deck, the F-Duct and the blown diffuser, but the most ridiculous example was the use of beryllium.

Beryllium is a lightweight and rather elastic metal element that McClaren used in 1999 to improve the power of its engines by allowing the engine to deliver more power.

It was banned by the FIA in October 1999 over safety grounds, making it too good to last.

Active Suspension

One of the turning points for Formula One as a centrepiece of technical innovation was the development of active suspension, and although it would take several years to be taken seriously, it would only take a year before it would be banned.

Active suspension is where the car’s suspension reacts to the conditions of the road around it and keeps the car as close to the road at all times, factoring in bumps and changes in elevation.

Its initial hydraulic period was ultimately not enough of an advantage, but by 1992 the technology proved to be blistering.

It gave Nigel Mansel possibly the easiest World Driver’s Championship victory in history as he demolished the highly skilled but ultimately underpowered Ayrton Senna in the McLaren.

Naturally, the rest of the grid needed to react and fast, however, the FIA responded almost not long after a grid filled with the most advanced F1 cars in history made the grid, banning them for 1994.

Ground Effect

Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, was one of the most innovative designers and engineers the world of motorsport had ever seen, and the one technology that illustrates this most is ground effect.

Ground effect is a complex aerodynamic phenomenon that relies heavily on a body that channelled air to the underside of the car and created a low-pressure area that made the car effectively stick to the ground.

It was incredibly fast when it worked effectively, but if the lower skirts or bodywork were affected at all it would cause a complete lack of grip at high speed, which led to a wave of fatal accidents that caused the technology to be banned.

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