Wing (land vehicle)

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The extended rear wing of a Porsche Carrera GT

The term wing describes a vehicle add-on part of an automobile that is primarily intended to generate downforce, i.e. contact pressure for better traction.

Definition of terms

The retracted rear wing of a Porsche Carrera GT , which in this position only works as a spoiler

The terms spoiler and wing are often used synonymously in common parlance . As a rule, one speaks of a wing when there is a flow over both the top and bottom of the component. A wing can largely work independently aerodynamically or it can bring about additional effects in conjunction with the body aerodynamics.

A spoiler, however, is only overflowed on one side. It disrupts the flow of air and thereby affects aerodynamics; its function is mainly that of an air deflector or air deflector.

How a wing works

Smooth, accelerated currents generate a negative pressure ( aerodynamic lift ) on the surface of the body around the body . In the case of a car, this occurs primarily on the top side and thus usually generates a relative buoyancy force, which in the car leads to a reduction in grip. This is particularly large and also undesirable due to the long levers on both ends of the vehicle (bonnet, trunk lid). The task of wings around the flow is the targeted generation of (mostly) downforce. Colloquial spoilers that generate downforce in this way and not just reduce lift are correctly named wings.

In Formula 1 , for example , the front wing has the additional rear spoiler-like effect that the air above the wing is slowed down (desired pressure increase) and is then still slowly directed over the top of the chassis and the driver, generating additional downforce (aerodynamics: slow flow corresponds to higher pressure). At the same time, the air on the underside of the wing is accelerated very strongly (negative pressure) and largely directed under the vehicle, where further downforce is generated on the surface of the underbody ( negative ground effect ). The rear wing creates a contact pressure on its upper side, but on the underside and behind the vehicle such a large negative pressure that the already fast air under the vehicle is sucked through to the rear instead of escaping to both sides. The diffuser geometry supports this suction. In summary, the front and rear wings ensure the accelerated underflow and decelerated overflow, which then generate the forces directed downwards on the large areas of the chassis. The two wings generate only about 25% of the downforce. But if a wing fails, the downforce is reduced by 75%, as the chassis no longer generates any downforce either.


Opel RAK2 in the Technik-Museum Speyer
Chaparral 2F on the Nürburgring, 1967
McLaren M7C from 1969
BMW Sauber F1.08 with "horn wing" (rear) and "antlers" (front)

The 1928 Opel RAK1 rocket car had small wings behind the front wheels that were supposed to generate downforce. For the same reason, the successor Opel RAK2 , which was also tested in 1928, was equipped with two large wings.

The Mercedes-Benz T 80 from 1939, which was never used , also had wing-like shapes on the left and right sides of the vehicle.

In automobile racing, the principle of the wing was probably first used in 1956. The Swiss racing driver Michael May provided his Porsche 550 Spyder with a wing supported by two supports in the middle above the cockpit and wanted to use it to compete in the 1000 km race at the Nürburgring in 1956 ; however, the construction was prohibited after the training. At the 1000 km race in Monza in 1956 , the vehicle in the same design was not even approved for training and the concept was then not pursued by May.

In 1961, the American Art Malone with Mad Dog IV , a kurtis -Kraft -Indy car modified at cockpit height with two wings on the sides , was the first to complete a lap at Daytona International Speedway at an average speed of over 180 mph and in training at Indianapolis 500 1962 drove Jim Rathmann with Watson , the designer Smokey Yunick a wing had mounted, the first time such a car as part of a single-seater -Rennveranstaltung.

In 1965, Chaparral Cars built the Chaparral 2C , which had an adjustable rear wing integrated into the chassis. The following models 2E , 2F and 2G were each equipped at the level of the rear axle with an oversized wing that was attached with struts far above the car.

In Formula 1, wings were used by Team Lotus for the first time at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1968 , with the rear section of the Lotus 49B resembling a spoiler in appearance. At the Belgian Grand Prix, which took place two weeks later, Ferrari and Brabham used free-standing rear wings, as they would later shape Formula 1. More and more filigree and towering wings were developed, some of which were attached directly to the wheel suspension at the front and rear. Following two serious accidents at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1969 , the cause of which were broken rear wings, this trend was halted by prohibiting downforce-generating attachments that were not directly attached to the fuselage. In the 1970s and early 1980s, extreme wing variations were a thing of the past in Formula 1, especially since the use of the ground effect made front wings partially dispensable from 1977 onwards. In the 1970s, several teams also used front spoilers instead of front wings. With the end of the ground-effect racing cars after the 1982 season , lavish wing designs found their way back into the "premier class of motorsport". In the mid to late 1990s, several teams installed additional wings on the side pods (so-called winglets ) or on the airbox . This development intensified particularly in the mid-2000s. Some of the additional wings (e.g. horn wing , antlers ) did not generate any downforce themselves, but improved the flow of air to the rear wing through more favorable air flow and thus increased its effect. Since the numerous add-on parts were responsible for air turbulence behind the vehicles ( dirty air ) and thus for making overtaking maneuvers more difficult, the use of any additional wings was prohibited before the 2009 season . In the 2011 Formula 1 season , the drag reduction system was used for the first time , with which the upper rear wing element can be adjusted while driving.

Nowadays, wings are particularly characteristic of the appearance of Monoposti; only a few of these vehicles are not equipped with both front and rear wings (the Formula Ford is an exception ). Wings are also used in prototypes , GT and touring cars , with so-called splinters being used predominantly instead of front wings . Wings are also used in dragster , sprint car and super kart sports.

With the Unlimited Hydroplanes , on the other hand, the rear wing generates lift in order to lift the majority of the racing boat stern out of the water, and thus rather fulfills the task of an airplane wing . The front wing of an Unlimited Hydroplane corresponds to the elevator of a canard .


Basically, the bigger a wing, the higher the contact pressure and the easier it is to negotiate fast and medium-fast corners. However, a larger area increases the air resistance, which is noticeable on straights in the form of a reduced top speed, which is why the precise weighing of the wing design is a central component of the competition in motor racing.

Nowadays, wings usually consist of a main leaf and one or more flaps . These "slats" are usually fixed and largely rigid during a race, but in most cases their inclination can be adjusted on the pit (variable angle of attack ). Brackets attached to the rear wing, which are supposed to further increase the contact pressure, are called Gurney Flaps .

Modern racing cars are so specialized that a breakage or sudden loss of a wing severely worsens driving behavior. A failure of the effectiveness of the front wing creates understeer , a failure of the effectiveness of the rear wing causes severe oversteer . This has already led to several serious accidents, for example at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1975 or in the third free practice session at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix .


See also


Web links

Commons : Wings  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Photo: Opel RAK1
  2. Opel rocket reappeared!, December 30, 2007, accessed September 27, 2015 .
  3. a b Wings., accessed September 27, 2015 .
  4. Opel-RAK. daviddarling .info, accessed September 27, 2015 .
  5. a b c Porsche 550 Michael May - 10 years too early., August 14, 2014, accessed on September 27, 2015 .
  6. ^ A Brief History of Sports Car Racing., 1996, accessed September 27, 2015 .
  7. ^ Bob Osiecki's Mad Dog IV, Chrysler Powered Speed ​​Winner., September 30, 2014, accessed September 27, 2015 .
  8. Recent Additions. (No longer available online.), August 29, 2001, archived from the original on October 5, 2015 ; accessed on September 27, 2015 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Photo: Chaparral 2C
  10. Les fabuleuses Chaparral - The fabulous Chaparral race cars., accessed March 21, 2012 .
  11. Photo: Lotus 49B at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix
  12. Photo: Ferrari 312 (67/68) at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1968
  13. Photo: Brabham BT26 at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix
  14. ^ Formula 1 aerodynamics in the 1970s., September 5, 2011, accessed on March 21, 2012 .
  15. a b F1 aerodynamics lexicon: From the airbox to the winglet., March 24, 2009, accessed on September 27, 2015 .
  16. a b Hydros 101., accessed September 27, 2015 .
  17. ^ Only wounds on accident victim Firman., August 23, 2003, accessed on March 21, 2012 .