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The Race is On

As the rubber hits the road at Austin’s Formula One racetrack this week, check out the contributions of Longhorns and read about technology behind really fast cars.

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Circuit of the Americas: Designed by Longhorns

Mark Waggoner

Mark Waggoner 

Creating a brand-new facility for a sport that’s largely unknown in the U.S. presented challenges and opportunities for the design team.

Architect Juan Miró, a professor at the School of Architecture and principal at Miró Rivera Architects, jumped at the chance to help introduce Austinites and visitors to Formula One. He worked with Mark Waggoner, M.S. CAEE ’99, one of the project’s two lead engineers (along with another Longhorn, David Platten, M.S.E. ’80), to create the grandstands, the soon-to-be iconic observation tower (with its striking “red veil”) and all of the structures besides the track itself at the new Circuit of the Americas complex, just southeast of Austin.

Juan Miro

Juan Miró 

Watch the video above to hear about Miró and Waggoner’s experience designing the country’s only Formula One racetrack.

Read a firsthand account from Waggoner about the intricate design of the tower.

Check out a slideshow to see some great images of the track as construction wrapped up.

How Do They Make Those Cars Go So Fast?

All eyes will be on the world’s top-ranked drivers at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack. But long before the racing season starts, engineers, aerodynamicists and computer scientists use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to devise improvements to the cars. CFD uses advanced mathematics and computer simulation to model and predict how the laws of physics and racing conditions will affect a car’s performance on race day.

“[CFD] is critical as the teams seek to evaluate improvements that can earn them even hundredths of a second in lap time,” says Dipankar Choudhury, vice president of research for Pennsylvania-based ANSYS Inc., which provides CFD software and consulting to several F1 teams, including Red Bull, Ferrari, Sauber and Force India.

“What was once a scientific novelty, [CFD] is now a practical tool,” Choudhury says. Not only can CFD result in faster lap times, but it can also improve vehicle safety for drivers who routinely go from 185 to zero miles per hour in a matter of seconds. (Read more about CFD and its role in racing strategy.)

CFD isn’t only useful for making cars behave like rockets. At the Cockrell School of Engineering, CFD projects are under way in several departments, including mechanical, aerospace, chemical and petroleum engineering. The Institute for Computational Engineering and Science (ICES) is home to some of the world’s foremost experts in numerical methods and engineering simulation. Additionally, UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) houses some of the country’s fastest supercomputers, which are equipped to perform complex CFD calculations.

Read more about the groundbreaking technology behind F1, along with other potential applications of this advanced research.

An earlier version of this article said the race cars could go 300 miles per hour. It has been corrected to reflect the actual top speed of 185 miles per hour.