How Turbo Charging Changed Auto Racing

By: Leaftech

Automobile racing is one of the most popular sports in the world, and certainly has its place among the most watched sports in North America. Every year, thousands of people watch what is happening on the NASCAR and CART circuits and every year thousands of people seek to emulate the pros.

The history of professional and amateur auto racing probably goes back to the days when the automobile was first invented and the first competitive spirit jumped into his driver's seat, while his friend jumped into their car. Since that time, the sport has been refined and marketed to become the past time that it is today, and that has meant a lot of change along the way.

The turbocharger

One of the big changes that revolutionized auto racing was the introduction of the turbo charger. The charger itself was actually invented in the very first years of the 20th century, and began showing up in practical applications (specifically ships and locomotives) around the 1920s.

Turbochargers increase the amount of air drawn into the piston of an engine at each stroke, thereby increasing the power boost that the engine supplies to the vehicle in motion (more air equals more fuel). Turbochargers use the rotation of the crankshaft as their power source, using the heat produced to power in the extra air. They are said to be more efficient than superchargers, which draw power from the engine itself.

The turbocharger and auto racing

The first use of a turbocharger in auto racing was in the late 1970s, when auto producer Renault of France introduced the turbo charged engine into their Formula One vehicles. This was a relatively late development given the long history of the turbo charger, but up until this point racecar developers believed the technology was not fuel efficient or reliable enough to power a successful racecar.

Renault proved critics wrong, however, by using a turbocharger that provided a significant boost to the speed of the car with the use of a fairly small engine. By the early 1980s, all Formula One cars were equipped with turbo chargers.

Turbo charging and the driver

Aside from increasing the speed a racecar could hit in a short amount of time, the skill needed to use a turbo charger in an engine also meant a new breed of drivers were needed. This development was not just limited to professional circuits like Formula One; amateurs all over the world found that successfully racing a turbo driven car meant an increase in timing ability, reflexes, and even strength.

The introduction of the turbo charger changed auto racing forever. Today, there are several styles of auto racing that do not allow turbo chargers, but even so, the very fact that there has to be litigation against these innovations is an indication of their far reaching impact and application!

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