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COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS ANALYSIS ON

RACE CAR SCALE MODEL COMPARED WITH WIND


TUNNEL TESTS
Giuseppe Scantamburlo, Federica Cimarosti, Roberto Passafaro
Fiat Auto P&PE Wind Tunnels
Giuseppe Lanciotti
Fiat - GM Powertrain

ABSTRACT
Computational Fluid Dynamics plays an increasing role in the design process for
automotive industry, in particular for the prediction of aerodynamic characteristics.
The present study is concerned with the influence of a rear wing on the aerodynamics of
Fiat Auto Corse race car. The simulation of the aerodynamic flow around the rear wing
was developed at the Wind Tunnel Department of Fiat Auto, using a new generation of
simulation code, named CFD++, which merges the latest developments in numerical
schemes and turbulence modelling with a friendly user interface.
The analysis was carried out on one wing version, having three different set up
configurations.
The most important aim was the evaluation and development of the numerical Fiat Auto
approach, based on a very detailed experimental activity conducted in Scale Model
Wind Tunnel. Despite the complexity of both the car geometry and flow behaviour, the
present study shows that numerical simulation can provide much information useful to
the design process.
Keywords:
Nomenclature:

1.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Fiat Auto Corse (F.A.C.),


K (turbulence kinetic energy), (turbulence dissipation),

(viscosity), t (eddy viscosity), Cp (static pressure coefficient), Y+


(normalized distance to wall)

INTRODUCTION

Inverted front and rear wings are utilized in most racing in order to properly balance the
cars at high speed. They also supplement the down force generated by Venturi ducts
underneath the car to enhance the traction of the tires; additionally, the wings generate
drag and pitching moment. Accurate determination of these aerodynamic quantities is
critical in racing car design.
The major goal is to provide maximum down force to facilitate power transfer from the
engine and to enhance stability especially when cornering.

Due to the coupling of the flow around different areas of the car, certain appendages
may be required to fulfil multiple aerodynamic functions.
In order to optimize the performance of the car, it is important to determine how the
aerodynamic forces vary with the tuning of several parameters such as road height, wing
configuration and flap angles.
Traditionally, the aerodynamic optimization relies entirely on designer experience and
racetrack testing. For a number of years, wind tunnel testing has become an integral
part of design process, especially for advanced racing.
Wind tunnel testing can provide a systematic study of various tuning options within a
controlled environment. However, it is generally restricted to providing global
measurements of the aerodynamic forces exerted on the car.
Aided by continual development of computer software and hardware, numerical
simulation is beginning to attract the attention of the racing car community. CFD and
other computational CAD/CAE design techniques emerged in 1980s and quickly were
adopted by automotive companies. At that time, they were hindered by slow hardware,
poor geometrical definition, and flow modelling codes with limited capabilities.
By the year 2000, this landscape changed: CFD is now a part of the design process at
all major automotive manufacturers and their suppliers.
Indeed, a number of racing cars teams have begun using CFD for aerodynamic design.
While numerical simulation cannot entirely replace existing experimental methods, it has
a number of potential uses and advantages, such as:
reduction of the dependence and amount of wind tunnel testing
evaluation of local flow quantities
transfer by simple numerical scaling, from wind tunnel data to racetrack car.
The results of a study to assess the current capabilities of numerical simulations for
racing car applications are presented.
The general approach of F.A.C. is to study and develop the aerodynamic performances
with a 1:2.5 scale model in ground effect and complete the optimization with road tests.
The idea was to estimate and enhance the Fiat Auto numerical capability in order to aid
F.A.C. to evaluate some solutions in advance, before the scale model wind tunnel
session test.
The study has been restricted to the aerodynamic rear wing, because it is one of the
most difficult and expensive add on to optimize; different positions of the wing were
analysed, in order to check if the code predictions are close to the experimental
behaviour
The fundamental estimation of the accuracy of the numerical predictions was done by
comparing the computed results with experimental data obtained using the same
geometry and scale.
These activities were carried out at the wind tunnel department of Fiat Auto.
2.

EXPERIMENTAL ACTIVITY

The Fiat Auto wind tunnel for scale models was built in 1985; it is a closed ring with a
3/4 chamber opened.
Wind tunnel principal characteristics are:
section of the nozzle is 4 m2
contraction ratio is 7
maximum free stream velocity is 270 km/h

yaw angle 15
boundary layer thickness 17.5 mm (under the balance)
turbulence intensity is <1%
power of the engine (fixed blades) is 500 KW.
The model is kept by a vertical sting; the strain gauge balance and the angle variator
are normally placed inside the model, whereas the wheels are not connected to model
and therefore are not weighted.
During year 2001 the control and sampling system of the plant was rebuilt for enhanced
automation.
Important available features are:
moving belt
traversing gear useful to transport standard probes (pitot or 5 holes probe) and the
Laser Doppler Velocimeter.
A very detailed quarter scale model was supplied by F.A.C., complete wheels, rear wing
and rear mirrors. The model was derived from the CAE model, with the following
details:
complete flat underbody
no rear mirrors,
lateral dish of the wheel closed
body clearances sealed.
Its main dimensions are given below:
total length: 1.772 m
total width: 0.700 m
wheel radius: 0.125 m
frontal area: 0.336 m2.
In this configuration the body was symmetric, an important attribute to maximize the
numerical model accuracy.
The back of the car, moreover, has been punched to probe, with a mechanical
scanivalve placed inside, the static pressure in different conditions; it was not possible
to do the same thing for the rear wing, because of the relatively little small dimensions of
the component.
The velocity probing was carried out by means of the LDV feature.
Fiat LDV is a TSI/Coherent 4 class system, measuring 2 velocity components 800 mm
from the gun beam expander; an alcoholic-water smoke is used as seeding.
The system parameters applied to optimize the reading of the LDV were:
sampling rate: 20 MHz
burst threshold: 2.5 mV
number of samples: 100 for all the points measured
850 V applied to the 2 photo-multiplier channels.
The testing session explored numerous variables, such as different velocities, different
pitch positions, the contributions of the air intakes and rear mirrors, and different wing
positions.
In this paper only rear wing positions results are reported.

Fig.1: Chamber wind tunnel lay-out

[ mm ]

Z
X

3.

NUMERICAL ACTIVITY

The numerical simulation comprised four main phases:


geometry modelling
mesh generation
flow computation
solution analysis.
For the present application, the flow is subsonic. The following software packages were
employed:
ANSA for geometry importing and modification
ICEM CFD (Tetra and Prism) for volume mesh generation
CFD++ for flow computation
ICEM VISUAL3 for post-processing.
The CFD++ software package is used widely enough for industrial applications
(including aerospace).
Due to the strong coupling between the quality of the computational mesh and the
accuracy of the resulting flow solution, a substantial effort was made in the mesh
generation phase.
The generation of suitable computational meshes was performed in two stages:
triangulation of all surfaces, followed by the creation of a tetrahedral mesh in the volume
and a prismatic mesh near the car and wing surfaces.

The geometry was divided into separate parts (wing, car, wheels, ground, etc) and the
individual surfaces were meshed separately using different control parameters.
The computational domain was built as a box of sufficiently large extent such that the
external free-stream boundaries had essentially no influence on the computed flow.
Surface mesh cells were concentrated in regions considered to be of utmost importance
(such as the wing). A global view of the resulting surface mesh is shown below (fig.2):
Fig.2: Resulting surface mesh

The minimum grid dimension of about 0.2 mm was located around the wing.
A total of 1.8 million unstructured cells were created for the half model.
From the computed flow solution the conclusion were drawn:
the general mesh resolution seems adequate to predict a reasonable flow-field
the wake structure seems correct enough, particularly in the wing region
the mesh density on the car and between the underbody and the ground plane
appears insufficient to accurately reproduce the separated flow region downstream
the back of the model.
Since the above mesh is already considered large, and the main interest of the present
study is the wing region, no further mesh refinement was undertaken.
The flow equations were solved by means of CFD++. This flow solver employs cellcentred finite volume discretization on unstructured mesh, and possesses the following
capabilities:
implicit and explicit methods
compressible and incompressible flow solver
dual time stepping for unsteady simulations

algebraic pointwise Reynolds-stress models (which account for normal stress


anisotropy, stream line curvature and non-equilibrium flow effects) and LES models
for turbulence closure
speed-up convergence scheme for low speed flow
multi-grid schemes
hybrid mesh combination with non-aligned or overset grids
thermal and combustion analyses.
In this study the numerical parameters/schemes used for the computation are listed
below:
compressible, steady, turbulent flow
K- pointwise cubic turbulence model (free stream conditions based on turbulence
intensity and flow velocity; (t/)=10)
wall function technique to approximate the boundary layer in the first near-wall cell;
(this approach has got the advantage of greatly reducing the number of mesh cells
required near wall surfaces, and hence the computational cost, and is, therefore,
widely used for turbulent flow simulations)
implicit, coupled time marching scheme
second order up-wind scheme for all convective terms
accurate discretization of the viscous terms
multi-dimensional TVD scheme for spatial discretization
preconditioning convergence speed-up scheme
Y+ between: 30 and 70 on the car, between 15 and 50 on the wing.
Both the residuals (that measure the extent to which each flow equation is satisfied) and
the lift and drag histories were monitored during the run.
To obtain useful results, it is necessary to reach a sufficiently accurate resolution of the
flow domain, that is, a sufficiently fine mesh with a large number of cells is necessary;
this has major implications on computational resources (memory and CPU time)
required for the simulation, especially for the flow computation and solution analysis
phases.
CFD++ was installed on a Silicon Graphics Power Challenge of central memory with
3Gbytes of Ram. This constraint, to a certain extent, the quality of the analysis.
Due to resource limitations, only 4 processors were used for the computation, although
use of larger number of CPUs would have shortened turn-around time.
Three different rear wing configurations were considered in this study, as shown in the
figure 3.
At the beginning of the project a simplified vehicle configuration is typically used; this
includes rotating wheels, flat underbody, closed air intakes and no rear view mirrors. The
wing assembly consists of a main plane, laterally terminating in a side plane; under the
wing, a small transversal bar is fixed on the trunk.
One free-stream condition was considered: 100 Km/h. While the F.A.C. methodology
foresees 140 Km/h for the scale models: we reduced the speed to enable improved
performance of the LDV probe, verifying first that no large changes occur between 100
and 140 km/h.
The boundary conditions (close to wind tunnel conditions) were set as follows:
inlet. velocity (100 km/h)
outlet: pressure (101325 Pa)
top and far side: no-slip wall
symmetry plane (Y=0 coordinate)

moving ground and rotating wheels (set to free-stream speed and corresponding
angular velocity)
yaw angle = 0
The post process is similar to most well-known commercial codes, and permits
visualization of pressure, coefficients, velocity, turbulence variable, skin friction and so
on.
In the next paragraph some numerical results compared with experimental data, will be
shown.
Fig.3: Three different rear wing configurations

Base configuration
Wing translated forward
Wing rotated forward

17

5 mm

4.

COMPARISON

The table below shows the coefficients between the experimental and numerical values
about the global configuration (car + wing + wheels ventilation).
Tab.1: coefficients (experimental values vs. numerical ones)
cx (exp-num)
cz (exp-num)
Eff [cz/cx](exp-num)

Base
+0.005
+0.020
+0.038

Translated forward
+0.010
+0.000
-0.036

Rotated forward
+0.010
+0.025
+0.038

This comparison indicates a general under-estimation of drag an0d an over-estimation


of lift.

The differences between the base case and the other two are more interesting; this is
the normal approach when one has to study and analyse different geometrical
configurations, relative to a base reference case.
Tab.2: coefficients (translated and rotated forward vs. base configuration)
cx exp

cx num

cz exp

cz num

eff exp

eff num

(respect to
base
configuration)

(respect to
base
configuration)

(respect to
base
configuration)

(respect to
base
configuration)

(respect to
base
configuration)

(respect to
base
configuration)

+0.010

+0.005

+0.160

+0.140

+0.552

+0.478

-0.010

-0.015

+0.100

+0.105

+0.278

+0.278

Translated
forward
Rotated
forward

As one can see, the trends were simulated correctly and, in some cases, even the
absolute different magnitudes are well predicted.
The comparisons in efficiencies are particularly good: this justifies the employment of
more detailed information derived from the numerical analysis, enabling improved
aerodynamic behaviour via geometric design modifications.
To examine carefully the aerodynamic analysis, we continue with the cp profile on the
rear of the car.
Fig.4: C p profile on the rear of the car
Base
BASE CONFIGURATION - Pressure coefficient profile
Y = 0.19 m far from center line

Wing translated
0.15

Wing rotated

0.1

Experimental

0.05

Numerical

0
-0.05

Cp

-0.1
-0.15
-0.2

Pressur
e

-0.25
-0.3
-0.35

-0.4
-0.45

Y = 0.190
m

0.9

1.05

1.1

1.15

1.2

1.25

1.3

1.35

1.4

WING TRANSLATED FORWARD - Static Pressure coefficient profile


Y=0.19 m far from center line

0.2

0.15

0.15
0.1

X[m]

WING ROTATED FORWARD - Static pressure coefficient profile


Y = 0.19 m far from center line

0.05

0.95

0.1

Experimental
0.05

Numerical

Experimental

Numerical

-0.05

-0.05

-0.1

Cp

Cp

-0.1
-0.15
-0.2

-0.15
-0.2
-0.25

-0.25

-0.3

-0.3

-0.35

-0.35
-0.4

-0.4

-0.45

-0.45

-0.5
0.9

0.95

1.05

1.1

1.15

X[m]

1.2

1.25

1.3

1.35

1.4

-0.5
0.9

0.95

1.05

1.1

1.15

X [m]

1.2

1.25

1.3

1.35

1.4

These pictures suggest the difficulty in finding the separation bubble with CFD (although
the disturb is always present): this could be attributed to a not high enough discretization
level, related possibly also to the turbulence model used.
Because of the above issues, numbers in the first table have to be considered only
preliminary.
Very good results were obtained from LDV/CFD comparison: the following pictures
(fig.6, fig.7, fig.8) show 2 maps around the rear wing for every configuration studied: the
physical variable shown is the average of the normalized module of longitudinal and
vertical velocity component (for both numerical and experimental).
Maps A and B have the same side dimensions for every configuration, but they were
moved with respect to the global coordinate axes, to maintain the same physical
position to the wing (close to the attack-edge in front and close to X limit on the rear).
Fig.5: Maps location

Wing rotated forward

Wing translated forward

Map A

Base configuration

Map B

Z
Y = 0.025 m
X

Principal phenomena are discovered by virtual analysis, such as position and value of
the flow acceleration under the attack-edge, dimension and distribution of rear vortexes.
There is somewhat of a difference in the wing rotated forward case due to the wing
position, which generates bigger and more critical separation than the other two cases.
The quantitative velocity profiles confirm the right behaviour (shape and position of
vortexes) of the fluxes where the numerical model was very fine and detailed. Adequate
attention must be given to even to the relatively small dimensions of the wing (7-8 cm),
because a very little difference in the separation point could generate a pretty big
difference on the rear.

Fig.6: Flowfield around the base configuration wing (exp. maps vs. numerical ones)

BASE CONFIGURATION
Vxz average, normalized

Map A

Experimental
0.40

0.40

0.39

0.39

0.38

0.38

0.37

0.37

0.36

0.36

Numerical

0.95
0.90
0.85
0.80
0.75
0.70
0.65
0.60
0.55
0.50
0.45
0.40
0.35
0.30
0.25
0.20

Z [m]

Z [m]
0.35

0.35

0.34

0.34

0.33

0.33

0.32

0.32

0.31

0.31
1.23

1.24

1.25

1.26

1.27

1.28

1.29

0.15
0.10
0.05

1.23

1.30

1.24

1.25

1.26

1.27

1.28

1.29

1.30

X [m]

X [m]

Front of the wing Profile X=1.29 m


0.43
0.41

Experimental
Numerical

0.39
0.37

Z [m]

0.35
0.33
0.31
0.29
0.27
0.25
0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.1

1.2

Vxz norm

Map B
Experimental

Numerical

0.41

0.41

0.40

0.40

0.39

0.39

0.38

0.38

0.37

0.37

0.36

0.95
0.90
0.85
0.80
0.75
0.70
0.65
0.60
0.55
0.50
0.45
0.40
0.35
0.30
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05

0.36

Z [m]

Z [m]
0.35

0.35

0.34

0.34

0.33

0.33

0.32

0.32

0.31

0.31

0.30
0.29

0.30

1.36

1.37

1.38

1.39

1.40

1.41

1.42

0.29

1.43

1.36

1.37

1.38

X [m]

1.39

1.40

X [m]

Rear of the wing - Profile x=1.36 m


0.43

Experimental

0.41

Numerical

0.39
0.37
Z [m]

0.35
0.33
0.31
0.29
0.27
0.25
0

0.2

0.4

0.6
Vxz norm

0.8

1.2

1.41

1.42

1.43

Fig.7: Flowfield around the wing translated forward (exp. maps vs. numerical ones)

WING TRANSLATED FORWARD


Vxz average normalized

Map A
Experimental

Numerical

0.40

0.40

0.39

0.39

0.38

0.38

0.37

0.37

0.85
0.80
0.75

Z[m
]

Z
[m
]

0.90

0.36

0.70
0.65
0.60
0.55

0.36

Z [m]

Z [m]

0.50

0.35

0.35

0.34

0.34

0.33

0.33

0.20
0.15

0.32

0.32

0.10

0.45
0.40
0.35
0.30
0.25

0.31

0.31
1.24

1.25

1.26

1.27

1.28

1.29

1.24

1.25

1.26

1.27

X [m]

1.28

1.29

X [m]

Front of the wing

X=1.28 m

0.42

Experimental
Numerical

0.4

0.38

Z [m]

0.36

0.34

0.32

0.3
0.35

0.45

0.55

0.65

0.75

0.85

0.95

Vxz norm

Map B
Experimental

Numerical
0.39

0.39

0.95
0.38

0.38

0.37

0.37

0.90
0.85
0.80
0.75
0.70

Z[m
]

Z[m
]

0.65
0.36

Z [m]

0.36

0.60
0.55

Z [m]
0.35

0.35

0.34

0.34

0.33

0.33

0.32

0.32

0.50
0.45
0.40
0.35
0.30
0.25

1.36

1.37

1.38

1.39

1.40

1.41

0.20

1.36

1.42

1.37

1.38

1.39

1.40

X [m]

X [m]

Rear of the wing - Profile X=1.37m


0.42

0.4

Experimental
Numerical

0.38

Z [m]

0.36

0.34

0.32

0.3
0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6
Vxz norm

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.41

1.42

Fig.8: Flowfield around the wing rotated forward (exp. maps vs. numerical ones)

WING ROTATED FORWARD


Vxz average normalized

Map A

0.40

0.40

0.39

0.39

0.38

0.38

0.37

0.37

Numerical

0.85
0.80
0.75
0.70

Z[m
]

Z[m
]

Experimental

0.36

Z [m]

0.65
0.60
0.55
0.50
0.45

0.36

Z [m]

0.40

0.35

0.35

0.34

0.34

0.33

0.33

0.32

0.32

0.31

0.35
0.30
0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05
0.00

0.31
1.21

1.22

1.23

1.24

1.25

1.26

1.27

1.28

1.21

1.22

1.23

1.24

X [m]

1.25

1.26

1.27

1.28

X [m]

Front of the wing Profile X=1.28 m


0.42

Experimental
Numerical

0.4

0.38

Z [m]

0.36

0.34

0.32

0.3
0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

Vxz

0.8

0.9

Map B

Experimental
0.40

0.40

0.39

0.39

0.38

0.38

0.37

0.37

Z[m]

Z [m]

0.7

0.36

Z [m]

norm

Numerical

0.90
0.85
0.80
0.75
0.70
0.65
0.60
0.55
0.50
0.45

0.36

Z [m]
0.35

0.35

0.34

0.34

0.33

0.33

0.25
0.20
0.15
0.10
0.05

0.32

0.32
1.34

0.40
0.35
0.30

1.35

1.36

1.37

1.38

1.39

1.40

1.41

1.34

1.42

1.35

1.36

1.37

1.38

1.39

X [m]

X [m]

Rear of the wing Profile x=1.37 m


0.42

Experimental
Numeri cal

0.4

0.38
Z [m]
0.36

0.34

0.32

0.3
0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6
Vxz norm

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.40

1.41

1.42

5.

CONCLUSION

These recent computations carried out at Fiat using the CFD++ software suite, have
demonstrated the capability of good integration with the actual (and mainly
experimental) Fiat aerodynamic methodology for race cars.
Good prediction (qualitative and quantitative) was obtained around the car wing for the
several cases considered. More can be done for the global car phenomena, for which a
relatively coarse mesh was built.
The activity will continue to adopt the new Fiat Auto Hw capabilities and to try some
improvement in the numerical tasks (e.g Low Reynolds techniques).
In addition to the validation of the existing numerical methods, this work has contributed
to the evaluation of a significant and complete set of experimental data, that will be very
useful when validating new turbulence models for the automotive industry.

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