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Mythbusters Mailbag: Can an F1 car generate enough 'downforce' to drive upside down?
Question: "Can an F1 car generate enough 'downforce' to drive upside down?"
Driving upside down is a childhood fantasy for lots of boys, ranking right up there with the ability to fly or scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal.
The fantasy is fed by movies like Men In Black, where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones take their car for a spin in the Holland Tunnel with the help of expensive CGI.
But can this stunt be pulled in the real world?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
According to Dr. Afzal Suleman, an aeronautical engineer at the University of Victoria who is an expert in aircraft design, "theoretically, it is possible. But in practical terms, other matters must be looked at."
So, how can you drive a car upside down? The answer - as in so many things to be found in the world around us - can be found in physics.
Once a car produces a force that's equal to its weight, it's possible (theoretically) for a driver to ride it up the walls and above the rest of traffic.
But first, a couple of definitions are in order.
Downforce is the downward pressure created by the F1 car's "wings" to keep the car as close to the ground as possible.
Drag is the turbulence that helps to slow down a car.
Fast cars produce very little drag, and lots of downforce. F1 cars produce so much downforce that theoretically they can drive upside down when travelling at the speed of 150 km an hour. In fact, according to Dr. Suleman, drivers will experience a force of 3 Gs when driving in their F1 cars. That's three times the car's own weight!
But a word of caution: though it is theoretically possible to drive upside down, you would need a special testing facility to really prove that it's possible, with stringent safety measures to ensure that the driver wouldn't get hurt. You would also need the right kind of car, the right kind of road, and the right kind of ceiling.
researched by Haig Balian