You might not realize it, but the car that you drive to work everyday might be able to track its lineage to race cars. Not in the literal sense, but there are lots of technologies found on normal daily driven cars that have been drawn from race cars. Here is a short list of a few of the major items.
Active suspension was originally designed for the Lotus Formula 1 Team and was first tested by the legendary Ayrton Senna for his race car. The system uses computers to provide a huge amount of calculations per second to ensure that the tires are perpendicular to the road by tiny adjustments to the suspension. This allows for better traction, improved cornering capabilities, and better ride quality. While not every economy cars have this technology, you would most likely see it on performance cars like the new 2017 Camaro ZL1.
One might not give tires too much thought. A tire has always been a tire. While subtle, the tires on your car most likely got a lot of its design cues from race tires. Racing is where the different tread designs, compounds, longevity, durability, and all other metrics are tested and refined, and improved. What this means is that any good designs that work great, will eventually trickle down to tires for average use. Tires that may last longer, tires with more traction, tires that are more robust are all tested on the tracks across multiple racing leagues. It is even possible to buy race tires and put them on your own car should you have a vehicle that can make use of them that is!
Semi-automatic gearboxes was first introduced by Ferrarri back in the 60’s for their race cars. Today, it is widely adopted and standard on sporty vehicles and sports cars. In the truest sense, a sequential manual gearbox allows the driver to shift up or down from their current gear. It is common on most motorcycles as a traditional manual box may be too cumbersome. On the semi-automatic end, it introduced technologies such as triptonic, which you will find on Audis and variants across other brands. It allowed users to input up or down shifts, even in automatic vehicles. It is rare to see sequential manual gearboxes in street cars these days, but the semi-automatics continue to be adopted by the auto industry.
Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)
Probably the most recent technology to be adopted in professional racing is the kinetic energy recovery system. In general, heat equals energy, and our cars generate a lot of heat when we use our brakes. What the KERS does is capture that heat energy and store it temporarily to be used at a later time. Race cars use this to either increase their fuel efficiency or use it all at once for a temporary speed boost. This was first adopted in 2009 in Formula 1 and continues to be tested and improved. In today’s modern cars, you might see this used in expensive car models to increase fuel efficiency. The most common example you might be familiar with is the Toyota Prius, which stores the kinetic energy from the brakes to the battery that powers the hybrid drivetrain. We’re still waiting for a red boost button that says “Go Baby Go”!