Andy Priaulx tries out a new type of test tunnel


Multimatic Motorsports has completed an initial aerodynamic evaluation test at Catesby Tunnel, a newly opened aerodynamic testing facility in the UK that was originally a Victorian railway tunnel.

In order to perform a full correlation check, the Multimatic team ran a Mazda DPi race car through the perfectly straight 2.7km-long tunnel (8.2m wide and 7.8m high) at speeds of up to 120mph, and compared the results to a set of data previously gathered from 40% scale and full-size wind tunnel testing, as well as CFD development and five years of competition. Initial results indicate a high level of correlation to that existing performance data.

Catesby Tunnel turns the traditional practice of using a wind tunnel on its head, as Multimatic Motorsports boss, Larry Holt explains:“Compared to conventional wind tunnels, this is better because it’s real. In a moving ground plane wind tunnel, the car is stationary and the wind is blown over it by a massive fan and flow conditioning set-up, and a belt is arranged to move under the car at a coordinated speed.  It’s a very sophisticated configuration but the car is still stationary and that constitutes the not totally real piece.

“What Catesby facilitates is the measurement of the aerodynamic performance of a vehicle actually moving through the real world.”

The tunnel is the first facility of its kind in the UK and one of only two in the world. Holt added, “The problem with a car moving through the real world is that it is subjected to influences like gusting wind, rain and other changing environmental conditions that effect air density; all of the variables that come with testing in the real world. Catesby provides the real world without the weather. You have a moving car, a real road surface, a controlled environment and we can run 24 hours a day, whatever the season. It is a perfect 2.7kms of controlled atmosphere. That’s the kind of consistency you need when you are chasing incremental gains.”


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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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