Do Racing Cars Have Power Steering?

Do Racing Cars Have Power Steering?

Do racing cars have power steering? Is there a need for such a thing at high speeds? Is it really that hard to make turns along the curves?

Yes. Formula One (or F1) Racing cars have power steering.

But this is only limited to Formula One race cars and it is a modified power steering system that has yet to find its way into conventional cars.

Formula One Race Cars

Formula One Race Cars are designed to go fast. These cars are light, slim, sit low on the ground, and are highly aerodynamic. Coupled with an oversized engine and you have a vehicle that’s only designed for one purpose: racing.

Formula One Racing Car

F1 racing cars have power steering to assist the driver in negotiating tight turns around the bends at extremely high speeds. The forces experienced during these turns can reach up to 2 Gs.

Even with the power steering, these race car drivers still have to undergo muscle training to help them cope with the lateral forces to which they are subjected.

NASCAR Race Cars Have Power Steering Too

NASCAR racing cars have power steering too because these are supposed to emulate stock cars in production today.

NASCAR Racing Cars Racing

These NASCAR racing cars have front wheel drive; therefore, there is a real need for power steering to point the car in the right direction effectively at such high speeds. The power steering system in these cars also allow for minute corrections as the driver commandeers the vehicle.

Indy Cars Are More Physically Demanding

All other racing cars have power steering. Indy cars don’t.

Indy Car

Some would argue that Indy car racers are a more physical sport, thereby producing real athletes in the car racing scene. But then again, Indy Cars have a rear wheel drive, which negates the need for power steering up front.

Nevertheless, these cars are still high performance machines that require the services of a professional driver to navigate around the track safely.

Who Needs All That Power Steering?

Imagine a world without power steering. It would be filled with bad days, sweaty suits, and angry drivers.

Power steering works in this manner: your muscles generate the forces needed to turn the steering wheel. This is then amplified by the hydraulic pressure or gears inside the steering system. A small adjustment on your part translates to the tires turning with ease towards the direction you point it to.

Power steering makes it easy to make small adjustments as you maneuver into a parking spot. On the road, it helps you turn tighter around corners. On the straightaway, you can keep your car pointed in the direction you want without a struggle.

The combination of front wheel drive, bigger cars, and wider tires would make it an absolute horror to even think of driving your car out of your garage into the driveway. Every little turn would be a struggle between man and machine. At low speeds, you might as well abandon your car and walk.

Although power steering is common, not all cars have them. Lighter vehicles don’t need power steering at all. Rear wheel drives have a little assist, but not as complex as those found in front wheel drives.

Power Steering Throughout History

Power steering has been around longer than most people believe it to be. The first one appeared as early as 1876. However, it took almost 30 years to develop a more sophisticated one, which was installed in a 5-ton truck. That one had a separate electric motor to assist in turning the front wheels.

The mechanical power steering mechanism was patented in 1900 by Robert E. Twyford. You can find that in the U.S. Patent 646,477.

It took 50 years since the first power steering system appeared for a more practical variant to appear. It was initially installed in Pierce-Arrow trucks by Engineer Francis W. Davis. He moved on to General Motors (GM) to refine his hydraulic-assisted power steering system.

It was deemed too expensive at that time. Davis then moved on to auto parts manufacturer Bendix whose creations were sold off to the military. The huge influx of money helped make the power steering system more affordable for automakers to add onto their vehicles.

Finally, in 1951 Chrysler, it was made possible for normal consumers through the Imperial to enjoy the convenience of having a power steering system in their cars. The system was named “Hydraguide” and was based on Davis’ innovations.

Ironically, General Motors introduced the 1952 Cadillac with the power steering system that they initially shunned due to its expensive price at the time.

In 1958, Charles F. Hammond filed several patents related to the power steering system. Further improvements have continued to emerge over the years, thanks to the contributions of the auto racing industry and innovations from various car manufacturers.

Types Of Power Steering Systems

There are many types of Hydraulic Power Steering Systems used today. All of them have unique advantages with little to no disadvantages. The reason why there is a vast number of power steering systems in the market today is because of how car manufacturers design their vehicles.

power steering system

Hydraulic Power Steering System

Hydraulic power steering systems are the most common form types of systems found in modern cars. What this basically involves is a hydraulic system multiplying the force applied to the steering wheel to turn the front tires.

Hydraulic pressure comes from the gerotor or rotary vane pump. This is driven by the car’s engine. A double action hydraulic cylinder then applies the required force to the steering gear. The valves let in the right amount of fluid based on the amount of torque presented by the driver.

The torque sensors sense all of these things happening and apply the appropriate amount of force needed to turn the tires in a fluid manner.

To ensure that everything is working properly, have your power steering checked every six months. Refill the power steering fluid to the level indicated by the manufacturer.

DIRAVI Variable-Assist Power Steering

DIRAVI (or Direction a rappel asservi) is the name given to the type of power steering system invented by Citroen. This is also known as VariPower in Europe and SpeedFeel in the U.S.

You can find this type of power steering system in old cars. It adjusts the sensitivity of the power steering system based on the speed of the car. At low speed, the steering system becomes very responsive. At high speeds, it takes on a more rigid feel to keep the vehicle straight.

There is a separate hydraulic system that forces the steering wheel back to the correct position and centers it appropriately.

Electro-Hydraulic Power Steering Systems

Electro-Hydraulic Power Steering Systems (or EHPS) are sometimes called hybrid power steering systems.

This system uses the same hydraulic assist technology as seen on conventional cars, but the hydraulic pressure is delivered by a pump driven by the electric motor instead of the drive belt.

This was made popular by the Toyota MR2 in 1990 although it was first used by Ford in 1965 and Subaru in 1988 respectively.

This was perfected by Volkswagen in 1994 through the Mark 3 Golf Ecomatic, which allowed for the system to continue working even without the engine running.

Electric Power Assisted Steering Systems

Electric Power Assisted Steering System (or EPS/EPAS) also goes by the name Motor-driven Power Steering System (MDPS). This is a throwback to one of the first versions of the power steering system but updated for modern use.

What this basically does is detect the position and torque of the steering column. The computer module then applies the additional pressure needed to turn the tires easily.

Minute adjustments can be tailor-fit to the driver’s strength and driving habits.

You’ll find this type of power steering system in F1 race cars.

Electrically Variable Gear Ratio Power Steering Systems

This power steering was first introduced through the Honda S2000.

Toyota followed suit in 2002 and installed it in their Lexus LX 470 and Landcruiser Cygnus. Lexus is a brand under the Toyota corporate umbrella.

In 2003, BMW included it in their 5 series variants.

The Electrically Variable Gear Ratio Power Steering Systems are known through other names because car manufacturers want to keep their individuality from their competitors. It is also known as the VGS or VGRS (Variable Gear Ratio Steering) and Active Steering System.

These power steering systems arose from car manufacturers discovering a need for better steering and handling. Most of these systems have been installed in conventional cars without having to be subjected to a race platform.

The more complicated types of power steering systems arose from positive results observed on the race track.

The most important thing is that these power steering systems make life easier for daily drivers all over the world.

In Conclusion:

Racing cars have power steering for practical reasons. The F1 has a more complicated power steering system while Indy cars have none. NASCAR enjoys the best of both worlds by using the technology present in conventional cars on their racing machines.

The importance of these innovations in racing cars is how they are eventually applied to conventional cars. This is the reason why we have lots of power steering system variants over the course of history.

One thing’s for sure, drivers all over the world are thankful for having power steering systems in their cars today.


Related Questions:

Is It Safe To Say Indy Car Drivers Are Stronger Than Formula One Racers?

Indy car drivers are built for more upper strength. But that’s not to say F1 racers are lacking in the strength department. Car racers are athletes who train to develop strength, stamina, and endurance. You need to be physically and mentally fit to drive these performance machines on the race track.

Can You Use Motorcycle Helmets For Car Racing?

Racing Car Helmet

No. Car racing helmets are designed differently from motorcycle helmets. We’ve covered this topic in another post. You can find it here. To sum it all up, car helmets protect the driver from fire while motorcycle helmets deflect massive impact. Both keep the drivers safe.

Which Is Faster? F1 Or Indy?

When it comes to speed, F1 wins. But, the speed difference between the cars in F1 and Indy isn’t that far. F1 race cars top out at 230 mph, Indy, at 210 mph. A 20 mph difference is not that much for an experienced driver. It’s possible for a good Indy driver to beat an inexperienced F1 racer.

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