Wow! This was an intense experience. I had to turn it off in the middle and come back to it later because I just knew something was going to burst into flames and take out part of the crowd. In my mind, I just kept asking, why would anyone do this on purpose.
The reality is that a lot of people do this on purpose. It becomes clear what a lot can go wrong. As a driver, you have almost no control. In fact, you cannot even see the track. It comes down to the thrill of being able to do something that few other people can do. To bring home a trophy from such an event is to wear a badge of courage that says I not only survived, but WON.
The Science of the Sport of Wheelstands
What we see is raw. It should not be surprising that people into this sport would tinker the process to make the cars more controllable. Let’s review some of the problems that we notice:
- Vision is blocked by the car’s nose being in the air, and in some cases pointing straight to noon.
- Some vehicles, especially the Camaro’s body designs lift all four wheels off of the ground and the car skids on the very rear of the vehicle, hopefully with skid plates.
- Vehicles become damaged when the car slams back down to earth, especially the front drive train.
- The entire launch can end in disaster, and the car can flip, etc.
There were some very near disasters and that again is part of the thrill of these cars, both for the spectators and the drivers. The first car out of the gate not only sails to the right, it nearly hits the wall. What went wrong is that it rises so fast that it hits the back body of the car on the pavement. Then the left wheel is the only wheel left providing traction, and the car begins to swing left. The over correcting by the driver turning the wheels causes the car right rear tire to contact the ground and the car swings to the right.
That is what seems to happen; however, the vehicle may be equipped with steering devices that help to control it while the front wheels are off of the ground. But before we get into that, consider how a vehicle can be designed to launch its nose skyward while propelling down a paved track. Two things must occur:
- The engine must produce sufficient torque to pull the front end off of the ground.
- The car must have a precise balance with a heavier rear center of gravity. The balance of the car aids or hinders the ability for torque to raise the car and maintain it in a skyward position.
One cannot do much about correcting the center of gravity while racing. However, individually controlled rear brakes can help to steer cars and correct problems that are seen. How many of these cars do you think have individually controlled rear brakes? How many readers would want to pilot one of these cars?