Friday, May 28, 2010

Danger: High Banking

The high banking found at Monza and other tracks catapulted errant cars like cannonballs. The banked turns tended to be bumpy, and they exerted a centrifugal pull the light cars were not designed to handle. Above Richard von Frankenberg leaves the track at AVUS.


  1. Crazy photo!
    Another issue besides the banking was that aerodynamics were still so primitive that some of these 1950s cars had terrible grip at these high speeds due to lift. It's safe to say that the 550 Spyder and RSK, though slippery in a straight line, probably had no downforce over the body whatsoever, and probably had some rear lift due to their sloping tails. It's probably not a coincidence that Porsche experimented with a huge mid wing over the cockpit of the 550. This may have been the first circuit racing car with an airfoil (for whatever reason, they never really adopted it), but it wasn't until the mid sixties that people started to understand that making the car slippery was one thing, and sticking it to the ground was another.

  2. Ok, I did some research to find a picture of the winged 550 Porsche and learned that the Porsche wing was actually devised, not by the factory, but by a privateer named Michael May (he had an engineering degree), who modified his 550 for the 1956 Nurburgring sports car event. The wing was moveable by lever, waaaay before Jim Hall's Chapparal. He was almost as fast as the factory 550's, so Porsche's team leader had the organizers ban May's wing device as "unsafe". You might be interested to know that May was eventually a grand prix driver in the 1961 season, but he retired from racing that year because he realized it was crazy! Here's an article on him:
    and here is a link to a photo of his winged 550 Spyder:

    One last thing that blows my mind: He was wise enough to put endplates on his airfoil! The boys in F1 didn't figure that one out until 1969!!