The Catesby Tunnel is open again for the first time since it was closed to trains in 1966. Now, however, it’s handling some of the world’s most sophisticated racing cars, rather than steam trains.
Multimatic said today that it successfully carried out its first full-size test in the tunnel, with driver Andy Priaulx running at a constant speed of 193 km/h (120 mph). However, the race was a validation test, so the race team sent a car they have a lot of experience with to learn about the tunnel, rather than the car itself.
The team’s Mazda DPi race car has been on race tracks and in full-size wind tunnels, and a model of it has been in scale wind tunnels many times. Not to mention the hours and hours of computer tests to which it has been subjected. Multimatic therefore has a good sense of its aerodynamic properties.
Also read: What do you do with an empty Victorian railway tunnel? Turn it into a wind tunnel, of course
However, the test showed that the tunnel returned results that correlated with the wealth of information the team had already gathered about the car, which is good news. This shows that the 2.7 km long tunnel is an effective alternative (or complement) to the conventional wind tunnel.
“Compared to conventional wind tunnels, this is better because it’s real,” said Larry Holt, director of motorsports for Multimatic. “In a wind tunnel with a moving ground plane, the car is stationary and the wind is blowing over it by a massive fan and flow conditioning setup, and a belt is arranged to move under the car at a coordinated speed. . It’s a very sophisticated setup, but the car is still stationary and that’s the not-quite-real part.”
At Catesby, cars can drive at high speed through the tunnel straight as an arrow. That means that despite being a controlled environment, it’s more like what a car will be subjected to in real life.
“Catesby provides the real world without the weather,” said Holt. “You have a moving car, a real road surface, a controlled environment and we can run 24 hours a day, whatever the season. They are 2.7 perfect kms of controlled atmosphere. That’s the kind of consistency you need when you’re chasing incremental gains.”
If driving through a relatively narrow tunnel at 120 mph makes you a little scared, you’re not alone. But according to Priaulx, everything was very comfortable and he believes that it is easy to reach higher speeds.
“At first it seemed a bit strange to get into a racing car and drive at full speed through a 2.7km tunnel, but the team assured me that the end was very clearly marked!” he said. “Catesby Tunnel is an amazing facility, and I am not at all surprised to learn that Multimatic chose to be an early adopter and primary customer for the facility.”