I recently completed Race Car Aerodynamics: the Definitive Course, by Kyle Forster. This online course consists of 10 hours of videos, in which Kyle lectures you on aerodynamic fundamentals, and provides case studies of real-world examples. Kyle uses a whiteboard to explain theory, and switches to computation fluid dynamics (CFD) to show specific examples of touring cars and open wheelers.
Because single-seaters (open wheelers) are often quite different than touring cars, Kyle separates much of the content into specific sections for each. I found the single-seater content interesting, but it’s highly unlikely I can put any of it into practice.
The touring cars Kyle examined in CFD were a time-attack Porsche 944, a Mustang, and a new Supra. The 944 was especially interesting, as it had two Venturi tunnels and a huge diffuser. No Miatas, but that’s OK, he has some YouTube content already with Miatas, which I’ll get to in a different post.
I don’t have a lot of experience with video-based learning, and I was initially skeptical, but all in all, I was extremely happy with the course. About half way through the course, I thought to myself, there’s no way this course is only 10 hours of videos! So I opened up a spreadsheet and summed up all the lessons, and indeed, it’s 10 hours.
The course probably took me over 40 hours though, because I’m an obsessive note taker, there are tests (knowledge checks), and hands-on learning with tools to try out (Java Foil, OptimumLap, Race Studio 2), and spreadsheet calculators to mess with.
You can also ask Kyle questions from within in the course, and he answers them in the sidebar. This is a great resource, because you can see the questions other students ask, and some of it is very illuminating. For example, I wanted to know about Front/Rear aero balance, and how that’s different for rear-wheel drive and front-wheel drive cars. No, I’m not going to tell you the answer.
That’s another thing I learned in this course, which is to hold your cards close to your chest. Knowledge is free on Facebook, YouTube, etc, and you get exactly the value that you paid for it. I used to correct people online when they made silly aero mistakes or lead others down the same path. Now I just bite my tongue and/or message them privately.
The last time I took a math class was in 1985, and I still have nightmares about unfinished homework assignments. There isn’t much math in this course, but it’s on the cusp of what I’m comfortable with. You can skip over the math as long as you understand the principles behind it.
Another minor difficulty was that it’s hard to follow the CFD at first. Kyle often cycles quickly forward and backwards through the pressure plots, and it takes a while before you understand which way he’s going. The pressure plots themselves are an aerodynamic LSD trip, complete with all the vivid colors, confusion, and eventual revelations you’d expect from dropping acid. I get it now, but it took some getting used to.
Kyle is obviously passionate about his work, and sometimes that comes out in a cursor that moves a little too quickly. His computer arrow is small and white, and it can be difficult to pick out at times when he’s moving it on the screen to show a particular area of interest.
But even if there were some difficulties, it’s nothing I couldn’t handle, and by the end of the course I knew what to look for.
The cheat codes
If you simply want pragmatic advice, like how long and low your splitter should be, where to mount your wing, how to optimize airflow through your engine, etc, you can jump ahead to Key Development Areas. In this section Kyle follows airflow from the front of the car to the rear, providing you with all the aerodynamic solutions for your touring car or open-wheel single seater.
Honestly, I don’t want anyone I’m racing against to take this part of the course. This section has all the cheat codes for the game of aero, and if everyone knows this stuff, then the playing field is level. And I can’t stand that kind of parity, I want an advantage!
But since most of you cheap bastards won’t pony up a thousand dollars, I figure the secrets are pretty safe. The course goes on sale occasionally for 30% off, which is how this particular cheap bastard afforded it.
I’ve also done six hours of video consultations with Kyle, some of this as a fly on the wall, and some of this on my own car. The way it goes is you send Kyle details on your car, and he analyzes your full aero kit. He points out the good and bad, and what you can do better based on your ruleset.
Kyle charges $175 per hour for video consultation, which is a downright bargain considering he was a Formula 1 engineer. For the best in-depth analysis you’ll need to get your car laser scanned, and then he can do CFD. I don’t know where to do scanning, and I’m not sure I ever will bother with that because I’m not very serious about winning. But if you are, that’s the second step.
If you’re interested in getting a consultation, then taking the course is the first step, it will save you a lot of time in the long run. This way you can get all of the fundamentals out of the way and start optimizing a car that’s done 90% right.
This course was the best money I spent in 2022. I don’t think that will be the case for everyone, but I’m an armchair aero nerd, and it was exactly, precisely what I wanted. I came into this course knowing a thing or two about aero, and all of that background knowledge definitely helped me get more out of this course. But I think the average person with a keen desire to learn could jump right in without any prerequisites.
As I look back on what I learned in this course, and look ahead to the practical ways of putting it to use, I’m super excited about working on version 2.0 of my Miata’s aerodynamics package. Fucking hell, I’m positively giddy about it.