A YouTuber plans to drive an F1-style car upside down

Formula 1 Cars are known for their tremendous downforce that defies their weight when driving at triple digit speeds. In theory, this would allow an F1 car to drive upside down at high speeds, but practical problems prevent most people from attempting such a feat. However, one YouTuber has been diligently working on the problem and believes he has found a way to do it.

Scott Mansell (no relation to F1 champ Nigel Mansell) is a former racing driver who runs a YouTube channel called Driver61. His Latest video, he laid out his plans to drive a Formula 1-style car upside down. Mansell isn’t talking about a simple loop stunt, he prefers to drive upside down in style lasting more than five seconds thanks to aerodynamic effects. Far from an idle thought exercise, Mansell has spent the last few years engaging a team of experts to figure out how to make it work in reality. As you can imagine, this is no mean feat, and pulling it off comes with a hefty price tag. Mansell says it has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on research and engineering so far.

Driving in reverse is simple in the beginning. Once it travels fast enough, a Formula 1 car creates a downforce greater than its own weight. Therefore, it can stick to the ceiling of a tunnel or other structure and drive upside down. However, actually doing this throws up all sorts of obstacles.

As a margin of safety, the goal is to drive the car upside down at twice its weight in downforce. A modern F1 car would need to reach 130 mph to achieve this, but for reasons of safety and ease of use, Mansell prefers to drive in reverse at as low a speed as possible.

Instead, Mansell looked towards Empire Wraith. It looks like an F1 car, but it’s not. It’s a hillclimb open-wheeler built for light weight and maximum downforce, developed by former F1 aerodynamicist Willem Tott, and weighs less than 700 pounds in running trim. Mansell approached Todd, who noted that, aerodynamically at least, driving in reverse should be a simple problem. Consulting the project, Todd has so far identified a number of improvements to the Wraith design to further increase downforce for easier reversing at low speeds.

With the car side sorted, at least nominally, Mansell had to find a tunnel suitable for the mission. The problem is that tunnels are not designed for this purpose. They usually have rough surfaces off the road and lots of lights and signs hanging above. Cars aren’t really designed for driving on walls and ceilings—especially considering the need for a smooth transition from under-body airflow to sustain downwards.

Instead, Mansell had a team of engineers design a tunnel-like track customized for driving in reverse. It is designed with a C-shaped channel for easy viewing of the car during the event. The curve of the tunnel is specially designed to be uniform from top to bottom, with a 24-foot diameter, allowing the car to continue to generate downforce as it transitions from driving on the floor to driving on the ceiling. The tunnel would have to be approximately 0.37 miles long to allow the car to reverse for five seconds.

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On paper, everything Mansell says makes perfect sense. Pulling it off in real life would require big bucks to fund a custom car and a massive tunnel structure. Mansell notes that the designs are build-ready and is looking for partners to help make that happen. Here’s hoping the aptly named Project Inversion pays off soon.

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