The role of aerodynamics in sport

Aerodynamics stems from fluid dynamics, the study of fluid flow. It concerns itself with the motion of air, especially the way air interacts with solid objects.


cc   by  Michael Elleray 

Without our extensive knowledge into aerodynamics, the world would look extremely different to how it appears today. Flying would be non-existent, driving would be considerably harder, and even sport would suffer.

The far reach of aerodynamics is quite staggering. Its role in sports can be decisive at times. Below are some of the supports that rely heavily on aerodynamic exploitation.


A good grounding in aerodynamics is essential for any pitcher in the baseball. Understanding how the air influences the flight of your ball is imperative to striking people out. When a baseball is thrown, turbulence occurs around the stitches. This results in air sticking to the ball for a longer period, reducing the wake, which sees the drag reduce. In the right hands, these stitches can also change a ball’s direction. A curve ball would not be possible if it were not for aerodynamics.


Any racing-based sport is heavily reliant on utilising aerodynamics for their advantage. We can take Formula One as an example. The teams in the motorsport have invested heavily over the years in aerodynamic programmes. Reducing drag has allowed the cars to go faster in straights, whilst they have shaped the cars in such a way that they exert more downward pressure (downforce) onto the tires. This enables cars to take corners at a far greater speed. Each year the manufacturers stick their new models in the wind tunnels as they assess what they can chop and change to get the best out of their machine. Aerodynamic exploitation is not something that can just be achieved in the factory. Out on the track you often see cars follow the racing line of the car in front. By getting into the slipstream, the chasing car can use the leading car as a wind buffer, shielding the wind from their car and allowing them to both conserve fuel and gain speed before ultimately overtaking the car in front. This tactic can also be employed in cycling and horse racing. Many Clouds – the upset winner with Bet365 and others who might not have had a mention in a Grand National preview – was positioned behind a pack of horses, who acted as a windbreak, allowing the horse to save his energy for the latter stages.


Being able to bend it like Beckham requires aerodynamics. To be able to make a ball swing from right to left requires you to kick it in such a place. In this case, that place is the bottom half of the right side of the ball. It is vice versa for the other way. The follow through is crucial. You need to ensure that you follow through in the same direction of the player, not the ball, unless you are Cristiano Ronaldo. Understanding wind speed is vital if you are going to be able to pick out that top corner.

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