Cllr Sam S Collins

Cllr Sam S Collins

29-10-2022

19:13

So - @redbullracing's wind tunnel really is a relic of the Cold War and the oldest in use in Formula 1. As promised in Feb, and in the wake of the comments made by Christian Horner yesterday I thought I would do a short thread on its history... #F1

The tunnel was first built as part of the Royal Aeronautical Establishment facility at Thurleigh Airfield near Bedford, England. Construction on the Twinwoods Farm site started in 1947, and its aim was to advance British military aviation technology.

When completed the site featured five wind tunnels able to test aircraft from speeds between 80mph and Mach 5. It was located near RAF Thurleigh (now @MSV_BA)

The five wind tunnels consisted of a 3x3 supersonic tunnel used for testing models of high speed aircraft at speeds between 800mph and Mach 2. Planes like this Saunders Roe SR53 were tested there in the 1950’s

The second tunnel was a much larger 8x8 Supersonic tunnel aimed at operating at Mach 1.3 to 2.5. It was dismantled in 2002.

The third tunnel was even faster aimed at testing aircraft between Mach 2.5 and Mach 5, hypersonic projects were tested there as well as the rather wild looking “Waverider” passenger plane concept.

The fourth wind tunnel was the slightly odd vertical spinning tunnel. Engineers would lob in a model plane and see how the real thing might go into a flat spin (like in Top Gun!) and recover. This tunnel still exists and until recently you could pay a company to jump into it.

The final wind tunnel and the one this thread is really about is the closed loop 13ft x 9ft low speed tunnel. This was used extensively to test the take off and landing characteristics of aircraft on its moving belt. It had a speed range of up to 200mph.

Driving the air in the tunnel was a 9.4m diameter six bladed fan driven by a 1500hp [1125Kw] electric motor. Planes like the Panavia Tornado and Concorde were both partially developed there. Taking advantage of the rolling road.

With the end of the Cold War the RAE facility in Bedford was found to be surplus to requirement and was partially demolished and partially sold off.

Once Jaguar/Red Bull took over the site they re-purposed it for motor racing use, the rolling road once used for assessing landing aircraft was perfect for F1 use. Here Christian Horner shows a camera around

Its worth noting the the wind tunnel for some time (and possibly still) retains the original wooden fan blades! Testing is done at 60% scale. The first car scheduled to be developed in the Bedford tunnel was the 2006 Jaguar R7…

…of course there was no such car as the R7, Jaguar was sold to Red Bull, so I think the first car to be developed at Bedford was the Red Bull RB2 - designed by Rob Taylor and others.

The Red Bull RB1, was designed using the teams older wind tunnel, a 50% scale facility in Bicester, England, which was later passed over the Toro Rosso, and Alpha Tauri still has a notable technical facility there.

Today Alpha Tauri and Red Bull both use the facility for aerodynamic development. There is loads more about the history of the RAE Bedford/Twinwoods Farm site here:

Its been pointed out by a couple of people that it was Arrows who first bought the Bedford Tunnel from the military, but the upgrade/conversion work was done by Ridge working on behalf of Jaguar!



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