You can imagine that a company such as Lamborghini would push the boundaries of technology and design.
For the latest model, the Huracan Performante, Lamborghini announced the inclusion of “ALA” into the design. This stands for Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva – or active aerodynamics and apparently is also the Italian word for “wing”. I saw a video of it from Tom Voelk (see below) and was fascinated by what the designers had achieved – in a nutshell it helps with downforce and/or lowers drag, both of which are needed for higher speeds and grip.
As with nearly every car on the road there is an onboard management system that controls the way the car operates under different road conditions and usage. Lamborghini’s is called the Piattaforma Inerziale (LPI) and the ALA system works in conjunction with it to ensure that the car is as stable as possible at all speeds and in all conditions.
ALA covers the whole car and is designed into the chassis and bodywork using channels and ducts to force the air to travel in specific ways to help the traction. Technology today can work in time periods unheard of even five years ago – the LPI can activate the ALA in less than 500 milliseconds (great marketing speak as that equals half a second!) and the system has two modes: “on” and …. “off”!
It is simple to activate ALA – simply get the throttle open wide and this will activate small electric motors to open flaps in the front spoiler, which in turn releases air pressure by pushing it through a channel under the car where the undertray is designed to direct the air and reduce drag. At the rear of the car there are special ducts next to the air intakes with flaps that are also activated to push the air through the middle of the wing structure and out through channels on the underside of the rear edge of the wing. This acts like a jet engine, forcing the air out and creating better air flow and again reduces drag.
At lower speeds, ALA is off and this closes the front flaps in the spoiler thus directing the air up and over the car and at the rear, the flaps in the ducts are closed pushing the air over the rear wing creating downforce and therefore grip.
The electronics can also open and close the ducts separately on each side, thus giving maximum drag or downforce for each corner. This allows the driver to have less steering input to get around the corner which in turn would put less stress on the car. Lamborghini describe this as “aero vectoring”. What is so great about this system is the speed at which it operates and this means that the car’s systems can adjust everything in the car based on all the inputs from the driver.
As you can imagine, in years gone by a car would be set up either for high downforce or low drag and racing machines would be set up for a circuit based on what was most important for a quick lap time. For road cars, an intermediate setup was often configured – and that is why some cars were known as “widow-makers” – you need to know how to handle a vehicle in conditions where you don’t have grip or where a car is unstable at higher speeds. The technology on the Huracan Performante helps a driver with high bravado and low skill get around corners whereas another car might not be so forgiving.
However, with a professional at the wheel, it can set lap records at the famed Nurburgring and shave 28 seconds off the lap time of a “normal” Huracan! Many of the high end sports cars have active aerodynamics, however in the famous words of Spinal Tap, Lamborghini have turned it up to 11!