APRIL 24, 2002
Gustave Eiffel and Formula 1
GUSTAVE EIFFEL's connection with Formula 1 is not well-known. The famous French engineer, who died in 1923 - more than 20 years before F1 was even established, is nonetheless a significant figure in the history of aerodynamics as he designed what has become known as "The Eiffel Model" for windtunnel construction. There were others who built earlier windtunnels but Eiffel's open-jet design has proved to be one of the most enduring (along with Ludwig Prandtl's closed-circuit windtunnel concept).
The original Eiffel windtunnel, used by most of the aviation pioneers, was located at the foot of Eiffel's famous tower in Paris and operated between 1909 and 1911. The city authorities then insisted that this be closed down and so Eiffel built a second facility across the river on the Rue Boileau, in the Auteuil district.
This tunnel was used to develop fighter planes during World War I and continued to be used for aeronautical development until more advanced facilities were built in the 1930s. From then on the Eiffel facility was used for all manner of different tasks including trains, buildings and most significantly automobiles. It was one of the tunnels used in the early days of automobile racing aerodynamics, notably with the Porsche 917 sportscar. It was also by a number of Formula 1 teams including Matra, Ligier and even Jordan-Peugeot. It was used extensively by Citroen Sport and Peugeot Sport and by BMW.
Declared a national historic monument in 1984, the Eiffel windtunnel is still in use today but in recent days it has been handed over by its owner Groupement des Industries Fran?aises A?ronautiques et Spatiales, the French aerospace industry association, to a new owner and in future will be run by an organization which conducts research into the stability of buildings, offshore oil rigs and radio towers and also in the study of urban microclimates.
After 90 years of operation one can conclude that Eiffel's windtunnel was a towering achievement...
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