Funded PhD Opportunity Role of Asphalt in Race Track Grip

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


All race tracks around the world are surfaced with asphalt i.e. a mix of aggregate and bitumen. This project considers the role this asphalt surface. Every race track is built to have a textured surface which then changes over its life. Texture is present at a range of scales ranging from micro-scale roughness of the aggregate particles to a larger macro-scale roughness created by combining aggregates of different sizes to form the asphalt layer. The tyre rubber envelopes this textured track surface at these different texture scales. Despite much being written and talked about race track grip there is relatively little known about the role of asphalt and the race tyre / racing surface interface. Motor-sport has concentrated on better understanding the race car and tyres to gain advantage e.g. on areas such as aero-dynamics, suspension setups and tyre choice. Whilst there is considerable interest in tyre wear and degradation there is little appreciation of the race track surface which forms the other part of the tyre / asphalt interface. The many attempts to model race car / tyre performance do not adequately understand the role of the race track and its textured surface. Meetings with representatives at the highest levels of motorsport i.e. the governing body, F1 teams and race-track owners have confirmed this lack of understanding and the need to know more.

This project builds upon years of research into better understanding the performance of asphalt mixtures used to build roads. The requirements for road surface characteristics such as skid resistance, reduced noise generation and improved rolling resistance have been in place for many years in contrast to the race track. This project transfers this road based research background into the world of motorsport. The asphalt used to surface race tracks is essentially the same as roads on roads, only the trafficking is different. The same asphalt essentially follows the similar route in both applications.  Bitumen is worn off and the aggregate polishes. A racing line develops in response to how the car interacts with the race track surface. A race track will develop a long-term equilibrium condition with the tyre / surface interface effected over shorter terms by the effect of rain, temperature and tyre rubber deposits.

Project aim: To determine how asphalt influences the track surface / race tyre interface.

Project objectives:

*Determine the type of aggregate and asphalt used at race tracks.

*Measure race track factors related to the track / tyre interface.

*Develop a laboratory predictive method to assess asphalt / track equilibrium.

*Use asphalt based data to improve existing models used in motor-sport. T

The project will involve collaboration with asphalt providers and motorsport. It builds on past and current research projects involving characterisation of asphalt surfaces and its use in roads and race-tracks. It will involve race-teams / tyre manufacturers / race track owners. The project will impact motor-sport as being the first project that specifically considers the role of asphalt in race track grip.

This project will use the laboratory and onsite testing facilities available within the highways engineering research group.  There will be collaboration with motor-sport governing body, race teams and race track owners.  The project requires a candidate with a background in materials / geology / motor-sport engineering.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement



    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Thursday 26 July 2018
Interview Date
7 August 2018

Contact Supervisor

Dr David Woodward

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #237890 when applying for this PhD opportunity