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Ashford racing driver Bill Richards has created a makeshift windtunnel to test a new rear wing on his Mini Clubman

By Dan Wright

What can you do with a flour sieve, long stick, two smoke bombs and powerful generator fan?

Build your own makeshift windtunnel, of course, and that’s just what Ashford-based racing driver Bill Richards has done.

The 64-year-old is a renowned engineer and his latest creation is designed to test the effectiveness of his new rear wing, which he has fitted in a bid to improve the speed of his 1979 Mini Clubman.

The spectacular effects of the test. Picture - Joe Wright

Over the quiet winter months with no races to enter, Richards was left pondering how to improve the performance of his bright blue Mini.

And when he thought of fitting an aluminium rear wing to the bootlid, he had no idea how to test it.

The aluminium rear wing. Picture - Joe Wright

That was when the windtunnel brainwave came about and after a quick trip to the local supermarket to buy the cheap parts, his testing system was ready to go.

He uses the stick to hold the sieve, in which sit the smoke bombs, and uses the fan to blow air over the car, watching where the smoke bombs flow over the wing.

Richards holding the flour sieve as he directs the smoke bomb over the rear wing. Picture - Joe Wright

“It’s all homemade,” he said. “I read tonnes of stuff and lost myself with some big words.
“But it’s all adjustable and we can move it to see where the air goes.”

The aim of the wing is to reduce drag on the Mini when Richards speeds down long straights in races.

The original plan by Richards. Picture - Joe Wright

With a spoiler attached, the air vortex flows away from the car and allows it to cut through the air better.

“BMC (the firm who built Minis originally) put out information on the specification of Minis,” he added.

Inside the Bill Richards Racing workshop. Picture - Joe Wright

“It said that a Mini van, with the same engine as a normal one, would have 4mph more.

“I tried to think why and it’s about the aerodynamics - the van has a straight back-end which lowers drag, compared to the car.”

Richards is trying to get the vortex of air away from the car. Picture - Joe Wright

With this thinking in mind, Richards has regularly tested his wing at his unit on the Ellingham industrial estate.

“A lot of people think it’s crazy but I’m the only one to have a homemade wind tunnel,” he finished.

The 'windtunnel' in action. Picture - Joe Wright

Richards will see if all the testing has paid off when he uses his rear wing in anger at Brands Hatch this weekend.

Bill and his team will be offering passenger rides in aid of the RNLI at Lydden Hill’s annual BHP Performance Show on Bank Holiday Monday.

The immaculate Mini Clubman. Picture - Joe Wright

Admission is £15 for adults with under 12s going free.

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