Sky-Diver Drag Race: What’s Quicker, Gravity or a Lamborghini Aventador?
Anyone familiar with rudimentary physics knows that acceleration due to gravity is 32.2 ft/s2 (9.8 m/s2). Just a handful of cars can match that in longitudinal acceleration, and even then only for a moment or two. But 32.2 ft/s2 is a lab number; in the real world, aerodynamic drag slows a falling body significantly. To see how the quickest cars on the road stack up against gravity, we went to Skydive Tecumseh, a bustling drop zone just a few miles from our Ann Arbor office. There, we met instructor Ian Cherteiny, taped a FlySight GPS receiver to his helmet, and let him fall from the sky.
There are two types of dives: “belly fly,” in which the jumper falls on his stomach with his hands outstretched above his head, legs spread, and knees bent; and “free fly,” in which he falls head down with his hands at his sides and his body straight and rigid. Belly flying is more controllable than free flying, but the latter is much faster; Cherteiny dove both ways. In free fly, even without the slipperier clothing he’d wear for a full-on top-speed dive, Cherteiny lopped a second from his belly-fly quarter-mile time, reached 200 mph a full 10 seconds quicker than a Bugatti Veyron, and hit a terminal velocity of 233 mph. The numbers in the accompanying graph are for belly flying, though, as it’s the more common discipline.
- Short Take Road Test: 2011 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
- Road Test: 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4
- Feature: 200-mph Club: Scorching the Mojave Mile in a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport
Photography by Getty Images and Time & Life Pictures
By Jared Gall