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6
Brakes

Disc brakes first appeared on race cars in the 1950s -- now they're standard equipment on most vehicles.

MICHAEL LATZ/AFP/Getty Images

Unless you've been in a cheesy action movie, the brakes on your car are likely drama-free. Race car brakes are built with the same drama-free goal, but when stopping a car going more than 200 miles an hour, the stakes are much higher. Racing engineers have designed brakes that provide sure stops under extreme circumstances and those designs have made their way onto road cars.

Disc brakes started appearing on race cars in the 1950s. Racing teams liked them because they were powerful and easier to maintain than the prior drum brake design. Disc brakes are also easier to keep cool. When brakes stop a car, they generate a lot of friction and heat. That heat actually reduces the stopping power of the brakes. Disc brakes can be vented, which allows the heat to dissipate. Now, all but a few cars have disc brakes on at least their front wheels -- most have disc brakes on all four corners.

Racing technology keeps bounding ahead. While most production cars have cast iron disc brakes, race cars use materials that are lighter and often more durable. Ceramic disc brakes have been used on race cars for some time, and are now showing up as options on some luxury sports cars. Many racing teams have also started using super light and super strong brakes made from carbon. That's a technology that won't show up on production cars for some time -- it's currently very expensive.

Before a race car (or your car) can stop, it has to get going. Keep reading to learn how racing technology helps your car breathe easier and go faster, too.

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