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Project Inversion: YouTuber Driver61’s plan to drive a race car upside down

YouTuber and former racing driver, Scott Mansell, is attempting to do the impossible – drive a racing car upside down.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg emerges from the tunnel at the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix
Is it possible to drive a car upside down in a tunnel? – United Autosports via Flickr

It has long been suggested that a Formula One car generates enough downforce to achieve this – Mansell is putting it to the test. 

Progress of ‘Project Inversion’ is being shared on his Driver61 YouTube channel, to over one million subscribers.

Cars have previously been driven upside down, though only briefly, using centripetal force – Mansell aims to be the first person to drive upside down ‘organically’, using downforce, or in this case, lift.

Though there is no specific set date yet for Project Inversion, it is expected to be a showcase, directly inspired by the spectacle of Red Bull Stratos.

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The feat itself will be live-streamed, with a documentary expected to be created as well.

Mansell has partnered with the former head of aerodynamics at Benetton, Ferrari, and Sauber Formula One teams, Willem Toet.

An Empire Wraith hill climb car is set to be adapted by Toet. Simply, a combustion engine would be too dangerous to be run upside down, so the car is set to be fitted with an electric motor instead.

Speaking to the Sports Gazette, Mansell said: “We spoke with a couple of [F1] teams, but one of the issues was they wanted it to be in a Formula One car.

“I would love it to be a Formula One car as well, but it is just not feasible – you just need too much space.”

This weight advantage means that the Wraith will only need to reach a speed of 80 miles per hour to safely complete this stunt.

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While theoretically possible, driving upside down is not without its risks. Seemingly minor factors will have to be monitored – such as air temperature, due to the risk of the tunnel expanding in heat.

Mansell said: “Whenever I step in a race car it is dangerous, but I don’t see it being any more dangerous than that.

Every precaution has been made to ensure that Project Inversion is as safe as possible, as any small mistake could result in a huge crash.

 “Willem Toet is very safety conscious. He doesn’t want to sign off on anything that is likely to have a monumental shunt.

“I feel completely confident in all of the calculations Willem has done.”

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Getting the project off the ground in 2020, Mansell said: “I was talking to a friend of mine in Canada.

“We spoke about the project and whether it was feasible and decided to have a look into it.

“We went out to a few of our contacts. We needed to raise a round of angel money to do the research and development to understand what the final cost was going to be. It’s rather expensive.”

Due to the unsuitability of existing tunnels, as explained in his videos, a purpose-built structure is required, hiking the cost of the stunt.

As well as the car, the open-faced tunnel will act as a billboard, helping to finance the project.

“We’ve been working on sponsorship in the background. The reason for putting the videos out now is to raise some awareness and to show to potential sponsors that it has massive interest. 

“There’s a partnership with the motor, with the car, the tyres, and the charging of the car.”

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Inspiring future engineers has long-been a primary objective of Mansell’s

He said: “It’s not just a stunt, it is building that next generation. Project Inversion is a lifelong dream.

“Willem is coming towards the end of his career, and he wants to inspire – there is no better way to do that than with a big, exciting engineering project.”

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Placing a call out for students to help in his YouTube videos, Mansell and his team have been inundated with interest.

“It’s been amazing how many students and people in motorsport have already reached out to us expressing an interest to help.

“We must have had 500 CVs sent to us.”

Mansell is currently three videos into a five-part series about the project on the Driver61 YouTube channel.

Project Inversion will see the Driver61 team remembered as engineering ambassadors, committed to achieving the impossible. 


  • Henry Ollis-Brown

    Henry is a sports journalist with a passion for rugby and motorsports. He is a keen supporter of Harlequins and England rugby. He can normally be found researching an obscure fact to put into an article.