Since it was easier to guide the horses into left-turning bends, most races ran anti-clockwise.
"Indeed, the right side tire works best in oval-shaped arenas if the turning is always leftward," Sandor said.
Sandor explained that some of the Romans strengthened the right wheels only because all chariots leaned to the right and overloaded just the right wheels during the left turns.
"This makes total sense to everybody who understands the dynamics of a turning vehicle. It's a common sensation to people riding in a fast-turning vehicle; standing and lurching sideways in a turning bus is a good example," Sandor said.
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Although the single iron tire configuration did not always produce a faster machine, it likely prevented wheel failure and crashes and so it was statistically superior in racetracks.
"Without any iron on the wheels, the right wheel was failing often and predominantly, while both wheels having iron tires tended to be safe but were seldom a winning combination," Sandor said.
Overall, Sandor estimated that chariots with no iron tires had a 50 percent chance to win, while vehicles with two iron tires had only 30 percent probability of success. The Ben-Hur movie chariot would have had less than 5 percent chance of rolling to victory.
"A racing chariot with an iron tire on the right wheel only was the best compromise in terms of safety, durability and winning probability," Sandor said. "As the finest available representation of a Roman racing chariot, the Tiber model gives us a glimpse into the Romans' probabilistic thinking for winning races and bets."
According to André Veldmeijer, visiting research scholar at the American University in Cairo, the study reveals how much more there is to learn about the design and strategy behind ancient chariot racing. As he told Seeker, "Chariots, despite the numerous studies and increasing scholarly attention, have not yet revealed all their secrets, as this study clearly shows."