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Le Mans 2014

All news content copyright Michael J. Fuller, unless otherwise noted

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Toyota TS040, Le Mans 20146.14-15.14

>>The (now) open secret.  So if you've just arrived here understand a couple of things.  For starters, to best grasp the discovery process you should read from bottom to top (go down to the 6.12 entry, read it, and then come up here to the 6.14-15 entry).  That way you'll tick through the brain storming in the correct order.  It'll make more sense I think.  Secondly, this is still an active process.  I think we're 80% there as to how the mechanism works (note, there is no doubt at all about what they are doing, it's the how I'm working on), but there are a few details to be sussed out.  It'll require more data, video, photos, etc.

So if you haven't figured out which LMP1 team is using a rotating rear wing assembly mechanism to reduce aerodynamic drag, it's Toyota (see 6.12.14 entry below for more details).  Apparently Toyota are admitting to their device.  Go ask them about it.  

While I still haven't found an image showing the device in action on the track to my satisfaction, here's a nice tell tale of the amount of wing movement out at the endplate. Yes, the leading edge rises that much when the drag reduction device passivly engages.

Why this system is on the car begs the question.  The FIA are clearly aware and we've witnessed Porsche correcting their car to legal status either under direct pressure or concerns of post-race ambushing.   This is a much bigger deal than the flexing engine cover given the larger performance gain.  And it's a more flagrant skirting of the regulations.  As I understand it:  the FIA are aware of the system, the car has passed scutineering, and the competitors are screaming bloody murder.
Toyota TS040, Le Mans 2014I can't resolve the tell tale scuff marks on the inside face of the endplate in the image above with the bolts on the outside of the endplate and not convinced my technical description I put forth in the 6.12.14 entry below is 100% accurate.  If the wing is pivoting, then the bolts are counter intuitive to this as it would be pinned and unable to move, right?  While this is an active brainstorm, could it be that the bolt that would secure the mainplane (the larger bolt in the front portion of the endplate, 1) is false and doesn't affix to the mainplane at all?  And that the pivot point is actually the bolt that runs through the flap (2)?  If that's the case, I have suspicion that there's much more to the mechanism that moves the wing and that the endplate might have a function.  With the flap bolt (2) as the pivot point, downward movement of the endplate would leverage the wing assembly into a nose high attitude.  That ultimately means the entire drag reduction system is much more complex and has elements that attempt to conceal its purpose.
A quick video mock up using what I had at the house that shows the direction of thinking.  It's not perfect, but demonstrates the principles involved.  It's pretty clear the endplate is one of the primary functioning elements* and it's downward movement helps leverage the wing assembly into its nose high attitude via the pivot point on the swan neck wing mount and the pivot point on the endplate where the secondary flap mounts.

*A revised thought: yes, the endplates move downward, but the contributor isn't the endplates themselves but the cheese wedge/diffuser/engine cover is compliant to allow the wing loading to drive them downwards.  Flexible bodywork, and flexible in a direction that I'm sure they're never tested in.
Toyota TS040 cheater wing, Le Mans 2014 Low speed or as load is coming off the wing.

Toyota TS040 cheater wing, Le Mans 2014
Screen caps courtesy John Cetti and the 10-10ths Sportscar & GT Forum
High speed with the wing assembly rotated to a nose up attitude; the Michelin decals are no longer visible.
The video from which the above screen caps originate (Eurosport feed).  It shows the Toyota's wing as the car accelerates and wing loadings increase, springing the drag reduction system into action.  This is as the wing transitions from standard pre-load position to its low drag, nose high position.  Note the slight "bobble" as it rotates and then is in full low drag position; the transition from standard to low drag position isn't smooth and instantaneous.  It's nearly instantaneous (the video is only 3 seconds long after all), but there's a slight hesitation as the wing loading builds.
Toyota TS040 cheater wing animation Nice little animation that demonstrates the Toyota's drag reduction system. As the wing loading increases, and because of the pivot points on the swan neck and wing endplate, the wing pivots rearward giving it a nose up attitude. And because the cheese wedge, diffuser, and engine cover are flexible/compliant, it allows the endplate to sag, accommodating the wing rotation.
Animations courtesy Chris Savage, another one of the boffins on 10-10ths.
Video showing the brief accidental activation of Toyota's drag reduction system through chassis oscillations encountered at low speed, start at :13.  Continue watching through :32 to see the Audi R18 negotiate the same section from the same angle.  Note the wing movement on the Toyota is fore to aft, not up and down.  The wing is isolated and moves in an entirely different plane than one would expect, this is intentional:

Toyota TS040 cheater wing
Gif isolating what's interesting from the above video, again note the fore and aft incidental movement.  This isn't an up and down or side to side movement as you might expect with a rigidly spring wing assembly.  What we see is the wing and secondary flap rocking back and forth as the car negotiates curbing at low speed.

Courtesy Chris Savage.
Nissan ZEOD RC, Le Mans 2014>>The most interesting thing about the Nissan ZEOD RC.  A 1.5 liter, turbo, 3-cylinder is very relevant to the road...

Porsche 919 Hybrid, Le Mans 20146.13.14

Sam went on a walk through the garages and I have a ton of shots to go through.  

great shot of Porsche's engine cover trailing edge fix.  The added flange (1) will no longer allow the engine cover to deflect.
Audi R18, Le Mans 2014Close up of the Audi R18's right front upright/brake cooling drum assembly.  Once again this allows prime front turning vane (1) viewing.  And as on the Porsche, Audi has given their turning vane a secondary (yet rather cynical, given the minuscule inlet area) brake cooling function (2).  The primary brake intake (3) is reduced in size compared to the sprint car's.

And compareing it to Porsche's, it's remarkable how similar the layout is regarding the large turning vane.
Audi R18, Le Mans Test 2014By revising the cooling exit, and funneling a portion of that flow into the openings behind the rear wheels, Audi has been able to reduce the height of the engine bay exit along the trailing edge of the car such that the diffuser exit and the engine cover trailing edge share the same common point.  They also are using a larger than you would expect trailing edge gurney.  But with the proximity of the diffuser so close, the interaction must be profitable.  Add to that the engine exhaust blowing on the portions of the trailing edge that are the lowest, all in all you can bet the R18 is generating much more underfloor downforce to the point they can get away with a single element rear wing.  And ultimately the intention is to reduce overall drag.
Audi R18, Le Mans 2014Audi has utilized the open area behind the rear wheels to redirect the air exiting the engine bay (1).  The air exits the engine bay and into the wheel well through a simple gap (2) though the engine bay airflow is segregated from the air moving out of the wheel well by a curved turning vane (3).  The wheel well trailing edge is flared (4) to add exit area with an additional small segment (5) added to augment.  Looking into the wheel well we can see the brake cooling drum (6).  Though also note what appears to be a strake hanging off the brake drum (7).  
Ligier JS P2, Le Mans 2014Looking rearwards into the rear wheel well on the Ligier JS P2 LMP2 and note the inboard louvers (1).  These are grabbing air from the wheel well and venting it in towards the engine bay trailing edge exit.
Lotus T129 LMP1, Le Mans display 2014The on again, off again Lotus T129 LMP1-L was displayed for the first time.  

LMP1 Rotating Wing concept, Le Mans 20146.12.14

A few days ahead of the Le Mans Test the FIA issued a Technical Bulletin concerning flexible bodywork (specifically flexing of the skid) and a reiteration of the rear wing load testing.  Initially it appeared as normal FIA house keeping.  But there might have been something else going on behind the scenes.  

Race Car Engineering was first to bring attention to the Porsche 919's flexible engine cover.  Porsche had designed an engine cover that allowed the trailing edge to deflect at speed, reducing drag.    It's my understanding that since the Test Porsche has "fixed" the issue and the engine cover no longer deflects.

But the FIA's technical bulletin might have been issued in response to another competitor and a controversial, if not downright completely illegal, rear wing.

Confidential sources indicate an LMP1 competitor has designed a rear wing assembly that rotates at speed, reducing angle of attack, and therefore drag.  It is described as such:

The rear wing mainplane is attached to the central swan neck rear wing mount through a single mounting point.  The secondary flap attaches to the mainplane via conventional slot gap separator brackets.  Outboard, the mainplane has a single attachment point at the endplate and the secondary flap also has a single attachment point for angle changes, as one would expect.

However, all is but conventional.  Under load the central portion of the rear wing rotates about that single rotation/attachment point (1) and deflects while the outboard sections remain rigid; a clever laminate schedule facilitates the wing rotation with the center section being stiff (up to 50% chord width, in order to insure passing of the deflection test--more about that in a second) with the outer sections being "soft."  The wing rotates freely until it hits a physical stop (2).  Moving the rotation point (1) through a variety of wing mounts allows for varying degrees of wing rotation (track dependent?).

The big question is how does it pass the deflection test?  This is actually rather straight forward.  In this case, the load test is carried out with the endplates disconnected from the bodywork and thus the wing assembly is allowed to rotate to its stop (2) before the load test apparatus is attached.  So only normal deflection will ever be seen.  One has to wonder what the scrutineers make of all that as clearly the way the wing assembly is tested isn't the way the car runs on the track...  Turns out the regulations actually mandate that the wing assembly is tested with the endplates detached (Art 3.6.2 c/).  The point being that the FIA doesn't want the car designers to rely at all on the endplates handling the rear wing loads in case of an accident.  So sound thinking in that regards.  However, the car would still be presented at scrutineering with a wing that was clearly out of its operating angle of attack given the extreme nose up.

So in essence, the wing is pre-loaded into its legal position and then is allowed to rotate to a different position when moving on the track.

Of course the relevant regulation is Article 3.4.  Here's  a reminder of what it says:

Movable bodywork parts/elements are forbidden when the car is in motion. Any system operated automatically and/or controlled by the driver to modify any airflow when the car is in motion is forbidden.

And analyzing the device as described here; clearly we have moving bodywork with the intent to reduce drag (modify any airflow) all designed to work while the car is in motion.  This seems to completely trump any ability to pass the deflection test.  And the reason we have regulations as such is to insure competitors aren't presenting a full and legal car in scrutineering and then allowing the car to intentionally become illegal while on the race track.  And frankly, any such device shows malicious intent; an intent to cheat.  This isn't a clever work around, it's my opinion that it is cheating pure and simple.

My drawing shows only 8 degrees of deflection though much more could be occuring on track.  The point is, it will be visually obvious with the trailing edge of the flap dropping below the leading edge of the mainplane, a very nose up angle to the entire mainplane assembly.  So have a look and tell me what car you think is doing this.  If you have a big lens and know how to use it, and are able to access the higher speed portions of the track please (this deflection will only occur at high speed), shoot away!

Porsche 919 Hybrid, Le Mans 20146.11.14

So I finally have proof of the depth of the new turning vanes on the Porsche (and similar are on the Audi, Toyota, and Rebellion). With the nose removed and the turning vanes visible, it's evident that yes they extend below the reference plane.  Even accounting for camera parallax, which would be minimal given the leading edge of the turning vane and the exposed edge of the skid (1) are nearly on the same plane, it is very obvious the turning vane's height isn't regulated to the reference plane.
2016 Zytek LMP2>>Zytek revealed a concept rendering of their proposed 2016 LMP2 coupe today.  The hope is to have the car testing on track by 2015 with it race debuting in 2016.  Interestingly, Zytek indicate the tub will be LMP1 compliant.

The design has a rather cab-forward wind screen, similar to the HPD ARX-04b concept.  The front fenders continue the vertical leading edge trend though are slightly undercut with a large fillet to connect the fender surfaces to the horizontal splitter surfaces.  The bodywork in between the fender and the tub has a delayed leading edge, starting in line with the suspension.  At the trailing edge of the cockpit is a handle-bar legality structure allowing for reduced trailing edge height while maintaining the regulatory maximum heights.

2016 LMP2 regulations haven't been released so it will be interesting to see how the car's and concepts evolve. However it is expected that current 2014 LMP1 monocoque regulations will be adopted.

Ferrari 333SP, Daytona Race, 19976.9.14

There's always that race-week rumored manufacturer announcement.  This year it's none other than Ferrari to LMP1.  I'll be the first to say Ferrari would be welcomed by all and they have such a huge Le Mans legacy.  Let's recall that Ferrari is 3rd on the Constructors list for most wins (9 overall, behind Audi [12] and Porsche [16]), which is pretty impressive when you consider their last win was in 1965.  People have connected the dots with current Ferrari F1 driver  Fernando Alonso being an honorary starter and turning laps on race day in a Ferrari 512 to Luca di Montezemolo's latest blog waxing on about Ferrari's historic success at the 24 Hour enduro.

Frankly I think Ferrari's return would make tons of sense, to a degree.  Ferrari of course does make road cars.  However, let's remind everyone that they're the type of road cars only say the top 1% can afford.  Thus the hybrid and fuel efficiency technology that might-could rub off would be...well, who cares, right?  I suspect the average Ferrari driver indeed doesn't care.  And I'll be the first to remind everyone what I feel about the tenuous connection of what goes into a race car vs. how that relates to what goes into a road car.  But perhaps there's a connection to Ferrari's parent company FIAT?  And there's no question about the cars FIAT makes and their relevance to the world...

But again let's remember, pure marketing is the primary reason any manufacturer goes racing.  Whatever nuanced BS they want to say ("race developed super jumbo flux capacitors that increase MPG 400%") is certainly their business.  Has F1 suddenly become less potent from a marketing platform standpoint?  I tend to think that it hasn't,  certainly not overnight.  And whatever downturn F1 is currently undergoing, you'd think Ferrari would be pretty pragmatic about making such a lofty decision on such short term metrics.  But I'll argue, in my mind F1 vs. Le Mans has always favored Le Mans in regards to relevance; F1 cars look nothing like road cars, the costs are huge to participate, and the technology is so esoteric (though less so in recent years).  However, you still have manufacturers lining up year after year in F1.  Why?  Because F1 has reach that ACO/Le Mans/FIA WEC does not.  And reach will always trump relevance in regards to maximizing marketing dollar expenditures.

Thus with it appearing that indeed, the stars really are aligned this time and Ferrari will be coming back to Le Mans after an exceedingly long absence...I just can't convince myself that it's true.  

ęCopyright 2014, Michael J. Fuller