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August 2006
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8.30.06

>>For the past 12 months the Epsilon Euskadi design team, led by former Penske designer John Travis, has concentrated on the development of their new LMP concept.  The program is reaching the wind tunnel development stage and a model has been constructed by C&B Consultants of Poole, UK.  The preceding 6 months have been spent analyzing concepts via Fluent CFD and while the model was due to begin wind tunnel testing in October, the program has been slightly delayed as the model was initially created as a coupe design.  But this slight change in direction has come about in order to incorporate an additional design feature.  John Travis explains, “We want to give the option to the customer to buy the less expensive LMP1/2 open car and then offer a very cost effective way of converting it to an LMP1 closed car.”  The idea also being that now the car can be converted as the customer desires or as future regulations may demand.  The proposed ACO 2010 regulation changes are requiring manufacturers to make decisions now in order to be prepared for the possible changes, “I think any manufacturer looking to come in has to take the same approach as Epsilon with a very flexible concept unless they are very well funded, for example Audi or Peugeot, and can commit to one design.”

Travis now wants to begin the development of the open top car first and subsequently that has delayed the aero program.  Suffice to say the design team hasn’t been sitting around, extensive Fluent CFD studies have been conducted on the front diffuser, diffuser side exits, cooling, and rear wing architecture.  Wind tunnel testing will be carried out at Fond Tech’s tunnel in Italy. 

The EE-LMP1-07 has been designed to initially take the uprated Judd GV5.5 S2 but naturally other installations will be considered as the need arises.  The gearbox is a new semi-automatic Pankl unit that has been designed specifically for the Epsilon LMP by Pankl engineer Alan Tagg (formerly with BAR).  The gearbox has been designed with low center of gravity in mind, John Travis again, “The gears are laid out transverse and the layshaft, mainshaft, run parallel to one another, the gear assembly and all the oil parts are contained in an aluminium alloy case, flanges on the casting pickup the carbon bellhousing and rear structure.  So you have a low slung gear mass with a carbon structure front, top and rear, the dampers are mounted in the bellhousing from transverse rockers.”  The use of a carbon bellhousing certainly should be called out here.  While not a first, it certainly is unique in this contemporary application.  It is intended that the conversion from open top to closed top will primarily entail a replacement monocoque as well as swapping out a few integrating body panels.

The project’s goals are naturally aimed at a Le Mans win, but the subtext is to also create and establish the first Spanish race car manufacturer as well as to foster that goal into the future by working in conjunction with students through a Masters Course.  Initially Epsilon will not manufacture the primary composites (monocoque, bodywork) themselves.  That work will be completed by subcontractors but with the final car assembled at Epsilon’s facility.  The target date for the car’s first track test is February 2007 with its race debut a month later at Sebring.
8.29.06

>>Alastair Macqueen follows up with us on the JCB Dieselmax effort.  Amazingly Alastair indicates that the record run was done only at part throttle and not in top gear due to the concern that the tires hadn't been validated beyond 350 mph.  The JCB Dieselmax entered the measured mile at 366 mph and Andy Green maintained that speed through to the timing beam. Alastair continues, "On the return leg the front engine was too cold and did not come on to boost and the car did not exceed 60 mph until the 2nd mile marker so entered the mile at 326 and left at 344..... with 2 miles less run up!"  The JCB record group seems to think the car is perhaps good for 400 mph+ and Alastair indicates that the car, "may be the basis for an assault on the outright wheel driven record." 

8.25.06

>>On Wednesday 8.23.06 the JCB Dieselmax reset its own land speed record upping it to no less than an average of 350.092 mph.  A day earlier they had improved upon their 8.18.06 record of 317 mph by increasing it to 328.767 mph.  The Wednesday record was set with two runs posted within an hour of one another from opposite directions as according to the FIA regulations.  Andy Green hit 365.779 mph on his first run and then followed that up with a 335.695 mph return for the new 350+ mph record.

8.18.06

>>While not directly sportscar racing, it is related inasmuch as Alastair Macqueen and John Piper are involved (both formerly with TWR).  Today the JCB Dieselmax Bonneville Land Speed Record car broke the LSR held for diesel powered cars.  The JCB averaged 317 mph over its two runs breaking the former record of 235.766 mph set back in 1973!  Alastair indicates that they saw a terminal velocity of 350 mph in morning runs and the car wasn't done yet!  Andy Green is at the wheel of the JCB Dieselmax (Green holds the current absolute land speed record of 763.035 mph set in 1997, in a car built by G-Force no less) and suffice to say it sounds as though the record is due to be upped again in 7 days as the team now begins to prepare the car for the official FIA record run next week.

Audi R10, WDWT January 20068.17.06

>>Putting two and two together.  When this image arrived after Le Mans I certainly wondered what was up.  Why would Audi be testing a rather dramatic front aerodynamic bit in public?  Certainly that's what the wind tunnel is for.  The official Audi line was that the device was to test alternate cooling configurations.  That's somewhat dubious considering again, the wind tunnel is a much better place to test that type of device.  But this could be more about appeasing the ACO than anything else.  The R10's front aero is somewhat controversial.  Consider article 3.6.1 of the ACO technical regulations. 

The 3.6.1 says:

With the exception of the rear wing defined in article 3.6.3, no bodywork or underbody element having a wing profile* is permitted . 

* "Wing profile" : section generated by two arcs with different curves and/or centres joining a leading edge at the front to a trailing edge at the rear, the purpose being to exert an aerodynamic effect, lift or down force.

But as observant devotees of Mulsanne's Corner know, the R10's front diffuser could be considered a front wing.  Consider it in section, the underside of the diffuser forms the lower surface of the wing, the top section of the bodywork the high pressure side.  The regulations say nothing about what the shape of the two arcs can or can't be, it simply states two arcs joining and clearly that is what is going on here.  To any draftsman an arc is a line element with curvature, but you then have to ask what the intent of the rules was and so the "arc" translation is meaningless (whatever truly defines an arc) as it is all there at the end, "...the purpose being to exert an aerodynamic effect, lift or down force." The addition of the gurney on the trailing edge of the diffuser is the key.  Clearly the intent here is to generate downforce.
Consider the Bentley Speed 8.  In execution it was very similar to what the R10 has duplicated but for one point.  The top side of the bodywork and the lower surface of the diffuser never came to a point, never joined.  In fact there was quite a bit of displacement between the two "arcs" on the Bentley (see yellow highlights in image at left) and for that I'd imagine it was much less efficient if within the letter and spirit of the regulations (and indeed we're informed that the separation is an intentional 25 mm at the trailing edge between the diffuser and the above bodywork in order to keep within the spirit of the regulations).

So getting back to the R10 and what was being tested (if briefly) at the Wheels Down Winter Test.  You have to imagine that the ACO, when inspecting the car saw this and picked up on it.  But at that point the car was built and perhaps Audi had a technical counter keeping it within the letter of the regulations?  Either way, Audi felt compelled to test with the aerodynamic infills that routed air over the wishbone shrouds instead of underneath and you can be sure the results were rather less than impressive.  And you can bet it was reported back to the ACO that the car was "Undriveable."  Though you have to wonder what the discussion was like between the ACO and Audi and perhaps Audi does have logical counter.  We're certainly not judge and jury here!

8.13.06

>>Sour grapes?  Audi's Sunday press release indicates that their continuing participation in the American Le Man Series is "under discussion" given the recent performance concessions given to the Audi R10's competition.  The International Motor Sports Association has allowed the Dyson Lola B06/10 to run at 900 kgs. at the past two events and going into Road America they have been given a further weight reduction down to 860 kgs.  Additionally, the Lola will be allowed a 5 liter fuel tank increase (for 95 liters total).  This follows what IMSA laid out in December of last year regarding their right to make "competitive adjustments".  But according to Dr Wolfgang Ullrich , "To us, the recent regulation changes made by IMSA appear to have been made at random and are unjustified."  Ullrich's comments are somewhat surprising given that even the ACO has announced that indeed the diesel regulations will be adjusted to make for a more equitable playing field.  IMSA has simply shifted those regulation modifications forward in order to promote competition within the American Le Mans Series.  And in fact IMSA is making good by not slowing the R10 down but in fact helping the gasoline powered Lola B06/10 achieve the same performance level as the liberal diesel regulations allow.  It is interesting that Audi feels this way and slightly disappointing too as you would expect Audi would relish the competition.  We've watching Audi demonstrate their technical expertise over the past 7 years and I won't mince words, frankly they've dominated their competition.  Good for them of course.  But I find it somewhat distasteful to see Audi clearly flex its muscle the moment there is the potential that the playing field has been leveled.  And let's be honest, there is still plenty of performance to come in the Audi R10, because as we understand the car is still running above the 925 kgs category minimum.  IMSA hasn't gifted Dyson anything, they will still have to convert any performance up-tick into an actual win.  And Audi will still be able to brag if (when) they win, that the win was accounted for by a diesel.  IMSA hasn't taken that away and ultimately that's the most important thing, marketing.  Audi's press release is a subtle shot over IMSA's bow.  Let's hope IMSA doesn't hear it.
 

Full press release:

On 20 August, the Audi Sport squad is busy on "two fronts” once again: While the second-half of the DTM season starts at the Nürburgring, the American Le Mans Series at Road America (USA) already enters its crucial phase at the seventh round of the ten race championship. Dindo Capello and Allan McNish have a 39-point lead before the race in Wisconsin. The two Audi drivers could actually make a decisive early step towards clinching the title there.

However, this will be tough challenge: The American Le Mans Series organisers are attempting to stop the revolutionary Audi R10 TDI prototype’s winning streak by making the competition even more new concessions. At Road America the LM P1 Lolas entered by the Dyson team can race with 65 kilograms less than the Audi R10 TDI. Furthermore, from the following race at Mosport, the Dyson Lolas will be granted a five-litre larger fuel tank. That’s why Audi’s further participation in the American Le Mans Series is under discussion.

The Audi Sport engineers have calculated with computer simulation that ten kilograms at Road America is worth at least two-tenths-of-a-second per lap. Despite being deeply disappointed about the random decisions of the IMSA organisation, the Audi Sport North America team would nevertheless like do everything in its power to achieve a good result also at Road America. The layout of the 4.048-mile circuit approximately 60 miles north of Milwaukee should suit the R10 TDI. It is one of the most fluid and fastest on the calendar. 

The predecessor of the R10 TDI, the R8, was in a class of its own at Road America and remained unbeaten at every race there between 2002 and 2005.  Last year’s winners Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro are only two-points behind third placed driver Andy Wallace (Dyson Lola) in the overall standings despite having sat out three races. Dindo Capello won in 2002 at Road America, while the circuit in Wisconsin is new territory for Allan McNish. The race starts at on Sunday, 20 August at 2:00 p.m. local time (9:00 p.m. in Germany) and runs over the classic distance of 2:45 hours.

Quotes before the race at Road America 

Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "To us, the recent regulation changes made by IMSA appear to have been made at random and are unjustified. A year ago hardly anybody could believe that it would be possible to win a race with a diesel powered sportscar. We demonstrated  that it is feasible, and thanks to ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ we produced the world’s most state-of-the-art LM P1. We can not accept that our life will now be made artificially difficult. Audi, the manufacturer, which has supported and promoted the ALMS for years and helped to make it what it  is today, will only continue its American Le Mans Series programme if there are again stable and consistent rules, like at Le Mans, which also contribute towards justifying manufacturer’s involvement and expenditure.”

Frank Biela (Audi R10 TDI #1): "Road America is a fantastic circuit, which I’m really looking forward to. Emanuele (Pirro) and I had a superb race  there last year. It goes without saying that after such a victory you return with a special feeling. The track is a lot of fun to drive, is relatively quick  and flowing, which should actually suit our Audi R10 TDI. We can also demonstrate TDI Power on the long straights.” 

Emanuele Pirro (Audi R10 TDI #1): "Road America is a beautiful circuit that should allow the R10 TDI to shine. That’s why I’m optimistic for the race.  It’s clear that we are competing to help Dindo (Capello) and Allan (McNish) in their fight for the title. We nevertheless want to make a strong showing as we did at Salt Lake City and Portland and obviously win if possible.” 

Dindo Capello (Audi R10 TDI #2): "Road America is one of the best circuits on the American Le Mans Series calendar. I’ve only driven there once, but  won first time out together with Tom (Kristensen) in 2002 and have fond memories as a consequence. This time around Allan (McNish) and I must drive with one eye on the championship, which means we cannot afford a non-finish and want to score as many points as possible to protect our lead.  We might even then have the chance of wrapping up the title early at one of the following races.”

Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI #2): "I’ve still haven’t raced at Road America.  That’s why I spoke to Nigel (Mansell) who described Road America as a ‘real driver’s circuit’, which should suit me. I also got a few tips from Dario Franchitti. The flowing circuit should suit the R10 TDI, however, the LM P2 Porsche and the Dyson Lolas, also favoured by the regulations, are getting stronger and stronger, that’s why I’m expecting another dog fight.”

Dave Maraj (Team Director Team Audi Sport North America): "I look forward to going to Road America; it’s one of my favorite race tracks. The R10 TDI will enjoy stretching its legs on this circuit. One thing is for sure, we all hope to race in cooler temperatures this weekend."

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©Copyright 2006, Michael J. Fuller