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January 2007
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1.30.07

>>News emerges today out of the Geneva, Switzerland base of the Swiss Spirit Le Mans Endurance Series team of the switch to a Lola B07/10 chassis, and, more significantly, factory supported twin-turbo Audi FSI R8 power for this season. 

Press Release
>>NATIONAL AUTO SPORT ASSOCIATION SANCTIONS NEW NORTH AMERICAN MODERN ENDURANCE CHALLENGE SERIES FOR 2007

New C-Class Series to Compete In Seven Races Within Existing Western Endurance Racing Championship, With Plans To Expand To East Coast Venues in Future

The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) has announced a partnership to sanction a new C-Class sportsracer series – the North American Modern Endurance Challenge – that will begin competition in April 2007 as a specific class as part of NASA’s existing Western Endurance Racing Championship series on the West Coast.  NAMEC plans to expand into the Central and Eastern regions of the USA in the future.  The Series was coordinated by members of the International Sports Car Manufacturers Association.

The North American Modern Endurance Challenge (NAMEC) will be open to C-Class sportscar prototypes meeting FIA-CN and C3 specifications and standards. The NAMEC Series will compete under the same rules and regulations as the successful Van de Vyver (V de V) Modern Endurance Challenge in Europe, and has received approval from the V de V to establish a North American series that will be operated in association with V de V to expand this racing formula outside of Europe.

Constructors currently eligible for the NAMEC Series include:

- Radical
- Chiron
- ADR
- EMA
- Ligier
- Juno 
- Norma
- CvO
- Merlin
- Funyo
- Fior
- Lucchini
- Panhard

Other constructors can be homologated based on meeting FIA and NAMEC specifications.

The NAMEC schedule will feature six races for the championship, including the revived “12 Hours of Thunderhill” race for points that will run concurrently within the “25 Hours of Thunderhill”.  Four of the six events will be three-hour races with a fifth comprising four hours of competition.  The 2007 NAMEC schedule and venues are:

 April 14  Buttonwillow Raceway  3 Hours (Day/Night)
 June 3   Thunderhill Raceway  3 Hours (Day)
 July 7   Willow Springs   3 Hours (Day/Night)
 October 13  Buttonwillow Raceway  3 Hours (Day/Night)
 Nov. 10-11  Infineon Raceway  4 Hours (Day/Night)
 Dec. 1-2  Thunderhill Raceway  12 Hours (Points)/25 Hours (Non-Points)

To obtain a set of rules and regulations, or more information on the North American Modern Endurance Challenge, visit the Series website at www.modernendurance.com or contact Andrew Campbell and Edouard Sezionale via e-mail or telephone as provided in the “Contact Us” section of the site.

1.29.07

>>Back in June of last year Racecar Engineering's Sam Collins reported from Le Mans that the Audi engineers had taken particular interest in an article he had written:

"Audi were very interested in the JCB Dieselmax and Honda 067 Lakester articles in Racecar Engineering, could it be that the diesel engined R10 will be seen on the salt flats at Bonneville later this summer, after all the PR value of a diesel engined LMP doing 400 kph on the salt would be great - especially if they managed to beat the Honda F1 car's speed.  Clearly a LMP would be better for it aerodynamically than an F1 car, and if the R10 ran un-restricted it could easily do it.  Wolfgang Ulrich would not be drawn on this."

As it turns out Audi's interest was genuine, but for an entirely different reason.  Sam recently speculated, "...in fact what really switched them on I suspect was that the JCB boys originally planned to use the Dieselmax engine in an R8 chassis."  But speculation aside, Alastair Macqueen confirms that indeed early on in the project JCB did just that and made preliminary inquiries with Audi about installing the Dieselmax engine in an Audi R8 chassis for their record attempt, "Quite true it (Audi R8) was considered way back in the project..."  JCB's inquiry never got far; they were set straight that a bespoke chassis would have the best potential.  But like all projects, early development period brainstorming left few ideas unconsidered, Macqueen continues, "...but then so was fitting a single engine in a kit car."

1.28.07

>>Just a short follow up with Creation's Ian Bickerton.  Their January 15th MIRA wind tunnel test has been postponed until the 5th of February, there just was too much work to do.  "...Had so many pieces to try for a Le Mans aero set up that we really had to 
cancel," says Bickerton.  Sebring is still on target, and then he adds something...followed by, "You can not print that yet!!!!!!!"  Interesting things afoot with Creation. 

1.26.07
 
 

>>Doing a little homework on the American Le Mans Series site and noticed this image from the Wheels Down Winter Test (left) which shows the very swoopy rear wing on the RS Spyder.  Looking down its span you can see how the outboard ends are lower than the center.  The image on the right comes from the press images Porsche released in September.

The anhedral wing is even more evident in this head on shot.
1.24.07

>>Acura LMP2 program updates and rumors, Wheels Down Winter Test 2007

HPD has been busy since their April 2006 announcement.  It is understood that an aero program is ongoing in the UK headed by Nick Wirth and while assumed to be primarily based around the Courage chassis, it would seem the case that indeed two models do exist; one Courage and one Lola. 

With Dario Francitti’s SEMA show admission that the Courage is evolving ( “…I don’t think it will look much like this when it comes to Sebring.”), we can begin to speculate that the Courage may be made-over sooner rather than later.  It was always understood that the Highcroft/Courage side of the program was to concentrate on chassis developments so this isn’t unexpected.  Tantalizingly we are also hearing that the Courage chassis may be renamed “Acura” heading into Sebring.  Revised bodywork (hints of Acura branding anyone?) as well as other mechanical upgrades would certainly indicate the Courage LC75 core has been moved to the next level.

The initial Acura press release from April said, “After initial competition in the LMP2 class, plans call for the development of an Acura LMP1 chassis and engine package to compete in the American Le Mans Series, and earn an invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans “.  And what we hear today only seems to reinforce those benchmarks, LMP2 to LMP1 with Le Mans an eventual goal.

And finally, there has been a lot of speculation about the origins of the Acura LMP2 engine.  It is our understanding that the rumor about it deriving from the IRL power plant is technically incorrect.  In 2004 HPD's engine design department began work on what would have become the 2006 IRL engine and resulted in Honda weaning itself away from Ilmor, bringing the IRL program in-house.  In 2005, with the IRL’s change in direction to a single engine spec series (and with no competitive motivation), design work for the ’06 motor was redirected to the LMP2 application.  And while the IRL and LMP2 engines may appear similar, indeed the bottom ends look very similar, it is understood that absolutely no part will fit one to the other.

1.17.07

>>Racecar Engineering's Sam Collins sends us these CAD images of Zytek 07S.

Zytek have recently announced the sale of both LMP1 and LMP2 versions of the 07S for this season.  The first track test for the LMP2 car will be in late March followed by the early April track test of the LMP1 car.
The tub is thought to be manufactured by Super Light Cars and will be crash tested in mid-February.
1.12.07
>>Regarding Art 14.1.5b.4, having had another look, it is my understanding that the hinged plate seen here can be removed allowing for the template to pass up and down vertically per the regulation.  Notice that the driver's arm/elbow is below the side pod height and it gives good indication the height of the monocoque.  And so in order for the template to pass transversely through the opening the side pod needs to be removed.  But that the regulation is in place in order the safely extract the driver in the case of an accident is another matter.  Surely one doesn't want to be removing side pods at a time like that...
1.11.07
>>Peugeot rolled out their 908 diesel at Paul Ricard.  Wind tunnel testing began on April 18th 2006 and to date the program has spent 500 hours in the wind tunnel (45-50 days).  Guillaume Cattelani is the Chief Aerodynamicist and he was previously involved with the Peugeot 905.
The Paris presentation car bears only a very vague resemblance.  Overall, nearly every detail is different beyond the general closed top architecture.  And Cattelani admits, "everything changed following the first wind tunnel tests and in order to conform to ACO regulations: doors, wings, air intake etc."  Development will continue on the car's aero package with Cattelani indicating that there will be additional changes by the time Le Mans rolls around.
The overlapping valence panels are for rules compliance.
A very quick scaling within AutoCAD indicates dimensions very similar to the R10.  Given the errors in scaling and due to image parallax and making assumptions about what the dimensions should be, we can state that the Peugeot is at the 4650 mm maximum length, has a 750 mm rear overhang, a 2980 mm wheelbase with a 925 mm front overhang (allowing for a + 5 mm tolerance in overall length).  The side pod height is above 550 mm and tapers to the 400 mm minimum at the rear.  The white outline surrounding the driver's door shows the door template as drawn to the regulations.  Note that it clearly shows it piercing the side pod.
We're scratching our heads trying to determine how the Peugeot's door, while appearing to be in two parts, meets Art 14.1.5b.4 which requires the ability to insert templates 5 and 6 vertically and transversely through the door openings.
1.8.07

We're updating some of the programs for 2007:

>>Creation

Early in December Creation made news that will solidify their standing over the long-term when they announced the new engine partnership with AIM Industries and Engine Developments Ltd.  On December 17 I spoke with Creation Team Manager Ian Bickerton to get up to speed on what was going on with the outfit for 2007.

About that engine partnership with AIM Industries, who on earth is AIM anyway?  It turns out that AIM industries are a Japanese “multi-functional business” with a strong engineering focus.  Their area of business isn’t motor sports by any stretch but AIM Industries does provide consultant engineering services to various aspects of the automotive industry and will use that asset to contribute to the design of the bespoke AIM V10.  Additionally, AIM’s principle, Yukinori Suzuki, would like a victory at Le Mans in 2008 to coincide with the company’s 10th anniversary.

Interestingly John Judd was the impetuous behind the AIM Industries/Creation link up. Engine Developments’ consultant Hiro Kaneda put Judd in contact with AIM.  AIM was looking for a chassis partner for their V10 and Creation topped the list.

The first blocks have already been cast for the new V10 which is described by John Judd simply like this, “…if you imagine the S2 V10 with a 90 deg block you won't go far wrong.”  The Judd-AIM V10 is set to begin testing on the dyno in June, in the chassis by August/September.

For 2007 the Creation chassis will be getting a new monocoque brining it fully inline with current LMP1 regulations.  Kieron Salter’s KWM Motorsports are designing the direct replacement of the Reynard tub.  Salter, “The new tub is being designed to be as simple a replacement to the Reynard one as possible so that we can reduce the number of changes to the bodywork etc., it is however very different due to the regulations requirements.” 

Since Laguna the hybrid car has been upgraded to the wide-wheel specification.  Up until now the Creation chassis had still been running on the original Reynard LMP675 specification tire widths.  And their reluctance to develop the car to accommodate wider LMP1 tires was justified.  With a single car set of wheels costing $8,000, an entire season’s worth of race and testing sets would have been upwards of $160,000 for two cars.  Not to mention the costs of bodywork changes that would have been needed to accommodate wider wheels, at the time it was though that the money that would have been sunk into wider wheels could have been utilized elsewhere.   And while the smaller wheels were a compromise from a performance stand point inasmuch as any on-track performance gain (slight frontal area reduction) was offset by the need to change tires more often than the rest; yes, hind sight is 20/20.

Bickerton indicates that the “Big-Wheel” hybrid will be visiting the MIRA wind tunnel for a day of testing on the 15th of January.  The car will first be evaluated in its 2006 Laguna Seca form and then be converted over to ’07 wide-wheel and bodywork specification.

So where will the various Creation cars race this year?  The definitive ’07 LMP1 spec car will naturally be running in the Le Mans Endurance Series with a second chassis built up to serve as a test mule in anticipation of the AIM powerplant (in fact a 24 hour test has already been scheduled at Paul Ricard). 

The ’06 Big-Wheel Hybrid is hoping to run in the American Le Mans Series.  Ian says that for now Sebring and Petit are “100% certain”.  The remainder of the American Le Mans Series schedule depends on what happens over the course of the next few weeks.  And Bickerton is bully about taking on Audi in the American Le Mans Series going as far as mentioning that they have indicated to series officials that Creation would be ok with rescinding 20 kgs in weight to run at 880 kgs (from 860 last year).

>>Rollcentre Pescarolo

Martin Short is itching to get his hands on his new Pescarolo though it won’t come in time for Sebring unfortunately, with the delivery date some time in February.  Immediately after delivery the car will be shaken down on the Bugatti circuit and a test at Paul Ricard will closely follow.  “…we just will not have enough time [for Sebring].”  The car will utilize the ’07 tub with the ’06 bodywork modified to fit, but Martin is indicating new bodywork developments will be in place by Le Mans (courtesy of Pescarolo’s continuing aerodynamics development).

Henri extensively utilizes full scale coast down testing on various airfields and the technique seems to have worked well for them over the years.  Basically it consists of straight line running with top speed and suspension load (downforce) measurements being taken with reference to ride height.  The big issues are maintaining constant known ride heights.  And as a sanity check the car is often re-baselined throughout the day.  But in lieu of buckets of development money, the relative costs spent to knowledge gained are certainly worth it.

For 2007 Rollcentre will continue to run on Dunlop tires. "Dunlop are investing heavily in new technology for 2007, and we have already tested a new front tyre on the Radical which netted a second a lap gain at Donington, this in a car in which we led the Donington LMS race by 3 laps," says Short.  "We are confident that Dunlop will give us an LMP1 tyre in the same vein, and are really excited about our prospects for 2007 with them."

Martin also indicates that the new Pescarolo  monocoque has passed its crash test.

In the mean time Rollcentre's Radical SR9 is still up for sale and the price has dropped to £375,000 and will continue to drop by £25,000 each week for the next 4 weeks.

>>AER

Following up with Mike Lancaster he reiterates that substantial gains have and are being found in both the LMP1 and LMP2 engines if simply by further development of the ancillaries and engine management.  With the ACO having now allowed gasoline engines to utilize variable geometry turbos for this season, AER is naturally looking into its viability, “In practise the devices available have a thermal limitation of about 800C (no good for gasoline turbo engines that tend to operate at around 1,000C).  That said we are looking at the possibilities…”

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©Copyright 2007, Michael J. Fuller