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January/February 2009
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2.14.09*updated*

2009 ACO skid block cross section>>It would appear the ACO has issued a revised version of the 2008 LMP regulations.  This revision (see Art 3.5.6) calls for a redesigned underfloor skid that incorporates a domed middle section that transitions to flat for the last 600 mm of the leading and trailing edges.  This would bolt on and replace the existing skid.  So far no press release has been attached to these revisions and it isn't clear starting from which event that this new item will be required (update, the new skid will be required starting at Sebring).  Interestingly, Wirth Research was involved with the IRL's work in attempting to reduce the blow over incidents common to open wheel cars and a similar domed skid was implemented there with very mixed results.  It is our understanding Wirth Research has been heavily involved with the ACO's own research into the yaw induced blow over incidents that have plagued sports cars in recent years.
Audi R15>>So the gig's up 48 hours after the first image hits the web.  Audi has released this image (in high resolution as well).
Audi R15The splitter is...well, effectively no longer instead replaced but a front wing with an adjustable "flap" (well, it appears to be adjustable but could very well be fixed).  Hints are the visible flap pivot (top arrow, blown up a bit more below) and the slot gap.  There is a strake mounted outboard of the lower "wing" main plane.
Audi R15A closer look at the above details.
Audi R15The outer corner of the splitter is replaceable and made from Jabroc (or equivalent) with the main corner structure made from Kevlar for resilience.
Audi R15Sure enough, we can clearly see a "exit" above the Audi logo.  We're told its function is purely aerodynamic, no radiators here!
Audi R15We understand the R15 is on the same front tires as the R10.  The limiting factor for moving weight forward on the R15 is clearly the weighty V10 diesel.  Thus there wouldn't be any benefit to extraordinarily wide fronts (as similar to the Acura).

Here we can see how the front pontoon fender's trailing edge is integrated as an inlet strake (for lack of a better word) directing air towards the rear intake.  

The positioning of the turbo inlet is very deliberate.  I surmise that the location of the turbo itself is driven by packaging.  Given the louvers and gills ahead of the duct, I can imagine there's a lot of disruption to the airflow ahead of the duct.  So in order to find clear flow the duct itself has been canted over.

The unfinished nature of the rear fender seems to point to a last minute change.   Given the late release of the definitive '09 rear wing regulations this is understandable.  The rear wing changes have resulted in the need to optimize the entire rear end in order to recoup lost downforce.
Audi R15I had been very puzzled over the similarity of solutions of the rear wing mounts on the Audi and Acura.  But the reduction in chord from 300 mm to 250 mm for '09 (in addition to the span reduction) has led to the use of wing profiles with increased camber.  These more aggressive profiles are inherently more sensitive to wing disruptions which tend to result in very large flow separations.  So naturally the Audi and Acura executions paralleled each other given the commonality of the problem and the subsequent solution.
Audi R15Note that the louver panels have a simple (crude) cap over the forward section as a means to blank off only a portion.
2.12.09

Audi R15, Andy Blackmore>>Andy Blackmore has provided us with a side elevation of the Audi R15.  Compare with the image below.
Audi R15Naturally better images are available now 24 hours later.  This is a hybrid image from the print addition of SportAuto.

From this side view we can gather a bit more detail.  The front pontoon fender trailing edge seems to serve as a way to actually keep air from migrating outboard and to route it directly into the inlet that is located ahead of the rear wheels.  

Audi R15Given the gilled, louvered, slotted nature of the mid section of the car (below), the broad flat areas on the front end lend the car to an overall manta ray look.  Looking at the Shell logo, we're still seeing shading indicating a exit of some kind.  What could be there?  Pure aero or packaging (radiator)?
Audi R15It's our understanding that this rear wing mount concept has been on the Audi R15 since late December.  Notice how the turbo inlet is splayed over with the top further outboard than the bottom.  
Audi R15We have reasons to believe not all the R15's details are finalized (the arrows are SportAuto's BTW).  As we can now see somewhat clearer, indeed there is some kind of cooling exit notched into the engine cover.  There appear to be at least 3 covers in the area of the rear suspension based on the 3 trailing edges we can see.
Audi R15We suspect that's a radiator exit in the background directly behind the turbo.
2.11.09

Audi R15>>Audi R15...images are leaking out, we suspect in the next 24 hours better shots will be available.  This shot is pulled from Autosport's online edition and are of the new Audi R15 as it tested at Vallelunga.  Taking one look at this and it seems clear Audi has made a significant step forward in concept.  The car seems less conservative and really pushes the regulations.    Note the very high nose and wide stance of the splitter pylons.  There's a cooling inlet ahead of the rear wheels.  We're also hearing that the engine is a diesel (naturally) 5.5 liter V10.

Audi R15There appears to be a outlet duct just above the Audi logo.Audi R15It would clearly seem that the Audi's rear wing pylons mimic the Acura's "swan necks".
Audi R15These rear view image comes off the cover of the Italian magazine SportAuto.  Unfortunately there's a graphic nightmare covering the image (why would you do that anyway if you're a magazine editor...anyway, never mind), so we'll have to try and overlook this.
Looking at blow ups of the SportAuto image the diameters appear to be the same.  We suspect the front and rears are close in width.  This was rumored to be the case at the Wheels Down Winter Test.  Autosport speculates that the radiators have been positioned well forward and this would be the case given the heavy diesel engine and the desire to shift weight forward where you could in order to make the wide fronts work.

Front:
Rear:
Audi R15There's some very interesting legality "gills" as well as a nice long taper to the front wheel pontoon (and is very similar to the latest WR).  To the left of the upper yellow arrow is the turbo intake (behind the 't' in 'auto').
Audi R15Some very odd slices and cuts to be seen.  Hard to make out exactly what's going on.  It would appear that the engine cover is as low as possible and in fact it almost appears that it is stepped just past the engine with no transitional line from the top of the engine to the top of the dampers/gearbox/bellhousing.  It would seem as if this is being used as a cooling exit, at least that's my guess.  Additionally, it does look as though the rear suspension is shrouded.  The LED taillights located in the trailing edge of the wing endplates are a nice touch.
1.30.09

>>Acura's Tom Blatter verified that there will be no other LMP2 Acuras on the grid this year.  Elsewhere we did hear that there had been much bigger plans for this season's Acura LMP2 assualt, but those were reduced as the economy tanked.  So the Andretti-Green rumour seems to have indeed just been that as the Acura plans have been in place for some time and weren't recently decided.
We're a bit late in getting our 2009 update up and out, but better late than never.

>>Judd

John Judd informs us that engine capacities will remain unchanged in 2009 for the GV5.5, AIM, and the DB.  Normal off season development work has continued according to Judd, “We've done a lot of development work since the end of season and we have some good power gains from trumpet/camshaft/exhaust/airbox work, and the gains apply to both the LMP1 & 2 engines.”  The DB has had additional work considering the restrictor changes for LMP2 for this year.

>>AER

According to AER's Mike Lancaster, “We have made a lot of changes to both the P32 and MZR-R engines for 2009.”  Work is continuing on the direct injection system for the MZR-R with the next step being making a productionized version and getting it on to the race car.  AER has also made a big investment into engine simulation software and spent ’08 working out the kinks.  As fruits of their labors, “We have made some big performance steps leading to a wider power band and increases in both torque and power,” indicates Lancaster.  Whatever DI developments find their way onto the MZR-R will also be relevant to the P32.

But unfortunately the boat seems to have been missed for the P32 with looming regulations changes and the popularity of the rival Judd in Europe.  Says Lancaster, “…We had developed the P32 to a level where it would have been a real match for the diesels; we gained nearly 100 BHP in some areas. The reality of the economic situation put paid to those plans so we have had to accept the P32 will probably remain an unknown at the top level.”  

>>Epsilon Euskadi

Jordi Caton brings us the news that the Epsilon Euskadi EE-LMP1-07 project has been delayed due to the global economic situation.  Technical Director Sergio Rinland has been joined by aerodynamicist Henri Durand who will work along side Chief Aerodynamicist Frank Sanchez.  2009 developments focusing on the regulation changes at the rear of the car have already been wind tunnel tested, and to encouraging results.  Caton tells us, “We’ll most probably not be able to start the Le Mans Series championship.  As a constructor and a Team we’re focusing our efforts on participating in the Le Mans 24 hours and hopefully joining the Le Mans Series championship later.  We’re working hard on sponsoring and looking for competitive drivers that can support these efforts.”

>>Zytek

Zytek has a full plate for ’09.  Three teams will be running Zyteks in the Le Mans Series, Barazi Epsilon, Gsttad Racing Team (formerly Trading Performance), and ASM.  ASM will be getting a new Ginetta Zytek 09S-2.  In addition, Strakka Racing announced on 1.19.09 that they would be moving up to LMP1 in a Ginetta Zytek 09S-1.  “We should also be making another announcement about a second LMP1 Ginetta Zytek 09S team in a few weeks,” Says Zytek Operations Director John Lancaster.  Expect to see the Corsa Racing Zytek 07S Hybrid in the ALMS this year as well.  Both the 07S and 09S will be receiving update kits to comply with the 2009 ACO rear wing regulations.

WR will continue to use Zytek engines in the Le Mans Series.

1.20.09*updated*

>>We're hearing rumors that Andretti-Green has ordered spares for their P2 car.  We don't know what to make of this given this action has occured within the last 2 weeks and well after their decision to race elsewhere for '09.  Admittedly this could mean anything so we're not reading much into this for now...

...And about 12 hours later we're hearing from those that should know perhaps a little better...that perhaps this should be downgraded even further.  We'll reemphasize that we're not reading much into this...

1.18.09

>>We're a bit behind with this and it is with some amusement we note the fervor generated by our 12.31.08 news item regarding a potential tie-in between Ferrari and Peugeot to develop a KERS system.  The follow up is simply that Ferrari are denying the rumors.  That's fair enough if that's their official line.  But we take issue with the blogshphere that suggest the concept doesn't even have traction.  All one has to do is consider the economic climate.  There are financial considerations that would certainly overrule any loyalty to loosely written testing regulations.  Loop holes are loop holes, we all know this, and Ferrari certainly doesn't have a history of being shy about playing loose with the regulations, regardless of what agreements they've singed.  And as the cost of racing escalates, the accountants will certainly step in and muck up the works.  With that in mind, the concept of two organizations racing in completely different series joining together to develop the common technology is certainly very valid, even if only to share the cost burden where they can.  

1.15.09

Ford GT-40>>Legends of Le Mans Film Festival announced

The Legends of Le Mans Film Festival will take place over the weekend of March 7/8 2009 at Eynsham Hall in Oxfordshire.

Organised by the team behind the 2008 Jim Clark Film Festival, the event will feature three hours of archive Le Mans footage, focusing mainly on the period 1955-75. 

Several anniversaries will be celebrated at the event, including 50 years since Aston Martin’s historic 1-2 finish, 40 years since the JW-Gulf Ford GT40’s 1-3 finish and 50 years since the Lotus Elite scored the first of six consecutive class victories.

A guest speaker panel session will also take place, featuring personalities closely associated with Le Mans and the anniversaries being marked. Guests already announced include 1969 Le Mans winner and ex-Team Lotus driver Jackie Oliver, 1970 Le Mans winner and former Lotus and BRM Formula 1 driver, Richard Attwood, ex-works Ferrari driver and renowned privateer David Piper, 1963 and 1964 class-winner (both times in the Team Elite Lotus Elite) John Wagstaff and 1959 class winner (also in a Lotus Elite) Peter Riley. 

The highlight of the Festival will be a gala dinner on the Saturday night, at which all the guest speakers will be present. For more information and to book tickets:

go to www.legendsfilmfestivals.com

Telephone: 01993 200331

or write to: 

Legends Film Festivals
15 Meadow View
Witney, Oxfordshire
OX28 3TY

Press release

1.13.09

Acura ARX-02a>>Acura Sebring testing part three.  These images just came in showing the Acura ARX-02a going through its paces.
Acura ARX-02aWhat intrigues us the most is what appears to be a very high lower A-arm location (1).  This is very indicative of the in-fashion (or out now, I can't seem to follow) F1 style "zero keel," so called because the lower pick ups are raised (thus "eliminating" the keel), with the bottom of the monocoque following, leading to a large angle of incidence for the A-arms as they "droop" to meet the upright (get educated on keels).  There are some obvious benefits here in regards to front diffuser design.  Brake ducts are apparent here (2).  The upper A-arm is encased (as is the lower) in a fairing and appears offset slightly rearward (3).

Acura ARX-02aWe're also struck by the extreme taper of the nose.  But there's also a taper further up the chassis.  Aft of the point where the hip bulkhead would be (arrow) the monocoque bulges back outboard and then heads towards the driver.
1.9.09*updated*

Reynard Inverter>>Reynard is back!   The first Reynard to be produced since 2002 is a 2-seat, road going, sportscar compliant with 750 Motor Club Bike Sports Championship regulations called the Inverter.  The 400 kg (dry) car is powered by a Honda Fireblade 998 cc motorcycle engine, but its primary feature is rather impressive aerodynamics, developed using a 50% scale model during downtime at  the Auto Research Center wind tunnel in Indianapolis.  Using a massive underfloor diffuser and sliding skirts, the Inverter can generate 3460 lbs of downforce at 150 mph.  Therefore at 100 mph, the Inverter can theoretically drive upside down as downforce produced at that speed exceeds car weight, hence the car's name.  The Inverter is expected to be able to achieve  lateral acceleration approaching 4gs when fitted with track tires.  The car's designer, Andre Brown, claims the ability to achieve 55% front balance with optimized pitch sensitivity.  And while Brown wouldn't release drag or L/D figures, it is reasonable to believe very high L/D efficiency given the car's narrow track and reduced frontal area coupled with its high total downforce.

Production methods for the Inverter were simplified as an additional goal was to keep car costs down.  In that theme, at the core is a CNC bent, TIG welded, stainless-steel tube-frame chassis.  The chassis is reinforced with aluminum honeycomb panels.  Universal uprights are water-jetted from standard thickness aluminum plate.  The suspension is similarly simplified in manufacture and non-handed.  Power is transmitted to the Qauife differential via a compsite tooth belt, eliminating the typical chain and the resultant need for lubrication.  Gear selection is accomplished through a steering wheel mounted paddle shifter; flat-shifting and auto-blip are also featured.   B
odywork will be offered in fiber glass or carbon fiber to the customer's preference.
1.7.09

>>We've been informed ahead of time to expect an interesting announcement from the Autosport show tomorrow from a former racing protagonist who hasn't been heard from for a while.  While their announcement won't be immediately relevant to LMP racing (we stress immediately because it could be...just depends on what's under the skin), it is interesting nonetheless in its own right.  But perhaps more importantly, this announcement might allow pondering of what their future plans are given their past.  Good things we hope.
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ęCopyright 2009, Michael J. Fuller