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January/February 2013
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>>Yesterday Nissan indicated a long term commitment to Le Mans with the announcement of a Garage 56 entry for 2014 followed by a future LMP1 effort.  The news comes as somewhat of a surprise but  seems to be the next logical step given the DeltaWing as spring board and Nissan's recent move away from that project (surely it wasn't going to be one and done, right?).  The press releases are filled with the usual levels of vagueness, but it would seem Nissan's Garage 56 entry will be all-electric powered with the idea of proving the technology first, but perhaps more importantly establishing a manner of equivalency with other competitors within the ACO's regulations, with the intent on using said technology in a full-fledged LMP1 effort at some point in the future (2015 or beyond, Nissan says they are moving to an internal time table but it hasn't been made public).  

While not much is said about the propulsion technology for the Garage 56 entry other than to call it an, “innovative new powertrain technology,” precious-nothing is mentioned about what chassis it will be stuck in.  Now it would seem to moot their point if Nissan again goes with a chassis designed outside the regulations, such as DeltaWing was, especially if they intend to, “...provide the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) with data to enable all parties to evaluate the incorporation of this breakthrough technology.”   

And while it has been said the Garage 56 entry will be all-electric powered, nothing has been said about what would power the LMP1 other than that it would use the technology developed in the Garage 56 entry.  But exclusively use that technology?  It seems pretty clear that all-electric technology simply isn't mature enough for Le Mans, and still won't be even 2 years from now.  Thus it seems pretty certain Nissan will look to a “pseudo”-hybrid powered by something like a hydrogen fuel cell (though one wonders the state of Nissan R&D in this area or any of the leading edge vehicle propulsion technologies).

And this is the ACO's conundrum; their fascination with diesel technology has now shifted to hybrids (be it gas-electric or diesel-electric).  But like diesels, if a car company doesn't have relevant experience with hybrids they're out in the cold, at least as long as the ACO stays smitten to that current narrow window.  And Nissan is adamant that they race technology relevant to their road cars, says Nissan Head Carlos Ghosn, “We will return to Le Mans with a vehicle that will act as a high-speed test bed in the harshest of environments for both our road car and race car electric vehicle technology.”  Nissan's road car hybrids are emerging as we speak but they aren't nearly as experienced with them as Toyota or Audi.  So what's a company to do?  It seems, make an investment into the technology direction you want to head, present it to the ACO, and hope it all works out.

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Lola B12/60, Sebring Test February 21, 20132.21.13

>>Dyson tested their Lola B12/60 on Michelin rubber today at Sebring today.  Both Extreme Speed Motorsports and Level 5 Racing were on the track testing their Acura ARX-03bs as well.

Toyota TS030 Hybrid LMP1, Paul Ricard 20132.19.13* updated

>>The 2013 Toyota TS030 LMP1 was revealed today at Paul Ricard.  Looking a lot like the roll out car from last year (below), it's interesting to note that Toyota has returned to the closed off front splitter concept.  Reading into the press material and the reason becomes evident; Toyota has redesigned the front end of the monocoque and eliminated the alternative front hybrid motor layout.  Recall that Toyota had hedged their bets last year and developed the TS030 monocoque to accept a front hybrid motor while developing which direction their program would go with.  In the end they went with the rear motor solution meaning the front motor solution was redundant.  But it also meant that given time and cost constraints Toyota had wait until the off-season to design that compromise out of the monocoque.  

The elimination of the front hybrid motor accommodation presumably opens up area/volume in the diffuser section.   Sources also indicate that an effective front diffuser design takes into consideration the monocoque's relationship to the diffuser as well as the beneficial positioning of the front suspension (completely out of the flow as optimal because the flow separations from the front suspension are particularly negative on diffuser performance).  I also understand that a closed front splitter solution is more efficient than an open configuration (such as what Toyota raced with all season last year and as what Audi introduced on the R15 and continues to use on the R18).   Toyota's Technical Director Pascal Vasselon also indicated, "We worked the aerodynamics and air flow especially at the front."  So we can presume that Toyota has made large gains at the front aerodynamically.  And while the changes are invisible for the moment, there are indications of related developments designed to work in conjunction with the changes to the front diffuser (see below).

It's been noted that the launch car isn't running the rear wing extensions, but that would have more to do with the low-drag configuration being tested at Paul Ricard than anything else.  I fully expect to see the extensions on the high downforce setup (and so too the open splitter, that is, unless Toyota has developed something else which has been hinted at).

Mr. Vasselon has indicated additional modifications to the TS030, "It can't be seen but the monocoque was much changed, especially the front part.  It is also lighter.  The driving position has been relocated, giving greater visibility to drivers.  Powertrain and hybrid system are identical to 2012, but they have been many improvements...The shock absorbers are different, etc.. Finally, and not least, we have worked to make mechanical interventions easier to reduce the time spent in the pits.”
Toyota TS030, Paul Ricard 2012Paul Ricard Launch 2012.

Note the original closed splitter solution.  Sources indicate the move to the open-splitter concept before the start of last season was made because of thoughts that it offered more development potential.  It would appear the Toyota design team has now come full circle.
Toyota TS030, Paul Ricard 2013Paul Ricard Launch 2013.  Not much is different in the rear, about the only change I've noticed is that the rear wing endplate leading edge extension (1) has a completely different shape.  Any other differences are setup relevant (rear wing assembly angle and flap angle for example).
Toyota TS030, Le Mans 2012Le Mans 2012.
Toyota TS030 Hybrid LMP1, Paul Ricard 2013Toyota has been testing two different headlight clusters.  What's interesting is that they plug into the same fender shape.  On the smaller cluster (left) note the parting line (1).  This defines where the larger cluster plugs into (below).
Toyota TS030 Hybrid LMP1, Paul Ricard 2013
Toyota TS030 Hybrid LMP1, Paul Ricard 2013Paul Ricard Launch 2013.  The front wheel well exit (1) has been eliminated.  Note that the primary turning vane aft of the front wheel has been modified (2) with a shorter trailing edge and modified shape in side view.  And there is a now a new turning vane (3) that is just inboard and closely nested to the primary.  The small triangular extension to the trailing edge of the front pontoon fender (4) has made a reappearance.   I've also noticed what could be a new front diffuser strake poking out (5).

The modifications to the turning vanes are to further enhance the performance of the new front diffuser area.
Toyota TS030 Hybrid LMP1, Paul Ricard 2013Le Mans 2012:

Acura ARX-03C, Sebring testing February 20132.11.13

>>Muscle Milk put some miles on their new wide-front HPD ARX-03c LMP1 last week at the annual Sebring pre-season test.  I understand the HPD is using a new power steering unit developed by AIM as the previous electric-assist KYB unit simply wasn't generating enough power.  Recently Audi and Toyota have begun to use hydraulic power steering systems with the move to wide fronts (also recall that the wide-front-originator 2009 ARX-02a used a hydraulic unit as well).  And for 2013 the ARX-03c is on the same size fronts as Audi and Toyota (370 mm/710 mm/18").  But what's interesting about the AIM unit is that it is an electric power steering system that generates the power needed to handle the wide fronts.



>>Most will note the total disdain I have for DeltaWing.  Hopefully my opinion is well enough documented that it doesn't need repeating as, what's the saying, "if you haven't something nice to say it's best to not say anything at all."  That said, with this past week came a barrage of information about the DeltaWing.  It can be read about here.  Looking past DeltaWing, for me the takeaway was the Elan Power Products developed, Duratec/MZR-R based, billet-block, single-turbo, direct injected, 4-cylinder.  While the engine specifications are new information, news of a Elan Power developed engine has been the rumor mill since December.

PolimotorBut a particular detail caught my attention, the insinuation of a second engine being developed that utilizes an, "innovative block with a new material."  Marshall Pruett furthers in the article that his sources indicate the block will be made out of carbon fiber.  Now, at first this seems all a bit too dreamy, and frankly my first thought was, "Bullshit."  But a bit of digging and I've stumbled across, and more importantly had it confirmed, that none other than Matti Holtzberg, the guy behind Polimotor (more on that in a minute) is indeed developing a MZR-R based carbon fiber engine block in parallel to Elan's work on their aluminum billet engine.  The engine will use Holtzberg's casting technology with Elan's block design.  And the implications are simple: less weight.  What must be significantly less.

So who is Matti Hotlzberg?  Holtzberg was the guy who put a second mortage on his house to purchase a Lola T-616 and showed up at Watkins Glen in 1984 with a Ford Pinto based, 2.0L, 4-cylinder plastic engine stuck in back of it.  No, this wasn't some backyard science project; Holtzberg had persistently designed and developed a plastic engine that weighed only 160 lbs.  With the backing of 
Amoco Chemicals it was then decided to enter the IMSA Camel Lights series to showcase the material (Torlon) and engine, hence Watkins Glen.  In the end the idea was to simply show that the concept worked, not to win races (their best finish was 11th at Lime Rock in 1985).  And while the car suffered numerous unrelated reliability issues, only once did the engine let them down.

Now, why my excitement and interest in this and not DeltaWing?  Simple, this has real applications and the designed-by-Rube Goldberg DeltaWing does not.  DeltaWing is car design that picks and chooses which rules to follow and which not to, and shows us that free/open regulations allow, imagine that, efficient designs.  Scott Tucker's DSR shows the same thing too (and weighs 1000 lbs with roughly 300 hp), though it has four wheels.  But this, this is a material application.  And as long as there isn't some hidden cost (the concepts in Polimotor were simply too expensive to execute for mass production), there could be potential usage for mass produced road cars.  The engine is, after all, a pretty significant source of weight.  And the benefits to fuel MPG are pretty good if you can take weight out.  Ultimately you can only go so far in taking weight out of bodywork and non-structural panels (that's about the extent of CF usage in mass produced road cars). But if you can begin to attack the other sources of weight...  

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Audi R18, Yas Marina 20131.20.13

>> captured these shots of a version of the 2013 Audi R18 testing at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.  It should be no surprise at all seeing an Audi interpretation of the elevated Toyota "wheel arch", pardon me, I mean downforce producing add-on winglets.  I'm told these have been in development since the middle of last season.  This is an extruded section element (not a true wing with an "infinite" trailing edge) and from some angles appears to have a gurney on the trailing edge.

Detail tweaks pointed out in the images below.
Audi R18, Yas Marina 2013Not seen since the debut of the R18 in 2011 (and quickly superceeded), it would appear that the slotted front covering panel is back (1).
Audi R18, Yas Marina 2013Comparing with the image below, note that the inboard fender shape is square now (1).  This is one of the larger visual changes.  And from this angle the right hand blister (2) appears to be a lot larger, though Audi insiders say it is only "slightly" bigger than last year.  Note also that the outboard winglet add-on endplates are angled towards the centerline (3).  Toyota's behave similarly inasmuch as they are 'S' curved in plan view.
Audi R18, Shanghai 2012Shanghai 2012.
Detail changes around the front wheel well exit.  The most obvious is the new vertical return just aft of the front wheel (1).  But perhaps the more significant modification is the enlargement of the front wheel well exit (2).  Speculation here is that with the increase in rear downforce from the add-on winglets, the changes seen here at the front help to rebalance the front/rear aero.Audi R18, Yas Marina 2013
Shanghai 2012.Audi R18, Shanghai 2012


ęCopyright 2013, Michael J. Fuller