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March/April 2012
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All news content copyright Michael J. Fuller, unless otherwise noted
>>Sebring 2012 coverage<<
4.30.12

>>Differences in fenders, nose covering panel, pontoon fender trailing edge, wing, and endplates, Audi R18 e-tron quattro (left) vs. Audi R18 ultra (right)...

Audi R18 e-tron quattroAudi R18 ultra
Audi R18 e-tron quattroAudi R18 ultra
Audi R18 e-tron quattroAudi R18 ultra
Audi R18 e-tron quattroAudi R18 ultra
Audi R18 e-tron quattroAudi R18 ultra

4.22.12

>>Dome's Hiroshi Yucchi has indicated that Team Pescarolo will have access to a spare monocoque for their Dome S102.5.
>>While few details have been released on the Pescarolo 03, we have been told that the new car will, along with utilizing the AMR-One monocoque, also is using the Aston Martin's nose box crash structure, this being one less thing to design and validate.  Of course now we understand the Spa entry for the Pecarolo 03 is unlikely though there are expectations the car will be on display.

DeltaWing, Sebring 20124.18.12

>>So the DeltaWing stayed on after the 12 Hour and finally put in some testing miles.  Prior to that they only had about 100 miles worth of shakedown on the chassis.  But at the moment the DeltaWing group is on full lock down with nary a word about how the test went, how fast the car is, etc.  Yes, I've been told a thing here or there, and frankly, the times discussed certainly sound promising.  But without anything to put forth as verified it means we'll have to supplant fact with opinion for now.  And for those that know Mulsanne's Corner, rarely do I stray into this territory as too often you'll get caught up in all the PR hyperbole and start sounding like a real shill.  So as an exercise, I'll play devil's advocate, though working within the facts as available.

Let’s start with those first.  In brief, the problem that the DeltaWing is designed to address is, with ever diminishing fossil fuel resources, how can we continue to race at reasonable racing speeds if we substantially reduce engine power in recognition of those diminishing resources?  The DeltaWing runs a measly 1.6 liter, 4-cylinder, turbo outputting only 300 hp.

So in order to achieve competitive lap times with only 300 hp two things needed to occur.  First off, to have a comparable power to weight ratio the DeltaWing needs to weigh substantially less, about half as much, than a contemporary LMP1.  And with that in mind, DeltaWing comes in at 475 kgs.  Bowlby has achieved this extreme weight reduction at very low cost; DeltaWing weighs around F1 levels but for what must be a very modest budget.  All of this via chassis architecture, not through uses of “unobtanium.”

And it has a very unusual chassis architecture to say the least.  Think of the DeltaWing as a 3 wheeler, getting rid of the 4th wheel immediately removes weight out of the budget (one less upright, suspension, etc.).  Yes, DW does have 4 tires, but the fronts are a mere 4” wide each given the vastly reduced front tire loading.  Thus the two tiny fronts weigh about as much as a single conventional tire. This also means the uprights are much smaller, brakes, suspension, everything is reduced in size at the front given the reduced loadings as the DeltaWing's  chassis layout places 70% of the car's weight distribution on the rear wheel center line.  

DeltaWing's narrow front track (about 24” wide) also plays into the weight reduction.  Without the need to space 4 wheels out in conventional locations, suspension lengths are reduced, but more importantly, the structural requirements are lessened as there is minimal lateral weight transfer at the front (it all occurs in the rear) and no need for massive torsional rigidity.  The need to take large torsional loads into account means more structure.  And if you can do the opposite of that, less structure equals less weight.

The second part of making DeltaWing work is a huge reduction in aerodynamic drag.  This is achieved through a reduction in frontal area, but also through the elimination of any wings.  The narrow front track plays a part as well by allowing a particularly efficient underbody intake, assuming good management of the front wheel wakes, as all of the car's downforce is generated from the underfloor design.  The end results being roughly 500 lbs of drag for 2500 lbs of downforce at 200 mph.        

DeltaWing, Sebring 2012All in all it is very clever engineering.  But, if you believe everything you read about the DeltaWing: it slices, dices, it is the solution to world hunger, in addition to gobbling up pollution as it goes around the track.  The DeltaWing is a new design methodology for the car, so sure, calling it innovative can be construed as a true statement. But we have to be careful about skinning the cat using an alternative method and then calling it an eagle.

And the reason I say that is that for all its Rubegoldbergian solution, DeltaWing's ultimate conclusion is simply better gas mileage.  And then the question has to be asked, if a current LMP1 gets 5 mpg, so what if DeltaWing gets 10 mpg?  The current CAFE standard is 27.3 mpg.  This goes to 54.5 mpg in 2025.  How is 10 mpg “relevant” to 27.3, much less 54.5 mpg?  It isn't.    

Now there is some argument to be made that the quickest way to achieve the higher CAFE standards will be lighter cars (not necessarily hybrids),  the American sedan has certainly become unnecessarily bloated and gas mileage has subsequently tanked.  The DW does execute a clever solution to achieve a lighter weight.  But can anyone really see a 5 passenger sedan using the same layout as DeltaWing?

But let's face it, light weight composites have been around for approaching 50 years.  And while they've been embraced and developed by the aerospace and motorsports industries, the road car industry has been loath to implement them on a mass scale.  The accounts have cried, “Too expensive!”

That's why we really need to be careful about talking about technology transfer.  As one motorsports engineer put it to me, “The Delta wing has no new or unique technology that is transferable to production cars.  So it is a dead end in car design.”  The reality is that a majority of the design and manufacturing work that goes into creating a LMP car is done by private outfits with no ties whatsoever to manufacturers other than the contract to design and build the LMP car (think Dallara, Wirth Research, Lola, OAK Racing, etc.).  Sure, there are a few exceptions, but frankly the transfer is often one way and the opposite of what you think!  Regardless, remember, it's win on Sunday sell on Monday.  No engineer ever said those words.  However, down the hall in sales and marketing...

Yes, the conversation has shifted; I have no doubts that DeltaWing works.  But we now have to think hard; what do we do with it?  Looking past the ugly desire to immediately monetize the concept without thinking about the implications, DeltaWing's greatest impact might simply be the stimulation of thinking about the future of the car, sportscar racing, and motorsports in general.  But perhaps the starting point is, does motorsport have to really have to be relevant?
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Toyota TS030, testing at Paul Ricard, April 20124.12.12

>>Toyota announced today they were scratching their Spa entry because of crash damage suffered in testing at Paul Ricard stating, "Regrettably this damage is too severe to repair.  A replacement monocoque cannot be produced and sufficiently tested to ensure reliability within the limited time available."  This comes as a bit of a surprise, especially the admission that the program has been sustained to date on a singular monocoque.  

It would seem to make little sense not manufacturing a spare monocoque considering the bulk of the R&D and tooling costs assigned to the monocoque had already been expended as the costs associated in material and labor hours for laying up the monocoque is, while hardly inconsequential, certainly much less than the R&D and tooling costs.  Yes, budgetary constraints are budgetary constraints.  But why risk valuable testing mileage by not either circulating a second car (whether or not you want to enter two) or having a testing accident that brings the program to a halt.

Now there have been some suggestions that Toyota might be using the crash as cover to redesign the monocoque prior to Le Mans in order to either incorporate performance upgrades or perhaps that they uncovered a problem as a result of the crash.  While we can't address the latter (we doubt it considering the rigors the monocoques are designed to withstand and the subsequent put-up-or-shut-up crash test), we'd like to rubbish the former.  While we understand a decision has been made and Toyota will be going with the rear hybrid unit (eliminating the need for the forward pickups and what-not designed into the front of the test car's monocoque), the reality is that the program needs testing and racing miles.  To arrive at Le Mans with an un-raced car because you were grasping at a minor performance upgrade (in the grand scheme) would effectively be a disaster or a very public admission they don't know what the hell they're doing.  

But ultimately we have to take Toyota's admission as the truth in this case as they've been too persistent about their situation .  Yes, we acknowledge that Toyota did ratchet up their program in response to the ACO's last minute request they fill the WEC hole left by Peugeot's sudden withdrawal.  But for a full works effort to get hamstrung by what is ultimately a problem that was totally within their powers to have planned for...it's very hard to fathom.  

Toyota TS0304.7.12

>>We've finally sat down and worked out the numbers for the Toyota TS030.  It would appear to be on an ~3000 mm wheelbase with a 900 mm front overhang and ~750 mm rear overhang.
Audi R18>>We never did calculate satisfactory numbers for the R18, the photos we had just didn't produce reliable numbers.  Last year our best guess had the R18 on a 3000 + mm (3016 mm approximately) WB with ~940 mm front overhang and 720ish mm rear overhang.  With the release of the Sebring liveries we took the time to drag the images into DraftSight and have a look at what those numbers told us.  And we have reason to believe these numbers are much more accurate.  Thus the Audi R18 would appear to have a 2950 mm WB, 950 mm front overhang, and a 750 mm rear overhang (for the maximum legal 4650 mm overall length).   Note the 1261 mm dimension to approximate driver head location.  While subjectively placed, the R18 would appear to have a fore/aft driver position as measured from the front wheel CL little different than the TS030 (given the subjective placement the 13 mm difference can easily be explained away as the margin of error).

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2012 Dome S102.53.31.12

>>A follow up to Pescarolo Racing's Dome S102.5 test at the beginning of the month with Dome's Hiroshi Yuchi confirms a lot we already knew.  Effectively the car ran as a "S102.25" as the only change was the installation of the Judd 3.4 liter V8 and the addition of the 2012 mandated Big Honking Fin.  Thus the car was on "little" front tires.  But valuable information was gathered regardless, "We collected some aero data as it is also the straight line test.  In addition, Pescarolo uses this airport for their car.  So we also got some comparison data. This is quite important for us, to get a comparison to the Pescarolo, as we have not competed at Le Mans in three years."  For next month's test Pescarolo will have the new front bodywork.  Will we see any new developments on the car other than rules compliance and related updates?   "Of course," says Yuchi, "We are working very hard on the development.  However, don't forget that this car has been sleeping in the reception area of our factory for the last three years, though we are working on the development continuously."  Pescarolo will test at the Circuito de Navarra April 3-4 and Ciudad del Motor de Aragˇn on April 10.

Dome S102.53.27.12

>>Just pulled down off of Dome Chief Mr. Minoru Hayashi's Twitter feed, a shot of the front end of the S102.5 coming together and one that shows their Big Honking fender Holes.
3.23.12

>>While Audi has been loath to release any times from their Post-Sebring test, we've been sent a note that indicates the Audi R18 etron is fast, with one credible witness clocking the car fully 2 seconds quicker than the 2012 Sebring pole time and into the low 1:43s (1:43.2 to be precise).  Look out Toyota...

Audi R18, Sebring testing 20123.21.12

>>Quattro World was on site for Audi's traditional post-Sebring test and were good enough to send these images along for our perusal.  With four R18s circulating Audi ran through numerous bodywork specifications, giving us a good look at the 2012 bits.

We noted a revised engine intake (1), relocated rear brake intake (2), a new leading edge trim on the rear wing endplate (3), revised nose panel (4), front big honking hole (5), and rear big honking hole (6).

Check out Quattro World's post-Sebring 12 Hour test coverage.
Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012>>Here we can see the leading edge trim on the rear wing endplate (1).  What's more interesting is that the trailing edge of Audi's rear big honking hole solution is raised (2).  When you view the car from head on it becomes apparent why.  In effect the raised trailing edge allows air to be scooped up and expelled directly into the car's base area, reducing drag.  We can also imagine that the outboard fender gurney (3) further helps enhances that interaction, drawing more air through the rear of the big honking hole and out the rear of the car and generating a bit of downforce at the same time.

The lower quarter panel is recessed slightly too (4).  And there's a new exit duct in the engine cover (5).  
Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012>>Looking from the front the view through the rear big honking hole is very evident.  Audi has also adopted a serrated gurney on the outboard portion of the rear wing (1).  The theory states that a serrated gurney functions as one twice the height without the additional drag.
>>The "standard" nose panel as on the Audi R18 etron at roll out.Audi R18
>>Revised nose panel.Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012
Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012>>The bodywork ahead of Audi's front big honking hole is lowered, as on the OAK.
Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012>>The front pontoon fender trailing edge extension is smaller.
Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012>>Note the inboard strake (1) that flanks the big honking hole.
>>The engine inlet has been simplified.Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012
>>The inlet area has also increased.Audi R18, Sebring testing 2012
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Nissan powered Delta Wing3.13.12

>>So Nissan had their big shindig in London today to announce...yeah, you guessed it.  About all that was mentioned regarding the engine was that it's a 1.6 liter, 4-cylinder, turbo, with direct fuel injection, and it produces 300 hp on the nose and 230 lb-ft of torque.
Nissan powered Delta WingThe debut did give us a better look at the more definitive version of the DeltaWing and there are some differences over the show car. In general the shape is more purposeful and "chiseled" looking.  Note that rear wheels aren't completely covered.  

Ultimately DeltaWing doesn't want to embarrass any of the establishment and they worked in conjunction with the ACO to establish a practical lap time to demonstrate the concept.  Therefore the car's lap time is pegged between a LMP1 and LMP2 at Le Mans, and designer Ben Bowlby has limited the DeltaWing to a top speed of only 300 km/h in order to further comply with that parameter.  
Nissan powered Delta WingThe rear fin is longer and has a vertical trailing edge compared to the show car's angled trailing edge.  The underfloor leading edge treatment is designed to shed a large vortice into the underbody, the DeltaWing guys call it, "Twin vortex underbody downforce system – BLAT (Boundary Layer Adhesion Technology)," a piss-take on the term "ground-effects" (see the link).  Whatever it's called, this vortex generator is how the concept develops all of its approximately 2500 lbs. of downforce.  The radiator intakes have grown in size and it would appear that the exit for the radiators is out the central exhaust opening at the very rear of the car.

Speed TV has some really good detailed shots of the chassis.

Videos here, here, and here.

Delta Wing3.8.12*updated

>>So few weeks ago Murphy the Bear Tweeted that he had heard that the DeltaWing project would use a Nissan engine for testing purposes until the engine partner was decided upon.  This tidbit quickly morphed to the Nissan LMP2 V8 being that "interim" engine.  The DeltaWing project has always advocated a small capacity (1.6L), inline 4-cylinder, turbo being the engine of choice.  So to use a V8 in the place where you wanted a I4 to eventually go didn't pass the sniff test.  And even though Murphy wasn't responsible for the V8 part, he was correct about engine partners.  Today Nissan sent this not too particularly subtle press conference invite out (sadly, ours has apparently been lost in the mail):  "Until Tuesday, we cannot reveal any details except that this is a truly ground-breaking, innovative motorsport project that is different to anything that has ever raced before, and has the potential to revolutionise both motorsport and future road car products."

 Now, who do YOU think the engine partner is going to be?

Further more, we understand the Nissan engine will a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Cruze World Touring Car Championship engine.  This is a 4-cylinder, turbo motor, with a capacity between 1.6 and 2.0 liters, and is described as "very clever."  The engine's designer, Arnaud Martin, won Race Tech's Engine Designer of the Year award based on the success of the Chevy Cruze WTCC engine.  We're told that Chevy's naming rights only extended to the WTCC application.  The engines will be built by RML and there are suggestions that RML will also provide crew for Le Mans but this has not been verified.
2012 Lola B12/60 LMP13.7.12

>>Lola has introduced their updated for 2012 B12/60 LMP1.  Now with 100% more menace.  The 2012 car effectively amounts to a total redesign of the bodywork, taking into account regulation obligations (big honking fender holes, increased height big honking fin) and year to year performance improvements.  The front end aero treatment has been redesigned and from the font bodywork split line forward all is new.  The front fender leading edge also takes a much more aggressive stance pushing air around, as opposed to over, and specifically across the outboard diveplane scallops.   
2012 Lola B12/60 LMP1Two very aggressively cambered diveplanes reside outboard and act as airflow conditioners (1).  Lola has now adopted the de rigueur outboard splitter "feet" (2).  The front fender is very broad (3) and now accommodates wide fronts.  How wide?  We're told that Lola has adopted same sized tires front and rear,  size 360/710 R-18.  Also note the very large googly-eye headlights and headlight bucket.
2012 Lola B12/60 LMP1Back to the front diveplanes.  In recent years, starting (again) with the ARX-01 series LMP2s, very large but intricately shaped diveplanes become fashionable.  This leads one to suspect the diveplanes are being used to deliberate interact with the airflow downstream.  Naturally it goes without saying that diveplanes do effect airflow downstream, regardless of intent.  And obviously the wide front tire trend is requiring more front downforce in order to maximize the advantage of the increased tire surface area.  But the trailing edge shape of the Lola's diveplanes are designed with downstream flow in mind as well.  Note the downstream proximity of the outboard pontoon fender sculpting to the presumable track of the lower diveplane's shed vorticie.
2012 Lola B12/60 LMP1Looking at the rear we can see that the lower side pod is pinched inwards along the flank.  Lola has also adopted a swan neck rear wing mount that is integrated into the trailing edge of the big honking fin.
2012 Dome S102.5>>Dome's S102.5 took to the track today at the Chateauroux Aerodrome.  We can observe that the car is not in full 2012 aero kit (note the missing big honking holes) and for now the wide fronts haven't been fitted (or accompanying wide front fenders). 
2012 Dome S102.5Ambient temperatures were very low, note the blanked off front and rear brake ducts (black tape), though the only comment to come out of the shakedown (in spite of the obviously cold temperatures) was, "...it is a fast car!"  Video here.

2011 Audi R183.5.12

>>Missed amongst all the PR because of poor terminology usage by the Audi reps, it comes to light that the 2012 Audi R18 e-tron quattro will be using an all carbon fiber gearcase this season,  a first for a LMP.  Now in fairness we do note that the Audi PR material did say the new R18 e-tron had a carbon fiber gearbox housing.  But Audi PR should have known better to use that terminology given today's very astute and technically minded race fan and last year's carbon fiber housing that the 2011 R18's thin-walled metallic gearbox nested into (image).  Thus is appeared Audi was mentioning the carbon fiber gearbox housing for the first time as references to it were missing from last year's PR material.  But we're told by none other than Audi's Wolfgang Appel that the 2012 car's gearbox casing is all carbon fiber and that the suspension attaches to it conventionally, that is, no additional housing to carry the suspension loading.  This is a brand new gearbox design.

Now why is this significant?  A carbon gearbox case helps optimize weight distribution by replacing traditional metallic structures with lighter carbon fiber, more on that in a moment.  But a composite 'box comes with technical hurdles, namely finding a resin system that can handle the prolonged exposure to high temperatures.  We'll emphasize prolonged.  Yes, F1 boxes have used this technology for years.  And while in the very early days the carbon gearboxes weren't particularly reliable, within the last 5 years or more the resins systems had matured to the point of being able to offer high temperature resistance and toughness over long periods of time.

So why hasn't anyone embraced the carbon fiber gearbox in LMP until now?  It has to do with two reasons primarily: cost and there simply wasn't a reason to.  Until now that is.  The advent of the wide front tire era got the designers thinking a lot more about weight distribution and how to make that number work for them .  Whatever can be done to put more weight forward, to help make use of those wide fronts, is being considered.  The Acura ARX-02a started the wide fronts concept and it made use of a thin-walled aluminum gearcase coupled with additional weight savings all over and to that end the Acura designers stuck a huge 220 lb. slab of carbon steel underneath the front of the car, right where they wanted it.

This does beg the question why Audi would design one super expensive gearbox for one year of use and then design yet another even more expensive gearbox only a year later...Recall that Audi's design of last year's R18 gearbox and housing allowed the gearbox itself to be changed circumventing the ACO's regulations regarding gearbox repair.  This would have been possible given a unique interpretation of the ACO's own definition of what the gearbox was (paraphrased simply as the casing that carries the loading between the chassis and suspension).  
And with the suspension loadings going into the surrounding carbon fiber structure it was argued that the gearbox ceased being the gearbox and thus could be swapped out in the event of a failure during the race.  Might the ACO have taken an exception to the rapid change 'box concept?  But then Article 1.12 of the regulations still reads as 2011...

Whatever the reason for the new gearbox, the R18 e-tron quattro is a rather large step forward when by appearances few changes have occurred. 

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Delta Wing3.4.12

>>A video has emerged on youtube of the Delta Wing taking its first laps at Buttonwillow in California.  In the 17 second video the DW takes a very slow speed installation meander and little can actually be ascertained other than the fact that it actually can turn.

In the mean time, it has been rumored that the testing program would utilize a Nissan V8 LMP2 engine in lieu of securing the desired "1.6L, I-4, turbo".  We're told that these rumors are false and that a "I-4 turbo" is currently in the car but that it is "interim."  With the stated desire to install a I-4, it never really passed the sniff test that a normally aspirated V8 would be used as a surrogate considering the vastly different engine architectures (width, height, length, weight, cooling requirements) and extra engineering time that would be required.  

Purely speculation, though one does wonder if a former AAR Toyota IMSA GTP engine
(2.0L, I-4, turbo) played substitute as certainly Dan Gurney has a couple of those still kicking around...;o)
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ęCopyright 2012, Michael J. Fuller