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November/December 2008
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Peugeot 908 Hybride>>Word comes to us from F1 sources indicating that Ferrari and Peugeot have entered into a relationship whereby Peugeot will be running the Ferrari F1 KERS system on a 908 development mule.  It seems rather evident that Ferrari has fallen behind the curve in the development of their KERS system, if their recent public proclamations that the KERS introduction should be put off are anything to go by.  Behind the scenes we understand Ferrari are in full panic mode and indeed they are preparing for the possibility that their KERS system won't be ready in time for Melbourne.  Meanwhile, with the F1 testing ban set to go into effect, it is our understanding that Ferrari and Peugeot have forged a relationship through none other than Ferrari's Jean Todt in order to further debug their KERS system in the back of a Peugeot 908, thus circumventing the test ban.  A relationship between Ferrari and Peugeot shouldn't be much of a surprise given that Todt was at one point head of Peugeot Sport.  As to what Peugeot gets out of the deal, perhaps a plug and play KERS system?  Naturally we don't know all the ins and outs of the Peugeot-Ferrari relationship, but it does seem rather logical.  And with F1s total in-season testing ban, it would be no surprise to hear of similar relationships developing amongst F1 teams and sports car manufacturers as a way to share costs and development burdens.

>>IMSA has release IMSA Competition Bulletin 2009-01 which states that the technical regulations as laid out in the ACO's 2009 chassis regulations will be implemented as published, but with the following exceptions:
  • LMP2 competitors can continue to use the 2008 rear wing regulations but with two stipulations;  a 20 mm gurney is mandatory and they must increase their weight to 850 kgs.
  • Running to 2008 "hybrid" rear wing regulations eliminates a competitor's eligibility for automatic selection for the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  • IMSA, for now, will not be implementing the 2009 pit stop regulations which had reduced tire changes to a one wheel gun affair.
  • While previously stating it would implement a point for the fastest qualifier in each category, IMSA has now rescinded this citing concerns about potential cost escalations this might cause.
So, pointing out the obvious, 2009 rear wing regulations will be in effect for LMP1 and those in LMP2 who wish to partake.

Acura LMP1
Acura LMP1
Acura LMP1
Acura LMP1

>>While nothing official has been released, Acura has apparently reaffirmed internally that the LMP program is still a go for 2009; the Honda F1 pullout will have no impact on the 2009 American Le Mans Series program.  Additionally, comments coming out of Acura indicate immense disappointment with Audi's withdrawal.  Everyone should recall Audi's comments at the 2006 American Le Mans Series award banquet, "Why is Audi unchallenged?  Ask Porsche – where are you with your glorious motor sports history?  Why are you not in the top category? Honda-Acura, why not in the premier formula?  Why LMP2?  Come and challenge us. If you beat us, we will honor you."  And just as that competition has emerged Audi goes the other way.  I have a very tough time believing "absolute" costs are behind Audi's decision not to race in the ALMS next year.  Yes I'm fully aware of the horrible economic climate, remember what industry I work in?  This uncertainty has been going on for much longer than most are aware, take my word for it.  But if we believe that Audi has indeed built a new LMP challenger (and I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't), then we believe that the large costs have already been spent and the operating costs to race for a season are a mere drop in the bucket in comparison.  So it seems a little odd to spend 85% and suddenly not be able to swallow spending the last 15%.  But ultimately I'll suggest that yes, costs are the issue, but not as we've been made to believe.  Audi certainly has plenty of money to race the R15 next year...but I'm betting that they're worried about the costs associated with staying competitive with Acura (and Peugeot).  Semantics?  Perhaps.    But there's evidence to believe that Acura has thrown the gauntlet down and Audi should be concerned.  A shame that Audi can't be goaded in to sticking around.  If you ask me, this will be the first time in their 10 year association with the ALMS that they would have had real and sustained competition.

>>Audi has announced today their commitment to building a new LMP1 for the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans.  "It was clear to us that we must develop a new car if we wanted to continue to be successful in Le Mans," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich.  For now all Audi will say is that the "R15" will be designed around a smaller, lighter, and more efficient TDI engine and that the chassis is open top.

>>So what would be the easiest way to ascertain what engine type the Acura will be using?  Engine note perhaps?  We're told that ear-witnesses noted a rather pleasant sound from the Acura P1...and it was decidedly normally aspirated.

Acura ARX-02a Sebring testing 2008>>While we haven't received permission yet to release the image we acquired yesterday, we have, in the mean time, received these from a different source.  I can't say these tell us much more given the distance from which they were shot.  We can confirm the blade type roll over hoops, scratch that nonsense about combined engine inlet/roll over hoop I was rambling on about yesterday.  
Acura ARX-02a Sebring testing 2008
Acura ARX-02a Sebring testing 2008What's interesting here is that we can clearly see the blue wall if you look to where the front fender ends.  So clearly the car has a F1-esque nose with the splitter hung from pylons.  The front fenders appear very "remote", somewhat Allard J2X-esque.  

>>The first image of the Acura ARX-02a LMP1 has arrived...though we're holding back for now without clearance to use.  But  from what we can see...and pardon us, we're using some artistic license given what we have to go with (grainy picture of a black car from one angle)...but the Acura LMP1 is clearly open top, mid-engined.  We can see the exhausts exiting out of the sidepod just ahead of the rear wheel.  It also would appear that the roll over hoop (blade type as on Audi R10 though much longer) and engine intake (on the passenger side) are as one and coupled with the exhaust leads one to believe the engine is normally aspirated but we're admittedly going out on a limb with that call (we've heard the engine is, "what HPD does best."  Yeah, not sure what that means either). *update*  There appears to be an intake of some kind mounted low and just ahead of the rear fender...brakes?  Turbo intake?  Not, to be safe, throw the engine prediction out the window for now.  The nose is clearly raised and particularly pointy, extending ahead of the front fenders as seen from the side.  The front fender ends in a pontoon shape that seems rather short and we can clearly see shadows cast from a valence panel as the side pod dives inboard at its leading edge.  The side pods start high (nearly to the top of the cockpit opening) but dives down quickly to extremely low heights as it gets close to the rear fenders.  The rear fenders have very blunt leading edges in that the bodywork is very close to the wheel at the leading edge, very much like the Courage C60.  The rear bodywork doesn't appear to go below the rear wheel centerline and the legality fenders are visually detached seemingly floating out at the rear of the car.   The rear wing is high mounted with flat endplates.  For now it would appear that the '09 rear wing isn't on the car and for testing/shakedown purposes this shouldn't be an issue.  This might be one element that Acura holds back and attempts to keep out of view for the time being (frankly Wirth Research has been rather busy putting the P1 together so don't be surprised if it takes a few more weeks for the 1.6 m wide '09 rear wing to catch up).

Could this be the Acura LMP2 for '09?  Perhaps, but we're told that's Gil De Ferran at the wheel (and helmet ID seems to agree with this)...why would De Ferran be testing the LMP2 when we know De Ferran Motorsports has taken delivery this week of the LMP1...?  

At this point we're 100% certain what we're seeing is indeed the LMP1 based on email exchanged with Mr. Wirth...i.e., no denials...and he's in fact, off to have a beer after a good day.

I'm also reflecting on Wirth's comment to me from Petit, "You'll be surprised."  Certianly what we're seeing now would be rather non-surprising (open top, mid-engine); it is frankly rather perhaps it's what we aren't seeing, yet, that's the "surprising" bit.  Let me wonder aloud about a car that could be converted one way or another, closed or open top depending on the aero advantage desired?  Now that would be rather surprising...

Further expanding on this,
think of the monocoque as an interchangeable part.  And figuring conventional method of manufacture of the monocoque, two parts, top and bottom halves glue bonded, it could effectively mean you could get away with a common bottom and then simply design open-top and closed-top top-halves.  So you end up with a bespoke closed top tub and bespoke open top tub that you bring out as needed. The difficult part of this solution would be the need to aero test both and all the effort that would go into that aspect.
 Now the question is, are the respective aero advantages enough to want the ability to have access to each advantage as the situation warrants?

*end wild goose chase*

Naturally I reserve the right to be horribly wrong about this.

>>2009 complete ACO LMP1/2 regulations are available.

>>We're hearing that IMSA has yet to make a decision regarding the ALMS's adaptation of the 2009 ACO regulations.  For our sake (LMP) that means the 1.6 m wide rear wing.  It is our understanding the primary sticking point is the weak economic conditions and the added costs that the teams would incur in order to adopt a 2009 aero kit.   The irony is that outfits such as Lola will incur development costs that they will struggle to recoup if the ALMS doesn't adopt the regulations immediately because the '09 kit will most certainly be required in the European Series and at Le Mans.  Sure, they wold recoup some costs, but the 4-5 kits they would sell in Europe would most certainly need to be augmented by the additional 2-3 sold in the U.S. in order for them to break even.  It is regulations like these that are tailor made for manufacturers.  The extra $100,000 to design, tunnel test, and manufacturer is chump change in their multi-million dollar efforts (economic conditions or not--the money has already been set aside).   Whereas the Lolas, Zyteks, Courages, et als of the world are much better off taking small sums like that and sinking it into year-to-year developments, not regulations compliance.

>>The new Acura ARX-02a is due on U.S. shores in a matter of days, and while we don't have any further details, an anecdotal comment crossed our desk describing the car as, " is like nothing else that's out there.  Very, very exciting."  This couples with what Nick Wirth said at Petit, "You will be surprised."  Amongst all the economic crisis bilge that we're hearing about, at least there's something to look forward to next year...
ęCopyright 2008, Michael J. Fuller