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The Art of Race Car Design, by Bob Riley12.22.15

>>The Art of Race Car Design, by Bob Riley with Jonathan Ingram

Bob Riley's nearly 70 year career as a race car designer encompasses just about every racing discipline; Le Mans prototypes, Indy cars, Trans-AM sportscars, NASCARs , and even land speed record cars, not to mention just about everything in between.  Well into his 80s,  Riley, having seen the recent success of the Viper GTS-R, has now moved onto the next project, the Riley Mk XXX LMP2 car design and build, and his mind is as active as ever.  

Somewhere during all this he found time to sit down and put his career into words.  The results is a collaboration between Riley and Jonathan Ingram, told through Riley's down-to-earth style, with driver and keynote personality interviews in between.  The 192 page book covers from Bob's teenage days growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, scrounging local junkyards and building and racing hot rod creations dubbed with names such as “The Contraption” and “Jezebel” to the Chrysler SRT Dodge Viper GTLM/GT3 program.

The sheer variety of the cars Bob Riley has designed is to behold; Ford GT-40 Mk II, AJ Foyt Coyote Indycars, Lynx Formula Vee and Super Vee, Ford Mustang GTP, Lincoln-Mercury Merkur XR4TI, Intrepid GTP, just to name a few.  To some degree it can be argued Riley's success is related to the exposure these different racing disciplines (very different in some cases) that are all connected by similar race car design needs.  And throughout the book you get a sense of the reoccurring themes; introspection of the past mistakes, but also the good ideas, and the utilization of those lessons learned into the next design.

This is evident in Riley's admission that following the demise of the Ford Mustang GTP program never again would he design another race car without a power steering system.  And the seeds of the separated spring and damper, the Riley Rocker, came to him while racing the Intrepid GTP through the streets of New Orleans.  The follow-on sportscar, the MkIII WSC, would have both; power steering and the Riley Rocker.

Today's race car designers are highly specialized, typically staying within their area of expertise.   However, Bob Riley is from a completely different era, an era that wasn't quite as homogeneous.  He started off from very humble hands-on beginnings, accumulated a vast amount of knowledge along the way, and had his share of success.  Though sadly Bob Riley is the last of a generation.

The Art of Race Car Design can be pre-ordered through Amazon.com.  It will be released in February of 2016.

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2016 debut Audi R1812.8.15

>>Audi is testing at Sebring as we speak and video has been leaking out.  The R18 appears pretty much the same as in the debut images, though now we have a picture of the rear end.  

There's a new small front wheel well exit duct (1).  Quite a lot of segmentation of the rear trailing edge exit flow.  Again the rear deck height is to the minimum legal in the middle, raising slightly outboard.  Best guess is that primary engine bay cooling exit is out of the inboard segment of the rear fender exit (2), as well as along the short trailing edge gap (3).   
2016 debut Audi R18The mandatory rear fender hole is inboard, as mentioned before, but very much optimized in shape (4).  Also of note are the  "low drag" Le Mans wheels with the very wide bead (5) and deep wheel offset (6).
Mulsanne's Corner Book Store
A selection of sports car related DVDs and books, with a technical slant.
2016 debut Audi R1812.1.15

>>Another year and another new Audi LMP1, let's have a look.  First, some technical details and program highlights:  Audi are moving to the 6MJ class, going lithium-ion battery (no more flywheel) and their engine package is staying the same as this year, 4.0L, turbo diesel V6.  Audi has also stated they will only be running 2 cars at Le Mans.  VAG stablemate Porsche issued a statement the same day reiterating same.  Honestly this can only be seen as making nice with the company accountants in lieu of the VW diesel scandal and the obvious costs that is going to incur.  Considering that issue, it's certainly good the program still survives.    

The new 2016 Audi R18 has the highest nose (1) seen in recent times.  Perhaps that's a design element that an ex-F1 aerodynamicist finds familiar?  With the raised nose there's clearly an intention to grab and direct more airflow internally.  But previous Audis have done similar, so it's a continuation of a theme.

We're also seeing more, and larger, aero devices (2), in addition to the standard front wing and flap (3).  The front fender (4) is a further evolution of the wide and vertical trend. The width and vertical shape direct air around, rather than over, reducing lift, and some drag considering the mandatory fender holes (BHH, Big Honking Holes) in the top.  And it also helps direct air inboard over the front aero devices. In side view, the R18's fender is decidedly undercut at the bottom and leans forward at the top, much more so than the Porsche 919's front fender.  There is a duct at  the bottom of the fender (5) that more than likely draws air towards the brake/upright.

There's a lot going on on the top of the fender too with strakes outboard (6) and inboard (7) containing and directing what little flow is coming over the top of the fender.  A curious element, that was seen on last year's R18, is that the trailing edge of the mandatory front fender hole is decidedly raised (8) above the height of the corresponding surface on the leading edge.  This very much appears to grab air being shed off the top of the tire, though for what aims remains to be determined.  And with more air being directed that way via strakes 6 & 7...

The side pod height (9) continues the trend set with the 2015 R18 and is as low as the regulations allow.  The front of the tub is much narrower (10) than previously and that signals the driver having been shifter rearwards, as that area is dimensionally driven by regulations mandating a minimum area/volume around the driver's feet.  Being narrowed so close to where the crash box mounts indicates the regulatory volume, and the driver's feet, have moved rearwards.  It's also interesting that the top of the cockpit is decidedly squarer, much more so than last year's car (below).  This appears to be aero driven.
2015 Audi R18 tub top2015
2016 Audi R18 tub top2016
2016 debut Audi R18Here is a better view of the undercut front fender leading edge (11).  Visually the car is very awkward looking, but then it's been 50 years since function over took aesthetics, at least in my opinion.  The placement of the windscreen (12) again hints at the driver having moved rearwards.  Furthermore, the perception of the windscreen angle, while appearing more visually upright, is strongly influenced by the much squarer top point of the forward roll over section of the cockpit.  All of this, I think, conspires to move air around the cockpit, rather than over.  

We can see the outboard strakes (13) are still being used.  The side view mirrors (14) are no longer in pods that projected out of the front fender trailing edge, at least one opposing team commented to me about them at Le Mans.  But then I think they were butt hurt in general about having to move their own mirrors a couple of times...Then there's those rear wing endplates (15).  I suppose I'm a little puzzled by them.  However, one aerodynamicist I contacted cynically suggested they was done for pure aesthetics, "But they look different, no?"
2016 debut Audi R18The rear BHH (16) are located on the inboard face of the rear fender.  In general themes the rear end of the Audi is certainly very similar to previous years considering general shapes, as well as specifics with the elongated rear fender leading edge (17), minimum height trailing edge (18), and opening (19) ahead of the rear cheese wedge.  But the most interesting thing at the rear has been intentionally covered/closed in order to conceal.  Interesting things in the rear fender trailing edge (20)?  That'll be a place of interest...

Overall this is the most awkward looking Audi LMP perhaps ever.  And while mostly evolutionary, has it gone too far for a car that Audi hopes to get the best of Porsche (and Toyota) in 2016?  One thing I would think is for certain, I'd expect the car that shows up at Paul Ricard to be a further evolution of what Audi has released here.  The Silverstone car a step even more.
Mulsanne's Corner Book Store
A selection of sports car related DVDs and books, with a technical slant.
Nissan GTR-LM, COTA test, September 201511.1.15

>>So the other shoe dropped and now Darren Cox has left Nissan. Depending on where that program was in your heart, he either left, or was fired. Contacting him directly he implies, "I walked. On my own terms. Couldn't do anymore than I had already. You know how it is in big companies."  I won't comment any further, though I think Daily Sports Car's Graham Goodwin sums up Darren Cox, and his impact on Nissan's various motorsports programs over 18 years, rather well.

A lot has occurred in the intervening months, Nissan has withdrawn from the WEC, there have been some personnel reshuffling and additions, and two high profile tests have taken place at COTA (July and September). The COTA tests were described as successful with gains being made in lap time, however the car is still running without the hybrid system.  No word on when the car will be up to full capacity though I do understand the work is well underway.  The keys for further lap time gains will be sorting out the KERs system and tire development, with Michelin developing bespoke rubber for the Nissan.  And while the KERs is certainly very important, don't underestimate the importance of what bespoke rubber compounds/tire construction could do.

But little has been said about who Nissan's new hybrid systems partner is.  It is assumed that Torotrak are out of the picture completely.  And in that vein, I'm hearing that perhaps none other than Renault Sport might be involved.  Naturally Renault  and Nissan are associated, so it actually makes quite a lot of sense if confirmed. The interesting part is that while Magneti Marelli provides Renault F1's hybrid system (the Motor Generator Unit and inverters though apparently not the battery), it seems as though Renault Sport themselves are taking on the consultation of the Nissan hybrid unit in-house.  Regardless of who is doing the work, from what I'm hearing it isn't a total system redesign.  I'm not sure it ever could have been given how integrated the system is to the chassis.  So I understand the updated system will contain new bits and perhaps updated existing components.

At the second COTA test the new development bits, dive planes and new front brake intakes, were more refined/finalized compared to what was seen on the car from the earlier test.  The other interesting detail was a new constant height splitter. It's been introduced in order to reduce a porpoising problem that has been occurring (see video and mention of the issue here), though it would seem to be caused partly by your standard LMP1 issues, very long front overhang, coupled with higher than typical front weight distribution and higher front aero loading.  Regardless, all the new items are said to have helped with lap time and gains are being made.

Off the record I'm told the program is safe through 2016 and discussions are currently on-going internally regarding car direction for 2017 and 2018 as the ACO trickles future regulation changes to the teams.  An interesting rumor of late making the rounds indicates that none other than Adrian Newey is supposedly joining the Nissan design group at some level.  However it is completely unsubstantiated and no matter who I inquired with it was denied as fantasy.
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