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September/October 2008
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10.30.08

Happy Halloween.  Hope we don't scare you with these photos...Peugeot and others were testing at Estoril today and some were running in 2009 rear wing configuration.  Beastly....Images courtesy Nuno Pereira and Estoril Race Photos.
Michelin tire testing @ Estoril, October 30, 2008The Oreca-Courage looks more the part for no other reason than opinion.  Though for now no one has optimized the rear wing package.
You'd like to think there was a better way to integrate the rear wing endplates back to the bodywork, perhaps even angling them down to their former positions allowing them some ability to generate downforce in their own right given a closer to horizontal stance.
10.25.08

>>
A follow up to the Petit Porsche fuel row.  Much to our surprise, the week going in to Laguna Seca IMSA rescinded Competitor Memo 08-04 with the issuance of 08-05 that said simply, "For the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, entrants WILL NOT be permitted to use additional detergent as was done at Petit Le Mans. All entrants must use the IMSA E10 as supplied."  08-04 came about when Porsche approached IMSA and indicated that they were having reliability issues with their Direct Injection engine over endurance length runs.  Thus 08-04 was issued to help Porsche.  But ultimately it seems the intention was really to only issue the variance for Petit as IMSA was aware that Porsche had successfully run the DI engine for at least a 4 hour (Laguna) distance.  But as the wording, "For Petit only" 
was missing, the assumption by all was that 08-04 was issued for the remainder of the season but this was apparently not the intention.  Hence 08-04 was rescinded by 08-05 with the behind-closed-doors caveat that Porsche were effectively given a pass for Petit but now it was time for them to go back and get their act together.  Hopefully that is the final word on the topic.
Acura ARX-01B, Petit Le Mans 200810.17.08

>>Just a follow up to the Penske RS Spyder low drag wheel story from Petit.  We hear from a source in Europe that the wheels Porsche issued to teams and were presented to the ACO at Le Mans had rings that were glue bonded onto the wheel.  So that would seem to confirm what we heard about the Le Mans wheel presentation, that the main issue the ACO had with the wheels was the method of attachment of the flange.  But the source also indicates that the flanges were made out of carbon and that the front and rear flange widths were different.

>>So Highcroft has dropped their Porsche fuel protest.  We had heard that it was going to "hopefully go away" and sure enough.  Contrary to the conspiracy theories, IMSA Competition Memo 08-04 was available at the track had anyone bothered to inquire with IMSA about it.  Here's a scanned pdf of the copy we acquired.  Though IMSA now has it officially available on line (only just now saw that as it hadn't been up previously).  And to further confuse the issue....huh bwhhaaaatt?
10.8.08

Petit Le Mans news:

Nick Wirth has had better days...Petit Le Mans 2008>>I spoke to Nick Wirth Friday as the Highcroft car went through their first tech inspection following their Thursday morning crash and subsequent all nighter.  Wirth is really coming off a successful year and given the Acura LMP project has only been around for two years now, the program clearly has been successful given the race wins and all important increased visibility.  Says Wirth, "It's been rather satisfying seeing from where this program has come, very satisfying figuring this car (the LMP2) doesn't have all the gizmos, the torsion bar suspension, etc..."  Which quickly leads to a segue to the LMP1.  So will the Acura ARX-02a LMP1 have all the gizmos, will it have torsion bars, open or closed top....?  Wirth only smiled and added the cryptic, "You will be surprised."  

Wirth indicated that the ACO did inform them that they were considering a rear wing change for 2009 and thus they didn't invest the time to optimize the LMP1's rear wing knowing they would have to revisit it once the ACO released the details.  "It's a big change," says Wirth, "especially for us as we're so close."  So it's back to the wind tunnel to develop a new 1.6M wide rear wing and subsequently modify the front end accordingly.    

Wirth indicated that the first Acura ARX-02a will be shipped to the US in early/mid November and testing just before Thanksgiving.

>>The crash that damaged the Highcroft Acura ARX-01b was severe enough to warrant replacing the monocoque.  Damage centered around the front left corner but propagated to the internal bulkhead that reinforces the front suspension pickup, thus a track repair was impossible.  Fortune shown upon Highcroft in this instance (not so much the rest of the weekend) as this was the first race event that the team had a spare monocoque available.  Chassis 07 was replaced by 011.  Monocoque 011 had been used as a body fit jig and only recently retired and cleaned up in anticipation of becoming the race spare.  But as a spare, it was just that; a like for like replacement and therefore it lacked all the bits and bobs that one tends to find on a spare sub-assembled monocoque and thus the Highcroft team had a rather long night.

>>Autocon's Lola also suffered significant monocoque damage in Thursday practice.  The monocoque was punctured and both the outer and inner carbon skins were pierced.  Elan Motorsports Technology (my employer) stepped in and offered their repair facility.  With Lola acting in an oversight role scheming up a repair instruction and laminate schedule, EMT was able to do what usually takes 3 days in about half the amount of time, delivering the car back to the track around 9pm Friday night.

Audi R10 Spa wing, Petit Le Mans 2008>>This was my first look at the Audi R10 "Spa wings".  There were a lot of questions as to how they were initially deemed legal and while I still don't have an answer there.  But it is my understanding that Audi's assertion was that the "wings" simply were covers to mask the cutouts situated below them.  So cause and effect; cutouts and then the need for the wings, errrr covers.  So then the question was, why were the "covers" adjustable?  Oh, and why did they have camber?  At very least the ACO mandated that the covers be fixed and not adjustable.

10.5.08

>>A fantastic Petit Le Mans for sure and we're just beginning to decompress.  Have many notes, but I wanted to address one in particular.  

Prior to race start, Highcroft Racing (car #9) lodged a protest with IMSA regarding the fuel used on all the Porsche RS Spyder teams (cars 5, 6, 7, 16, and 20).  The pit notes read:

"The entrant of Car No. 9 filed a protest against car Nos. 5, 6, 7, 16 and 20.  The protest was filed in a timely manner prior to the start of the race.  The entrant is protesting the above cars using what he believes to be illegal fuel (sic).  Fuel samples have been drawn from the cars in question and will be sent to a testing lab for analysis.  According to the Stewards, the race results will remain provisional until the fuel analysis is completed."

Upon further investigation, on Thursday of this week IMSA released a Competition Memo # ALMS 08-04 that allows competitors to use additional detergent (Techron) in the spec fuel provided by the Series.  
 Understand up front that the detergent Techron is a current additive to the spec IMSA E10 fuel.   Porsche approached IMSA about a variance to the fuel regulation as they struggled with a technical detail on their direct injection RS Spyder engine.  Apparently the spec E10 fuel was causing detrimental levels of deposits to build up in the direct injectors leading to reliability concerns.  IMSA issued the variance to allow Porsche (and any ALMS team) to run higher levels of Techron in the IMSA E10 fuel.  This variance has been in discussion for at least 2-3 weeks ahead of the event.  The additional Techron additive was administered to the fuel by IMSA this weekend.  It is our understanding that Acura has been consulted throughout the variance consideration.

Now what would be gained from Highcroft effectively protesting the variance everyone knew about?  Not sure for the moment and given their championship aspirations have now gone by the way side there is the strong possibility that this will simply go away.  We hope...

But one can't help but to be drawn to the parallels this issue shares with a situation IMSA found itself in in 1992.  Here is an excerpt from my book,
 Inside IMSA's Legendary GTP Race Cars, that details the 1992 issue.  Let's hope the current outcome is vastly different and doesn't end in controversy.
Acura ARX-01B, Petit Le Mans 200810.3.08

>>A few more details have emerged regarding the RS Spyder "low drag" wheels (we say "low drag" as that's certainly the conventional wisdom though wouldn't be surprised to hear of slightly increased downforce too).  It is our understanding that these are similar, if not identical, to the wheels Porsche presented to the ACO at Le Mans and that were subsequently rejected.  The big question then became, so what makes them legal this weekend?  Sources indicate the bone of contention may have simply been the method of attachment for the flange, thus leading one to believe that the ACO were presented with nut and bolt attached wheel flanges making the wheels two-piece.  But interestingly the regulations only recommend one-piece wheels.  Ultimately it appears that the flange is welded on thus circumventing any ACO ire (see more images here, here, and here).  

But we still have to wonder if what we're seeing here is really what the ACO rejected at Le Mans.  Did Porsche present something more aggressive/interesting?  On the face of it, flange attachment seems too easy a reason for Porsche to get something rejected.  Porsche has been around the block and certainly aren't spring chickens.  Without photo documentation from Le Mans we may never know.

In the end, according to sources close to Penske, don't expect to see the wheels used in the race tomorrow as we understand that they negatively affect brake cooling and are only useful (for now) across short stints such as in qualifying.  Penske is taking the conservative approach and not wanting to add another unknown element to the race.
Acura ARX-01B, Petit Le Mans 200810.2.08

>>More images from today here (low-drag Porsche RS Spyder wheel covers to right).
10.1.08

Acura ARX-01B, Petit Le Mans 2008>>Just a few more images from the Saturday test session.  While we haven't a page (yet) for the ARX-01B, we certainly have been collecting details.  The engine cover  trailing edge extensions are different this week as compared to the original items used at Sebring (below).  Naturally we don't get to every race, so it remains to be seen where these items were first raced (we've now been told Road America).  But given the obvious differences, you could make the argument that the extension to the left is lower drag.  
Acura ARX-01B, Sebring 2008The "high" downforce engine cover trailing edge extension that Acura ran at Sebring at the beginning of the year.
Acura ARX-01B, Sebring 2008Peugeot worked on dialing the car in during the Saturday mornings session.   Here the crew members are making a pushrod change (swapping one for another of slightly different length) as a means of altering ride height.  
Acura ARX-01B, Sebring 2008
Acura ARX-01B, Sebring 2008The 908's louver panel is for maximum downforce.  Note the tire temperature monitor.  This is Peugeot's first time at Road Atlanta.
Acura ARX-01B, Sebring 2008Tire marks exiting the Acura's pit stall clearly point to a  launch control system in use.  It's not so much the tire marks as the rapid manner in which they are made.  And it is rather impressive how quickly the car launchs once it is on the ground, especially when comparing to teams that do not have the system or didn't have it engaged.  While hard to discern as it happens so quickly, the launch control system appears to fire the engine while the car is still in the air and disengages the clutch the instant the car is on the ground.  The trick would appear to be knowing when the car was on the ground, as it would be illegal for the wheels to be spinning while the car is in the air.
9.27.08

Mazda Lola B08/86, Testing at Road Atlanta 9.27.08>>Here's a first shot of the BK-Motorsports' Lola B08/86.  A full run down later (including tech images).  A few more can be seen here.  
9.26.08  

Lola B08/86 Mazda Coupe>>First image of the new Mazda powered Lola B08/86 coupe.
9.14.08

>>
The ACO has graced us with a general overview of future regulations, chassis and engines, for 2009 and beyond.  The highlights:

In general, the ACO is indicating a desire to reduce speeds and reduce costs while embracing alternative fuels and green technologies.

2009:

>>
The most significant change is an acknowledgment that the diesel to gas powered car performance gap was untenable.  The ACO is promising a 10% reduction in inlet area coupled with a 6.5% reduction in boost for both LMP1 and LMP2 (of which we've yet to see) diesels.  The result being that 5.5 liter LMP1 turbo diesels will now have to run a 37.9 mm restrictor (from 39.9 mm) and will not be allowed more than 2750 mbar of boost (from 2940).  So inlet area goes from (per restrictor, the above diameter is if running twin turbos) 1250.36 mm^2 to 1128.15 mm^2, which actually equates to a 9.8% reduction in inlet area.
>>As we mentioned last month, LMP1 eligible GT1 engines (production engines) are getting pared back a bit and as a result will have a 3% inlet restrictor reduction.
>>LMP2's inlet restrictors will be decreased in area by 10% across the board.  This will further stamp the ACO's desire for class disparity on the LMP2s.
>>The only chassis change mentioned is a reduction of the maximum rear wing width (to 1600 mm, from 2000 mm) and chord (250 mm, from 300 mm) and it must be run in conjunction with a 20 mm gurney (from 15 mm).  This has caught some (dare I say most) by surprise.  According to Nick Wirth, Chief of Design for the Acura LMP1 effort, "The ACO told us and all manufacturers some months ago that they were considering a rear wing change and engine restrictor changes - nothing else. So we didn't put a huge effort into a new rear, but I was surprised by the width reduction."  Presumably this means back to the wind tunnel in order to optimize the rear wing due to the late implementation of the new rear wing regs and the ACO's lack of communication with the outfits embroiled in 2009 developments.  One also wonders what the implications are for closed top cars.  Will the narrow winged coupes suffer more that the open top competitors?
>>Cars running air conditioning get a .3 mm inlet restrictor increase.  No explanation has been given for this.
>>The ACO will further limit the number of crew members over the wall reducing the tire changing crew from 4 to 2 and only allow one air gun.  Tire warmers are banned.
>>Engines must now last a minimum of 2 race meetings though they say nothing about how the endurance events will factor into this.
>>Noise maximums have been reduced from 113 db to 110 db.
>>All fuels used must be second generation bio fuels.
>>For 2009, gas/diesel-electric hybrids will be allowed to compete though they will not be classified and cannot score points towards the championship.  The ACO took a beating when they implemented the diesel regulations, having gotten them so wrong.  Learning from that lesson they are taking a welcomed safer approach and will observe the performance of they hybrid vehicles before implementing performance equating measures.


2010 and beyond:

>>The ACO has stated that the "new rules" regulations aren't dead, just postponed until 2011.  Though at the same time they indicate, "No fundamental chassis modifications will be brought in," under the Evolution of the Regulation From 2011 heading in the PR document released.  In fact they will only indicate "slight changes" in the chassis regulations.  So there is no further understanding of what the new rules will bring.  Frankly one can only presume that the chassis regulations will stay the same from 2011 and beyond.  But then it would appear that New Rules would entail mechanical changes only.  For now it seems wise to not read too far into what the ACO is saying.
>>The ACO has indicated a desire to revert LMP2 to production based engines as part of their push towards cost reduction.
>>For 2011 expect a rather dramatic reduction in engine capacities and power outputs in LMP1.  According to the ACO, "...the regulations foresee the use of the present generation LMP2 engines in LM P1."  So that certainly seems to mean purpose built LMP1 engines will still be allowed, if at smaller capacities (LMP2 capacities).  This gives the ACO performance wiggle room as they get a handle on hybrid technologies and the performance boost these systems will allow.  So coupled with LMP2 level power outputs, at their peak (years to come), future hybrid-technologied LMP1s will only then just reach the level of performance the current LMP1 cars have.   This is also a move to further reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
>>Both open top and closed top cars will be allowed.

The complete chassis regulations for 2009 will be released on or about November 15.  At the same time the ACO will communicate in more detail what 2011 and beyond will see.  Additionally, the ACO, in conjunction with the FIA, is currently investigating the aerodynamic issues that were seen at Monza and Le Mans this year in which a number of cars had rather frightening issues and the results of that will presumably be made public in conjunction with the pending 2009-chassis rules release.
Peugeot 908 Hybride>>Peugeot has unveiled the 908 Hybride, their desel-electric powered LMP.  

The Hybride's technology is pretty straight forward.  A gear driven 60 kw electric motor resides low on the bellhousing and provides power bursts as required during acceleration, passing, or in a fuel consumption mode.  Recovered energy is stored in lithium-ion
batteries.  The electric motor replaces the usual starter motor so the weight gain from the electric motor is somewhat offset by the elimination of the starter and related equipment.  All said the hybrid installation increases the chassis' weight by some 45 kgs of which Peugeot indicates 10 kilos could be further reduced through initial development.

With hybrid LMPs allowed to race in 2009 under the proviso that they cannot score points, the question becomes, where will we see the 908 HY in 2009?  For now Peugeot wil only say "after Le Mans".
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ęCopyright 2008, Michael J. Fuller