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September/October 2011
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All news content copyright Michael J. Fuller, unless otherwise noted
10.19.11

>>This past Sunday Audi issued their weekly news letter that covers all things Audi motorsports.  At the bottom of the newsletter was a Q&A with Audi's Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology for Audi Sport, discussing the expected effects of the 2012 regulations.  One comment seemed a little puzzling, a stronger than expected reaction to the aero changes for next.  As far as we understood, next year requires larger louver area over the front wheels (already implemented) as well as an additional set of louvers over the rear wheels.  Dr. Mühlmeier said:

"I am always happy to see the safety of the vehicles being increased.  But checks need to be carried out to determine how much safer they are and whether there are actually any safety improvements at all. The fin dimensions are only being marginally changed.  But the openings that now have to be above the wheels are a lot more serious.  They are supposed to prevent a vehicle from losing contact with the ground on one side when the vehicle is at a large heading angle and therefore spinning. This is certainly the right idea in theory.  But these openings unfortunately reduce the vehicle’s stability on the straight because its center of gravity shifts forward, thereby increasing the likelihood that the driver will oversteer.  In other words, the risk of the vehicle spinning out of control is actually increased."

Bulletin 11-19, issued back in August, called for an 60% increase in the front fender louver area as well as a 100 cm^2 louver patch over each rear fender.  With a little investigating we now understand 11-19 has been superseded by 11-22 which is calling for openings of 1000 cm^2 over each front and rear fender.  Yes, that's 1000 cm^2 for each fender.  We've also been told that a minimum opening of 20 cm x 25 cm  must be positioned over the each wheel centerline, with the area difference placed as needed.

Now the purpose of the 1000 cm^2 openings is to reduce lift in sudden yaw incidents, and by all accounts they do work in that situation.  But we're also told that the immediate effect of the openings is an approximately 2.5% forward balance shift coupled with a large increase in pitch sensitivity.  In essence the opening up of the bodywork allows the front diffuser to work better, which sounds like a positive thing on the face of it.  But a properly designed diffuser manages its downforce generation and mitigates pitch sensitivity.  Downforce gains are seen across all ride heights, but are said to be "huge" at lower ride heights.  And what gains the rear openings make in reducing lift over the fenders are offset by the airflow disruption to the rear wing.  There's also a net increase in drag.  The 2.5% forward balance shift can be rebalanced with more rear wing, but with the added effect of increasing drag further.  Thus the 
cumulative effects of the openings is to reduce aero efficiency with the unintended consequence of a large increase in pitch sensitivity.

Furthermore, we've been told that Bulletin 11-22 isn't a proposal, but a done deal for 2012.  So, I think it appropriate to christen the holes as...naturally, Big Honking Holes.

10.15.11

>>On Monday the ACO released the condensed version of the proposed 2012 regulations.  The details will be forthcoming.  

In overview, for 2012, diesel engine's will have (yet another) performance reduction, this one metered out by a ~7% reduction in inlet area (47.4 mm to 45.8 mm for single turbos [-7.1%], 33.5 mm to 32.4 mm for twin [-6.9%]) coupled with a 6.6% reduction in boost (3000 mBar to 2800 mBar).  Diesel flue tank sizes will be reduced by 5 liters as well.  Changes will be made to refueling flow such that refueling times will be the same for all.  In a change of heart, the ACO has decided not to put the cost burden back onto the gasoline powered cars and will be leaving these cars unmodified; all changes are directed at the diesels to bring their performance back in line with the gasoline powered cars.

With Stephen Knight handling the calculations, we can have a look into what the effective changes are to engine performance.  Knighty calculates:
  • Turbo Diesel 2012 - 3.7 L V6/V8= 45.8mm single restrictor will flow 1307 Kg/hr of air at sea level, with a boost pressure of 2.8 bar (abs)
  • Turbo gasoline 2012 - 2.0 L I4 turbo = 42.9mm single restrictor will flow 1146 Kg/hr with a boost pressure of 2.5 bar (abs)
  • Normally aspirated 2012 - 3.4 L V8 single 43.3mm single restrictor will flow 1173 Kg/hr
So from a mass flow standpoint, diesels still appear to have a 13% advantage.  Factor in the boost difference between the reduced diesel boost and the gasoline turbo boost and it simply means the diesels still maintain a broader power band.

Looking back at peak torque, if we assume a decent diesel is in the region of 950 Nm, a 7% performance reduction gives us about 884 Nm.  This is still above and beyond what we're seeing coming out of the gasoline powered camps.  

But Knighty thinks the most significant detail might be the 5 liter fuel tank reduction (a 7.7% fuel reduction), "...that really is a kick in the balls for the diesels, the numbers
imply this will equate to 1 lap reduction between fuel stops at Le Mans."  Knighty's numbers are backed up with one source estimating a 1.3 lap fuel range reduction for the diesels.

The reaction was mixed in the "paddock."  One said, "It's a strange decision, at Le Mans this year the ACO told us the diesels had roughly 50-60 more horsepower.  And now they reduce them by around 35 hp.  So we go into 2012 knowing the diesels will have an advantage of around 30 hp."  But I suppose knowing is half the battle...
>>Other 2012 changes were also discussed:  All LMPs will be required to run the Big Honking Fin next year, this includes all (new and grandfathered cars) LMP1, LMP2, and LMPC (FLM) cars.  But that's been in the regulations for a while now.  And as mentioned in Competition Bulletin 11-19 back in August (8.12.11), front fender louver area will be increased, and rear fender louvers are mandatory.  Finally, the ACO is allowing hybrid power units to drive the front wheels, though only above 120 km/h.  This certainly could lead to some interesting areas of development within the compromises of packaging a front drive (motors on the uprights?) system.
TopGearAutosport.com is an online shop for performance parts & accessories, including headlights and tail lights
2012 Toyota gas/electric hybrid LMP1 concept10.14.11

>>After a 13 year absence, today Toyota confirmed the worst kept secret in motorsports by announcing their 2012 entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a bespoke designed and built (by Toyota Motorsports Group, Cologne) gas/electric hybrid closed top LMP1.  The Le Mans entry will be followed by several rounds of the World Endurance Championship.  Autosport says the car will be rolled out close to the new year and will subsequently begin a testing program.  This indicates the concept is well advanced and that manufacture is currently underway.  We've understood a development program has been on going for the past year, and given the timescale to car roll-out this is confirmed.

Very few technical details are available, though we understand the Toyota LMP will utilize a version of their 3.4 liter, normally aspirated, V8 that has been campaigned by Rebellion this season.  The entire drivetrain (we're assuming engine and hybrid system), except the gearbox, has been developed by Toyota Motor Corporation.  Also, no mention has been made as to what type of hybrid system will be used.  We suspect this decision has not been made yet.  Though with such an advanced concept (remember, it will be on the track in less than 3 months--thus detail design is done and the car is being manufactured), this seems an odd detail to be left undefined considering the integration of a hybrid system into the packaging of a contemporary LMP.

>>And in other news, we understand Audi is working on a "new" car for next year.  Whether new-new or an update of the R18 we're unsure.
>>In case you missed it, the ARX-01 page was updated with ARX-01e analysis from Sebring 2011.

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Oak Racing Pescarolo LMP1, Sebring 201110.8.11

>>We've received updated information about Toyota's imminent LMP announcement and are now hearing the car will be racing as soon as next year.  Where (Le Mans, WEC), and when specifically, we don't know.  We also understand that, as reported before, the announcement will be made soon.  

Now, it is expected that the ACO will release their 2014 regulations next month.  Could Toyota's announcement coincide with the timing of the ACO's regulations release and the release of the World Endurance Championship calendar?  Something to think about.


>>
We chatted briefly with Oak Racing's Technical Director, Christophe Chapelain, at Petit Le Mans about Oak Racing's impressions of Road Atlanta and what the organizations future holds.

But first it seemed apropos to seek clarification of the relationship between Oak Racing and Pescarolo.  Chapelain explains:  Oak Racing's involvement with Pescarolo began back in 2008 when the team (then as Saulnier Racing) purchased and raced Pescarolo chassis during the 2008 season, continuing into 2009.  But with Pescarolo's collapse in mid 2010, the relationship change significantly;  Oak Racing's President Jacques Nicolet stepped in and purchased all of the intellectual property of Pescarolo.  At that moment in time Pescarolo effectively ceased to exist.  But Nicolet reformed Pescarolo Sport, employing many of Pescarolo's old employees.  A joint design department was also established.  In the mean time, Pescarolo Team was born and Henri Pescarolo was able to return to racing.  Subsequently Oak Racing has taken over the manufacturing and design aspects of the Pescarolo LMPs, and moving into 2012 we will see the “Oak Racing Pescarolo” moniker transition into simply “Oak Racing.”
Oak Racing Pescarolo LMP2 splitter, Petit 2011Road Atlanta's propensity of right hand corners vs. not so many left hands making setting up the car an interesting proposition compared to other tracks and tire choice becomes a decision of between medium and hard compounds.  The setup conundrum is further complicated by the new 25 mm skid, which ultimately imparts less downforce but increased drag.  Road Atlanta requires a high downforce setup in order to extract the maximum performance for one lap.  And interestingly enough,  the #24 Oak Racing's LMP1 was the fastest gas powered LMP through Turn 1 [timing Sector 2] in qualifying.  The Oak car was as fast as the Peugeots and only .1 second behind the Audis through Sector 2, thought about 10 mph down in top speed through the speed trap.  Says Chapelain, “But for the race, the setup requirement is for slightly less drag, if only to allow the drivers the opportunity to overtake slower traffic on the straights.”  The switch to the low downforce setup was also to the benefit of engine cooling. 

Oak Racing's LMP2 is carrying similar levels of downforce, if slightly less, than their P1.  The P2 car's front splitter has been trimmed to reduce drag and overall downforce.  This is evident by the reduced length outer sections and the long center portion.  The splitter reduction is rebalanced with changes made to the rear wing.

With the relatively minor regulation changes for 2012, specifically the mandated louvers for the rear fenders and the implementation of the rear fin for all chassis (new and grandfathered), Chapelain tells us that Oak Racing will embark on a winter development program in order to mitigate the aero impact of these mandatory changes as well as redress the car's aero balance.  Oak will utilize the RUAG scale model wind tunnel in Switzerland.

But plans are more ambitious looking towards 2014.  With the ACO indicating that the 2014 LMP regulations will be available before the end of the year, Oak Racing will begin development of the 2014 car throughout 2012 with the idea of fielding the car in 2013.  If the regulations are produced before the end of the year, this time table will be possible but it is in the ACO's court.

For 2014 Oak Racing is expecting to develop a new closed top monocoque as the proposed 2014 regulations will apparently mandate a closed monocoque. It also seems likely the implementation of a Kinetic Energy Recovery system will be required, if not explicitly mandated, given the push towards a fuel efficiency formula. And while it seems ambitious to assume a new car with KERs could be on the track in 2014, the new chassis will designed from the outset to accept. Willing KERs partners could be found in Williams Hybrid or Magnetti Marelli, just to name two, as there is a burgeoning KERs market for privateers to tap into.
10.6.11

>>
Following on today's Autosport print edition's report that the Aston Martin AMR-One project has been, "abandoned,"  it's actually our understanding the AMR-Ones have sat untouched in the Prodrive shops since Le Mans.  Basically wheeled there and covered up.  Thus the decision to abandon the project seems to have been made as many as four months ago!   We're also hearing that the much maligned Aston Martin engines weren't necessarily the source of the program's angst.  The engine program did suffer from a very delayed and short development program.  So delayed, the engine only just ran on the dyno the month before the first track test.  And priority was given to producing engines for the race team, not development.  Thus engine teething problems went unaddressed.  But we're told that fundamentally the engine was solid.  That leaves the chassis.  We're told the CFD-only developed AMR-One (known internally as the R-17) suffered from very high drag and little downforce.  Mechanically the car produced good grip and was the sole source of joy for the drivers.  The car's aerodynamic deficit apparently only came to light following a coast down test in late April.  

>>Strakka racing expects to take delivery of their new HPD ARX-03a monocoque from Wirth Research some time in early December, with the rest of the car (plus engine from HPD in California) arriving by early January.  Testing is expected to take place some time in late January, and possibly in the U.S.  This is the team's current time plan that they are working towards.  Naturally everything is subject to change...

Nissan GTP ZX-T, chassis #8801, Petit 201110.5.11

>>
Positioned unbefitting its place in history ("hey look kids, it's an old Nissan race car!"), Nissan GTP ZX-T chassis #8801 was spotted in the Nissan tent in Vendor Village at Petit this year.  This chassis acquired no fewer than 16 wins over its 3 year IMSA GTP career.  8801 won eight races in a row during the 1988 season, starting with the Road Atlanta round with the streak ending at Del Mar.  And to top it all off, 8801 won the 1989 and 1990 12 Hours of Sebring.  Quite a resume.  However, there was precious little mention of this in the Nissan tent...
Nissan GTP ZX-T, chassis #8801, Petit 2011Chassis history courtesy Janos Wimpffen:

1988
Miami, 8th overall, #83, Geoff Brabham / John Morton
Road Atlanta, 1st overall, #83, Brabham
West Palm, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham
Lime Rock, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham
Mid-Ohio, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham / Tom Gloy
Watkins Glen, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham / Morton
Road America, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham / Morton
Sears Point, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham
Columbus, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham
Del Mar, DNF, accident, #83, Brabham
Tampa, 
1st overall, #83 Morton / Brabham

1989
Daytona 24 H, DNF, engine, #83, Arie Luyendyk / Chip Robinson / Brabham / Michael Roe
Sebring 12 H, 
1st overall, #83 Robinson / Brabham / Luyendyk
Atlanta, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham / Robinson
West Palm, DNF, engine, #83, Brabham
Lime Rock, 4th overall, #83, Brabham
Watkins Glen, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham / Robinson
Portland, 2nd overall, #83, Brabham / Robinson

1990
Daytona 24 H, DNF, engine, #83, Bob Earl / Robinson / Brabham / Derek Daly
Miami, 
1st overall, #84, Brabham / Robinson
Sebring, 
1st overall, #83, Earl / Daly
Atlanta, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham / Daly
West Palm, 
1st overall, #83, Brabham / Daly

We can imagine the Nissan property tag was added during, or just after, Nissan's liquidation of Nissan Performance Technology, Inc.  One wouldn't have wanted 8801 sneaking out the door to destinations unknown...
TopGearAutosport.com is an online shop for performance parts & accessories, including headlights and tail lights
10.3.11

>>
We're hearing noise out of Toyota to expect an announcement regarding the LMP1 program within the month.  We're told to expect an announced assault on Le Mans for 2013.  This certainly is welcome news.  The Toyota Le Mans preparation is one of the worst kept secrets in motorsports.  Especially considering all the Toyota Motorsports Group personnel who were called back to beaver away on projects unknown.  Ultimately the timing seems a bit odd considering the changing regulations coming on line for 2014 and all the effort that has already gone into this project to date.  Surely Toyota would be ready for 2012?  On 2012 there seems to be some ambiguity for now.  Regardless, Toyota is coming.  No technical details are forthcoming.  More when/if we hear.
word blob9.13.11

>>
Strangely enough, things apparently are still chugging along over at Highcroft.  Today Highcroft issued an update on the Delta Wing project.  But what was more interesting than the words was the image chosen to go along with the article.
A throwaway image for sure (right).  But a little observation and...hang on a minute, we've seen that tub before!  Backing up a little, in using this image the big news should have been..."the first parts are being completed and in fact we now have the first article monocoque at hand."   Instead the text discusses the tub obliquely only to say, "The tub itself actually conforms to full LMP1 chassis regulations.  From the drivers’ perspective, their 'office' will be the same whether driving the Delta Wing or another LMP1 car."  

Same?  You mean identical!  Well, if you were an Aston Martin driver... because in fact it's an Aston Martin AMR-One monocoque purchased from Prodrive.  The idea clearly would be to reduce design time as the design team most certainly has their hands full with the unique aspects of this vehicle.  Using the AMR-One tub gets them an ACO approved tub without the need of going through the hurdles of designing, manufacturing, and crash testhing their own design.  

Now certainly there's nothing wrong with a non sequitur.  But in this day and age of the Internet, 24 hour news cycles, and the flaming conspiracy theory, to not acknowledge a little ole detail such as that kind of seems odd.  And inquiries to Delta Wing only brought up reminders of Non Disclosure Agreements.  Fair enough, and I guess that's the confirmation we were looking for after all.    
Here are some chicken scratchings...The primary identifying feature are the size and shape of the spring/damper cutouts, the location of the pivot point for the rocker, and perhaps most importantly, the size and layout of the access holes in the front bulkhead.  Note too that it's right hand drive.  

And before you say it's an -02a tub, -01a/b/c tub...the -02a had torsion bars (there was no flat for a rocker pivot point) and the hole in the tub was an access through hole.  The -01a/b/c's tub spring/damper cutout was more rectilinear in plan view, deeper, and the trailing edge of the cutout bisected the leading edge of the driver's wind screen bump, going much further rearward than in this example.  Plus, the photo was taken at AAR.

Of course, take note that the Delta Wing has no need for rocker pivots or spring/damper recess on the monocoque given how far rearward the tub is located compared to a more conventional LMP.
Aston Martin AMR-One monocoque:
It's impossible to deny that the access hole layout is identical...
TopGearAutosport.com is an online shop for performance parts & accessories, including headlights and tail lights
Nissan GTP ZXT, chassis No. 8805 owned by Toby Bean9.11.11

>>
The name Yoshi Suzuka should be familiar with little introductions.  Suzuka's aerodynamics design career extends 30+ years and includes the 1989-1990 IMSA GTP championship as well as the 1991-1993 Japanese Sports Prototype Championship, not to mention work on the Nissan R35 GTR.  And given that career it was of no surprise when Suzuka "retired" back last year.   But Yoshi Suzuka isn't taking his retirement laying down and is currently looking for a project to get involved with.  Mr. Suzuka is interested in any vehicle development related inquiries, anywhere on the planet, big or small.  Has your LMP program lost its way (Aston Martin, I'm talking to you)?  Got a land speed record car?  Hybrid electric world car?   Give Yoshi Suzuka a call.
HPD ARX-03a9.10.11*

*updated 9.12

>>
Strakka Racing announced today at Silverstone that they will be competing in the World Endurance Championship next year in the latest creation to come out of Wirth Research, the Honda Performance Development ARX-03a LMP1.  Few technical details are to be gleamed from the Strakka press release other than the engine is the 3.4 liter, normally aspirated V8 that we're familiar with (ARX-01e, and was in the -02a in 4.0 liter form) and the car will be run on Michelins, presumably wide front Michelins such as were on the ARX-01e (though not the "rear" fronts of the ARX-02a).  The press release also says the ARX-03a will, "...have an entirely new Wirth Research designed chassis."  Nick Wirth will only say that it is, "very different," compared to the original LC75 monocoque and that the angles in the renderings were chosen to mask the new monocoque's features.  That's a bit overly dramatic, but at very least there no longer is even a vestigial connection to the ARX-01 series' Courage/Oreca monocoque.
HPD ARX-03aAesthetically the car appears very similar, if not identical, to the ARX-01e that raced at Sebring this year (the front overhang is longer, that's about all we can discern for now).  The Big Honking Fin is now required as the chassis is new for 2012 and the regulations will begin mandating the fin even for grandfathered cars.  Wirth does tell us that a lot carrys over from the -01e, which isn't surprising (for instance the gearcase isn't bespoke to the -03a, we're assuming it's cribbed from the -01e).  But we can assume that at the front it is very different mechanically to the -01e given the new monocoque (optimized pickup points for example).

Wirth Research certainly had the opportunity of entertaining a swap to a closed top car, given the goal of redesigning the tub.  Though the choice of maintainging the open top architecture was deliberate, "This suits the HPD program and its customers, and maximises carry-over from the ARX-01e."

Wirth Research is still working on their own coupe LMP1, it is "still viable and ready," though no time tables have been given.  

9.8.11

>>
We've just received unfortunate confirmation that Highcroft Racing laid off 10 this past Tuesday; out the door immediately, hand in your key fobs, no severance, and benefits end immediately (but hey, there's COBRA).  Team owner Duncan Dayton told the team that he had carried the organization for as long as he could on his own finances.  Apparently two will stay on to look after Delta Wing.  

Where does this put the Delta Wing project?  The AAR gang is apparently putting in the hours undeterred.  
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