Andy Thorby on the LMP07

Many thanks to Andy Thorby
"I studied Law after leaving school, but couldn't face life as a lawyer, and quit to find a way of doing what I loved – designing cars. I worked for a composites company in Huntingdon, England, before getting a job at Lola in 1977: it was a great place to learn the trade in those days – working on everything from Formula Ford (T640) to Indy cars (T500) to Group C (T600).  I have been freelance since 1983."

"As a chief designer, the regulations define your 'space', and your job is to make best use of it. Unfortunately, from the perspective of my early legal training, the regs are not always as well drafted as they could be.  This is sometimes deliberate – leaving certain areas to be ruled upon on an ad hoc basis gives the regulating authority direct control over costs and competitiveness (e.g. NASCAR and ACO) - but it is quite frustrating for any would-be lateral thinker."

"For LMP07, my main targets were improved mass distribution (low Cg, low polar moment, no difference between full tank and empty tank), improved driver safety, and more efficient aerodynamics.  The first requirement was achieved by, among other measures, moving the fuel cell to the front of the chassis (within a large-section transmission tunnel) and by designing a very low and short gearbox: the compact size of the Zytek engine was a major benefit.  The shape of the chassis was dictated principally by safety.  My intention was to use a full width rear rollhoop (mounted on the chassis 'fins') with a single front hoop, which was a solution that complied with the letter of the rules since the size of the rear hoop 'for driver's protection only' is not specified.  Unfortunately, that solution was ruled out by the ACO (see paragraph above!).  However, the chassis fins still serve to protect the driver's head, as well as being the main structural elements.  I wanted to build in rear impact protection (which can easily be overlooked in a front-engined car), and also needed a structure to carry the rear suspension, because the gearbox was so compact.  I needed to link this shallow rear structure with the shallow footwell structure in the most efficient way: also, with the radiators housed in the flanks (so that they didn't have to be raised above the exhaust pipes as on the Roadster S), I needed a narrow tub.  So the deep and fairly thick fins were the logical way to get the necessary bending and torsional stiffness, and they also carried the rear wing supports.  There was no aero disadvantage from the fins."

"A front-engined LMP has some advantages (e.g. inherent weight distribution, driver position) and some disadvantages (e.g. front-end aerodynamics, engine breathing, complexity due to propshaft passing through chassis):  I feel that they virtually cancel each other out.  The problem with the LMP07 was that the Zytek engine was designed to fit in the rear of a single-seat car, rather than the front of a sports car.  The inlet trumpets should have been cross-over type, rather than near-vertical: it was not possible to fit long enough trumpets under an airbox which would still allow the driver to see over it.  Short trumpets mean reduced torque.  Also, the oil and water connections were at the wrong end from my point of view, and the front and rear mounting points on the engine were the wrong way round."

"The wind tunnel program was a major problem.  We were short on model-making resources, and having begun the program at Glasgow University wind tunnel (40% scale, moving ground), we had to pull out after encountering numerous problems with it.  I asked for 40 days testing, but in fact had only 25 days prior to having to fix the design.  Of those, most were disrupted due to tunnel or model problems to the extent that, in my current project (Lister LMP), it has taken only 8 days testing to surpass the total number of runs I had on the LMP07.  The result of this was that neither the aerodynamics nor the cooling was satisfactorily resolved.  I can't reveal any numbers, since those are the property of ╔lan Motorsports.  The top-body radiator inlets were increased after I left, so I don't know the effect of that: they may well improve the cooling, but I imagine they have a serious drag penalty.  I don't know how much testing has been done since I left last February."

"The reduction in frontal area over the LMP1 was in the order of 5%.  This was achieved despite the substantial extra driver protection structure."

"I am proud of the LMP07, although I know that it is far from perfect.  It has some good ideas, some of which weren't well enough implemented.  I think that I was too ambitious for the resources available, though the limitations of those only became apparent as the project rolled on.  The result was that only some of the targets I set for the car were met, but I still recall David Brabham saying, after his first few laps at Road Atlanta, 'The car's mega!'  However, he did go on to say that he couldn't understand why the lap times wouldn't come, and that sums up that car/engine combination so far.  I believe it has potential, and I hope Multimatic find that potential and get success.  The LMP07 is unfinished business for me, but the project taught me that there is minimum level of structure, resources and control if you don't want to be embarrassed by the result.  I don't intend to make that mistake again."

ęCopyright 2002, Michael J. Fuller