Dynamometer testing

How many of you have witnessed a wheel dynamometer test? This is where you drive the entire car onto a set of rollers, wire up the engine and the technician “drives” your car at speed through the gears and logs the power and torque coming from the engine through to the rear wheels (or front wheels if it is an FWD car).

It is actually quite frightening as the car has to be chained down onto the rollers as it wants to climb up and out, and if it does so, it comes off the rollers at 60 kph plus and out through the back door of the tune-up shop! Don’t laugh, it happened to a friend of mine in Oz.

The bike boys have also worked out that dyno testing pays dividends, and have designed rolling road dynamometers for bikes too, and no, they don’t sit on them while testing!

The other type of dynamometer is called an “engine” dyno, and that is where they take just the engine and hook it up to water, electrics and a torque tube and measure the power and torque, directly at the flywheel.

These are again very frightening to watch, as the exhaust pipes glow cherry red to orange in colour and the noise is indescribable. The techo chap sits outside the room where the engine is hooked up and watches through the double glazed windows. And yes, more than one engine has thrown a leg out of bed during testing (race parlance for breaking a con-rod).

Now for testing F1 engines, you take the whole dyno situation to the ultimate, the technician can actually “drive” the engine through a lap of the different GP circuits, as a computer simulates the amount of throttle and load experienced as the car would be going around the circuit, complete with gear changes, the works. And you can imagine the scream of an engine on test at 17,000 rpm!

This part of race car engine testing is so important, that the manufacturers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on doing it. Interestingly, the British race engine manufacturer Cosworth used to have to send its race engines to the US, to use Ford’s facilities over there, but that has now changed with Cosworth Racing unveiling its new state-of-the-art dynamometer facility at Northampton, UK.

In a statement released by Cosworth Racing’s Nick Hayes, “Until these dyno facilities became available, Cosworth was really trailing the capabilities of our leading competition in the very important area of transient testing.”

“We now have access to facilities that allow us to get closer to the conditions seen in the car. The end result will be better transient behaviour of the engine in the car and finer resolution of small changes with high levels of confidence of the results. In short, this facility gives us a big step forward for Cosworth Racing’s F1 engine development capabilities.”

In 2003 Cosworth is supplying its race engines to Jaguar, Jordan and Minardi. For Jordan and Minardi, this has to be a step forwards; last year Jordan had the exploding hand grenade Honda units, while Minardi had the underpowered ancient Asiatech engines. The Cosworths were used in 2002 by Jaguar and Arrows, with the latter now bankrupt and (I believe) still owing several million dollars to Cosworth Racing.

Cosworth is famous for the DFV race engines in F1, the ‘winningest’ engine of all time. I ran a BDG Cosworth engine in one of my sports sedans in Australia and the engine and service from the Cosworth organization was incredible. Imagine getting a personal letter with the new piston sent urgently from the factory, hoping that the engine will be finished on time and that we get a good result. For that reason alone, I want the Cosworth engine cars to do well this year.

The Grid for the 2003 F1 season

The ink has been dried on the contracts and with two weeks to go before the first GP in Melbourne, Australia, we now have a field of 20 cars and drivers. The observant will note that there appears to be 21 numbers (da Matta is number 21), but there is no number 13, as old superstitions die hard! The following table shows driver, nationality, entrant, tyre choice (Bridgestone or Michelin) and engine to be used.

The breakdown of drivers shows we have four rookies (Firman, Pizzonia, Wilson and da Matta), four German drivers (Schumachers, Heidfeld, Frentzen), four Brits (Coulthard, Firman, Button, Wilson), three Brazilians (Barichello, Pizzonia, da Matta), two Italians (Trulli, Fisichella) and then one each as follows - Canada (Villeneuve), Finland (Raikkonen), Colombia (Montoya), Spain (Alonso), Australia (Webber), Netherlands (Verstappen) and France (Panis).

With engines, Ford Cosworth power will be used by three teams (Jaguar, Jordan, Minardi), while Ferrari will supply two teams as usual (Ferrari and Sauber - the 2002 engine re-badged as a Petronas) and only Ferrari, Renault and Toyota make both their chassis and the engines.

Let us hope that 2003 will be an interesting year.

1. Michael Schumacher D Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro B Ferrari

2 Rubens Barichello BRZ Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro B Ferrari

3 Juan Pablo Montoya COL BMW WilliamsF1 Team M Williams BMW

4 Ralf Schumacher D BMW WilliamsF1 Team M Williams BMW

5 David Coulthard GB West McLaren Mercedes M McLaren Mercedes

6 Kimi Raikkonen FIN West McLaren Mercedes M McLaren Mercedes

7 Jarno Trulli I Mild Seven Renault F1 Team M Renault

8 Fernando Alonso E Mild Seven Renault F1 Team M Renault

9 Nick Heidfeld D Sauber Petronas B Sauber Petronas

10 H-Harald Frentzen D Sauber Petronas B Sauber Petronas

11 Giancarlo Fisichella I Jordan Ford B Jordan Ford

12 Ralph Firman GB Jordan Ford B Jordan Ford

14 Mark Webber AUS Jaguar Racing M Jaguar Cosworth

15 Antonio Pizzonia BRZ Jaguar Racing M Jaguar Cosworth

16 Jacques Villeneuve CAN Lucky Strike BAR Honda B BAR Honda

17 Jenson Button GB Lucky Strike BAR Honda B BAR Honda

18 Justin Wilson GB TBA Minardi TBA ? Minardi Cosworth

19 Jos Verstappen NL TBA Minardi TBA ? Minardi Cosworth

20 Olivier Panis FRA Panasonic Toyota Racing M Toyota

21 Christiano da Matta BRZ Panasonic Toyota Racing M Toyota

Jordan’s second seat filled by another Brit

Jordan Ford has announced that Ralph Firman will race with the team in 2003 alongside Italian Giancarlo Fisichella. The 27 year old has signed a three year agreement and will make his Formula One debut in the Australian Grand Prix on March 9th.

Ralph Firman

Firman enters Formula One as the reigning 2002 Formula Nippon Champion, having previously won the prestigious British Formula 3 Championship and FIA Formula 3 World Cup in Macau in 1996. A Champion kart racer, Firman is also a former winner of the McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year award. With that history, he is no Alex Yoong (OK, OK, I won’t mention Alex again this year)!

Eddie Jordan, chief executive of Jordan Grand Prix said, “He may be a rookie in F1 terms but Ralph brings a lot of racing experience and a formidable track record along with his enthusiasm and commitment. I’m impressed with his very cool and disciplined approach and I have a lot of confidence that he and Fisichella will be an awesome partnership on the track. The news that Ralph has joined us, allied to other important developments, means that Jordan Ford is a force to be reckoned with in 2003, and I can’t wait for the season to start.” That of course, is Eddie Jordanspeak for “I can’t wait for Ralph’s money to come in,” since this was a ‘pay drive’ seat.

Aided by the Jordan minders, Firman is reported as saying, “I am thrilled to have this chance to race in Formula One especially as it is with Jordan, one of the few teams to have won Grands Prix in recent years. It’s also a team that has brought many notable names into Formula One and I can see that it’s an extremely friendly and professional operation. Although this will be my first season, I have worked hard to build up my experience whilst racing in Japan, so although F1 will be something new I feel ready and quite comfortable with it. I am really looking forward to going to Melbourne next month.”

Ralph Firman was born on 20th May 1975 and holds dual nationality, with a British father and an Irish mother, and lives in Norfolk in the United Kingdom. His father, Ralph Firman Sr, was a mechanic for former triple World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi before founding the famous Van Diemen racing car business whose chassis have been raced in the junior formulae by many of today’s top drivers. (This I gleaned from the best Eff Wun website.)

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that Ettore Bugatti bought a couple of American cars he saw at Montlhery, near Paris, to adapt the twin cam cylinder heads for the Bugatti racers of the day. What were those cars, and what were they doing in Europe? The answer was they were both Millers and the American race driver Leon Duray took them to Italy for the GP of 1929 and then to France, where Ettore Bugatti bought them.

So to this week. There has historically always been many connections between cars and planes, SAAB, Bristol made both, while even Ferrari had a connection (through the prancing horse insignia). However, there was also a connection between airships and cars, with one airship designer also building rear engined cars in the early ’30s. The designer was a titled gentleman and was British. No more clues. What was the name of the cars?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!