IMSA: DeltaWing explains latest development updates, gearbox and differential

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In an effort to improve overall performance, the DeltaWing Racing Cars team has made numerous updates to the revolutionary DeltaWing coupe in recent weeks. As the team heads to the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park – a fast, flowing track that allows the innovative sports car prototype to maximize its straight line speed – team manager Tim Keene and race engineer Alan Mugglestone highlight these updates.

The main areas of development have been the gearbox and the differential. As the coupe increases in performance, the balance between the car’s light weight and the need for stronger components has been a very delicate proposition. The team incrementally added to the strength and layout of the gearbox, with wider gears, stronger bevel gears and now a stronger mounting. The team works with suppliers for these components but the bulk of the DeltaWing coupe’s parts are designed and built by the team.

The team has also successfully tested a differential, which raced for the first time at Watkins Glen. The DeltaWing was originally designed with a very complicated and experimental electronic differential that would not only help the car drive, but turn under braking. For a number of reasons, the concept was abandoned in favor of an “open” differential. The new differential performed well at tests last month and helped put the DeltaWing coupe in the top seven for much of the first two hours at The Glen, while the car’s fuel efficiency put the car in the lead during pit stops before a problem with the gearbox mounting ended the day.

Keene and Mugglestone are optimistic heading into the weekend at CTMP, where the team saw competitive times last season.

“The DeltaWing coupe is more suited to a track that allows constant momentum,” said Keene. “The Daytona Prototypes have so much more horsepower and torque off of slow corners than we do, so the more we can keep the smaller engine revved up the better it is for us – and these next two tracks lend themselves to that. Given the weight of the car, our aero is very efficient for high speed because most of our downforce comes from the bottom of the car rather than large wings or dive planes. It’s a much more efficient way to create downforce with less drag, which is the car’s basic concept.”

“The DeltaWing concept doesn’t produce a huge amount of downforce compared to a DP or a P2,” Mugglestone added. “It was designed to be a very low drag, fuel efficient car. So when you lose a small amount of downforce as we did when we went from the roadster to the coupe, it’s a much larger percentage. The switch to Continental tires – with a bit less width on the rear tire – enabled us to modify the floor and get some of that downforce back.

“With the limited slip differential we’re running now, an unloaded wheel will transfer torque to the loaded wheel. So we picked up traction in the corners, which puts the gearbox under the same stress but for longer periods of time. We’ve backed off the horsepower to the point where we know the engine is not breaking the gearbox, because we’re below the recommended torque. We’re going faster because we have more grip, both from the tires and from the fact that we now have two rear wheels driving forward. The stronger gearbox should be able to handle that.”

As IMSA finds the balance of performance between the three disparate members of the Prototype class – the Daytona Prototype, the P2 and the DeltaWing coupe – where does the DeltaWing slot in alongside its competitors?

“We’re somewhere between a DP and a P2 in speed,” said Mugglestone. “We don’t have the DP’s power, but we’re lighter weight and we have less drag, so we actually have the acceleration of a DP – but because we didn’t have a differential in the car, we haven’t been able to use it. The P2s are at the opposite end of the scale, with much better cornering ability than either the DP or us but more drag and less horsepower. If you break down the numbers, we’re actually closer to a DP. That’s why CTMP should suit the car, since we can use the straight line speed and keep momentum going.”

As the season continues, the DeltaWing team goal is simple: to maintain the delicate balance between performance, weight and reliability.

“The changes we’ve made will strengthen us for the remainder of the year,” said Keene, “and I expect to see the results of that starting this weekend. We’re looking forward to a good weekend, since fast, flowing tracks like CTMP are favorable to the DeltaWing. So getting to the finish is the priority and if we do that, I expect a good result.”

Katherine Legge joins a returning Andy Meyrick (coming off two Blancpain victories in the Bentley GT3) behind the wheel of the DeltaWing coupe at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada this weekend.

Phoenix weekend, Friday notes

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Days are weird when the track activity for the Verizon IndyCar Series doesn’t start until 4 p.m. PT and local time. Qualifying is tonight from 8 to 9 p.m. PT and local time, online via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App at http://indystream.nbcsports.com.

That then makes the notes we gather a little different.

  • Thursday night kicked off the weekend with an honoring and fun night of storytelling from Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, moderated by veteran open-wheel and NBA reporter Gary Gerould. The event, held at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix, offered a lot of camaraderie, laughs and memories shared for the pair of Brazilians. We’ll have a full recap of the event on Saturday.
  • Oberto premieres on Marco Andretti’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda this weekend as a primary sponsor. In a “convenient coincidence,” Oberto is also on Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’ No. 41 Beetle GRC for two-time defending champion Scott Speed in this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross opener in Memphis (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, NBC). The red-and-white No. 27 car had a primary sponsorship vacancy for most races this year in the wake of hhgregg’s financial issues, with United Fiber & Data only on for selected races.
  • Fernando Alonso’s entry is getting most of the attention among one-off Indianapolis 500 cars, but he’s not the only one. Per Spanish site IndyCarAlDiaJuncos Racing is set to run at least one car on the same May 3 date as Alonso will make his debut, as Ricardo Juncos’ team gets close to making its announcement for its driver or drivers it will have in this year’s race.
  • Alonso’s livery for his No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti is set to be revealed either the Tuesday before his test on May 2 or the morning of his test on May 3, itself. The @McLarenIndy account tweeted a sneak pic of the livery earlier this week.
  • The Jay Howard Team ONE Cure Honda-powered entry for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports doesn’t yet have its engineer set, but the team is getting close to finalizing the crew for that car.
  • Zach Veach’s No. 40 IWiT Championship Chevrolet will be revealed Wednesday night, May 10, at AJ Foyt Racing’s Indianapolis shop.
  • On a Red Bull Global Rallycross note: Andretti, Bryan Herta Rallysport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have both IndyCar and GRC efforts running this weekend, so four of the 10 Supercars. The rest of the GRC field features Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE (three cars), Subaru Rally Team USA (two cars) and Loenbro Motorsports, the former Ganassi team (one car).
  • Be on the lookout for a pair of digital pieces on NBCSports.com later this weekend. NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter Katie Hargitt caught up with Helio Castroneves for Rapid Fire, while she’ll also fill in for Anders Krohn – who’s on Red Bull GRC duty in Memphis – hosting IndyCar Paddock Pass. Hargitt caught up with Barber winner Josef Newgarden, series returnee JR Hildebrand and Hildebrand’s Barber fill-in Zach Veach in this week’s episode.

Newgarden, Chevy top Phoenix practice

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Friday’s two-hour practice for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix started out slowly, with only a handful of drivers turning laps in the opening 30 minutes. However, the second hour, and the final 30 minutes in particular, turned into a frenzy, with drivers making several runs and completing qualifying sims.

Josef Newgarden topped the speed charts with an average speed of 192.108 mph, the only lap above the 192 mark of the session.

JR Hildebrand enjoyed a strong run on his return after suffering a broken hand at Long Beach to run second in practice. Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power completed the top five, making it a Chevrolet sweep of the top five spots.

Heavy winds wreaked havoc on the session, with sand blowing onto the track surface throughout practice. Conditions became severe enough that practice was halted a couple minutes prior to its scheduled conclusion.

Of note: driver Ed Carpenter, in his first race outing of 2017, suffered a shortened practice due to mechanical issues and the crew reportedly was working on swapping out the fuel cell on his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Times and qualifying order are below. Qualifying begins at 11:00 p.m. ET (8:00 local time).

 

 

Honda defends decision to redesign F1 power unit for 2017

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Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.

Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.

The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.

“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.

“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.

“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.

“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.

More brake issues strike Haas in Russia F1 practice despite supplier change

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The Haas Formula 1 team endured another difficult day of practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered more brake issues despite changing supplier.

Haas confirmed on Thursday that it would be switching from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes, having suffered problems throughout its 14-month stint in F1.

Despite enjoying a positive test in Bahrain with Carbon Industrie parts last week, both Grosjean and Magnussen struggled with their brakes in FP1 and FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Grosjean finished FP2 14th-fastest, with Magnussen breaking into the top 10, charging to ninth place in the VF-17 car.

“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance,” Grosjean said. “We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them.

“Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well – very low grip on low fuel and high fuel.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data.

“I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue.

“All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.