Refining a race car’s set up to suit specific tracks, driving styles and conditions is a detailed and iterative process which the engineers have to achieve in the few practice sessions of a race weekend. For multi-manufacture GT Championships, teams have the additional factor of Balance of Performance (BOP) changes, which they have to incorporate whilst minimising overall performance loss. However, these BOP adjustments can change throughout a race weekend, sometimes even between sessions, so teams have to react quickly. Preparation and also understanding the effect of these BOP changes as well as how to counteract them, can prove invaluable.
One series that is teaching engineers to learn how to face these challenges is the Reiter Young Stars (RYS) Cup, which consists of eight university teams racing 2.0L KTM X-Bow’s within the GT4 European Series. This series consists of up to 13 different race cars, ranging from Ginettas to McLarens and so to establish fair competition, the performance of these manufacturers has to be equalised through BOP changes. These can include limiting camber, restricting boost pressure, increasing ride height, reducing engine revs and adding ballast.
Team WP from Chalmers University is an excellent example of how a Cruden driver-in-the-loop simulator can be used to prepare for the challenges of BOP. “There is quite a spread of cars on the grid, and one of the main ways they limit performance is through ballast,” highlights Jon Jaleby, team manager and marketing student of Team WP. “We’ve had everything from 80 kg ballast to 250 kg, so essentially we can have the weight of an entire Formula Student car added to our car.” By using a simulator to determine how ballast impacts aspects such as corner entry speed, the driver can familiarise themselves with the consequent changes in car behaviour and adapt accordingly.
“The BOP can also result in changing the rev limit, which can significantly move the position of the gears for the driver and therefore changes the upshifts and downshifts,” highlights Håkan Richardson, Team WP engineer. “One time, we received the BOP data before the race weekend, which allowed our drivers time to practice with the new rev limits on the simulator. This improved their confidence hugely and immediately the drivers were at a much higher level during the practice sessions. We can’t affect the BOP, but by using the simulator we can definitely be one step ahead.”
Cruden’s Panthera simulator software suite also allows advanced set-up changes to be made instantaneously, maximising the driver performance runs before lunchtime. The software is also praised for the ease in which Team WP can tune the dynamics of the motion platform to suit their drivers. However, the drivers are not the only ones who get to train in the simulator; in fact, the entire team drives at least 20 laps each before every race weekend.
“This really helps because we not only understand the demands of each corner, but also know how much focus is required at each point to ensure we don’t distract our drivers with radio communication,” explains Richardson. “It also helps us with set-up because rather than just looking at corner numbers on a track map, we can visualise the amount of banking and how sharp a corner is for example. Also, as we have progressed through the season, certain sections of the track share similarities with previous circuits, so we can transfer our knowledge and analyse the data, having driven it ourselves on the simulator.”
About Reiter Young Stars
The RYS Cup was set up by Reiter Engineering to provide the engineers and drivers of tomorrow with the perfect learning platform to begin their trackside careers. Each team consists of two student engineers, one marketing student and two young race drivers from each university. Reiter has established a points system where the winners of the competition are not just the fastest team, but the best in each discipline and will win a contract to work in a GT3 team in next year’s Blancpain Sprint Series Silver Cup.
“We have a huge amount of responsibility, unlike any other student competition,” explains Richardson. “It’s our job to get the car out on track, and improve performance, there won’t be anyone doing it for us. The senior Reiter engineers advise us occasionally, but they really push us because they know, that to make it in Motorsport you have to be determined and decisive.
The RYS Cup is unquestionably the best opportunity for enthusiastic students to experience the competitive demands of the trackside environment. “Formula Student is more orientated around design engineering, whereas working trackside is completely different, because it essentially removes the ability to rely on planning,” highlights Richardson. “There is so little time when racing, that you have to quickly prioritise and define a strategy whilst being able to cope with the continuously changing environment around you. Just like F1 teams, we are using, and becoming heavily dependent on, a simulator to deal with the challenges during the race weekend.”
By racing in such a varied championship, these new engineers have to cope with the added complications of BOP changes, but a Cruden simulator, together with the Panthera software allows Team WP to react quickly, but more importantly, accurately.