The hot topic following the Australian Grand Prix earlier this year was the fuel-flow measurement regulation that was the key issue of Daniel Ricciardo's DNQ from the podium. But here's why it's a great tool.
For a while, I - as many other racing fans around the globe - couldn't get my head around the whole idea of restricting the amount of fuel around a lap current FIA F1 and WEC cars are obliged to comply with.
It didn't really make sense, because rule-makers could have simply fell back on restricting the amount of fuel teams/cars are allowed to use during the race or the whole weekend, making an even more intriguing game of chess with fuel-strategy and cars that could potentially produce as much as 1,000bhp for a few moments if they wanted to (and they still can, so they say about the Toyota TS040).
That was the exact question I addressed to Nicolas Perrin earlier designer of the Perrinn myTeam LMP1-H car, the myP1 and one of the advisers on the 2014 WEC/F1 regulations. He then said the following:
It will always be here to control the engine. I think in the future we will control engines only this way, when the sensor becomes cheaper and standard. It also makes the engine more reliable, because you don't push it to the limit as much. But to be honest, I believe engine development should stop at some point.
He amended his thought process in context of the myP1 project in today's Le Mans Week newsletter:
Engine performance is a priority at Le Mans and getting the right option can be a bit of a headache. There used to be a large performance disparity between V6 turbo and V10 engines and between petrol and diesels in the past but the new regulation with fuel consumption restriction is much better in that respect. As we can see, a V4, V6 and V8, petrol or diesel are now very close. That is because they will all more or less achieve a similar combustion efficiency. Laws of physics are the same for everyone.
This somehow echoes the idea I prompted not long ago on balancing the performance of various engines by a third-party agent, obviously not as bonkers as I intended it to be. It would potentially mean you could build whatever engine you wanted to for fun.
He then goes on how fuel-flow restriction and monitoring can be beneficial over the traditional solutions:
Also I didn't like the air restrictions that used to stress the engines as we were reving as high as possible. Now it is actually better for efficiency to rotate slower and that helps longevity.
My preference would be a V8 normally aspired, only because it is more simple (no turbo) and will be more reliable (rotates slower). So on the drawings at the moment you can see a Judd V8 in, only as reference.
But we have designed the car to be able to receive any V8, V6 turbo and even a new F1 engine. We talked with many engine suppliers, including F1. You can see large chassis inserts and series of holes at the back of the monocoque for each options.
Also, elaborating on the hybrid powertrain:
Weight has become a first order chassis development parameter again. We used to have 70kg of ballast on the cars but that would only be used to adjust weight distribution forward and rearward. But now, every kilogram saved will be used for a larger battery and electrical motor for the hybrid system. And that will translate into more power and autonomy at Le Mans
Actually, no one has been able to fit an 8MJ system this year, because of the weight. We think we can if we have 90 or 100kg spare for it. And that means a very light chassis, which we have due to the simple panel design and assembly I have pushed for myP1. With some work I think we can fit a V8 and an 8MJ system in. This for me will be the winning combination.
There is no point going to Le Mans without a hybrid system given the regulation. That's why myP1 is 4 wheel drive! We are not going there to start on the back foot in the LMP1-L category. We will be in the LMP1-H category against the big ones!
My favorite hybrid configuration is 2 electrical motors, 1 front (passenger leg area) and 1 rear (on top of the clutch shaft). They harvest kinetic energy under braking. We looked at exhaust recovery but couldn't find a performance advantage on paper, as what you tend to harvest is lost due to back pressure in the exhaust system.
There is about 20MJ of pure braking energy lost into the brakes around Le Mans so to harvest 8MJ requires a very efficient system and most importantly powerful motors (because the braking happens so quickly). At the front we need a motor of minimum 225KW, which is quite a lot. We also have a mini gearbox in front of the driver's feet to connect this motor, with a diff pack.
The energy storage will be high performance batteries in the passenger seat area. We looked for a while at the flywheel system but it looks to me that batteries are developing faster now and are easier to source. Also efficiency of electrical system will always be higher than mechanical systems.
For more insider information, visit perrinn.com.