Aerodynamics in the World Endurance Championship
Most people who follow motorsport will be familiar with the critically important role that aerodynamics play in creating a truly fast race car, as well as the continuous development going on throughout the season to fine tune this area of performance.
TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG)has refined its expertise in this crucial area of race car performance during years of participation at motorsport’s highest level. Therefore it was no surprise to see the stunning aerodynamic detailing of the new TS030 HYBRID, which will participate in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Finding the right solutions in aerodynamic design is a mixture of science and art that demands the right tools. In developing the TS030 HYBRID, TMG has access to the most advanced aerodynamic development facilities available on the open market, including two continuous motion wind tunnels complemented by a powerful CFD cluster. With one of the tunnels able to take a full size car and the other a 60% model, the state-of-the-art facilities provide the engineering and design teams with not only high throughput but also an accurate correlation with track performance. Such is the flexibility of the wind tunnels that using the high speed data acquisition (HSDA) and continuous motion systems (CMS), TMG or other client teams could theoretically run a simulation of a complete lap of Le Mans or another track within the wind tunnel, although in practice this is not the best use of the advanced facility.
In reality aerodynamic engineers take continuous measurements from the constantly moving model, enabling them to capture far more data, in a significantly shorter time period than the move, correct/calibrate, settle and sample cycle that most other wind tunnels have to adopt. Removing the dead time in the traditional approach means that the TMG wind tunnels are highly productive, both in terms of outputs, time and energy efficiency.
The more data that the engineers have available, the more accurate the model becomes in terms of replicating the real-world, on-track behaviour of the car. The powerful Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) server cluster is another tool that generates armfuls of data that is used to create yet more performance models. Here CAD models are turned into 3D, fine mesh models that are used to simulate air flow over the car, identifying high and low pressure zones, vortices and other flow characteristics that impact aerodynamic efficiency. Often used in the early phases of design before the promising parts are taken into the wind tunnel, CFD is invaluable in assessing the potential performance of new design concepts. CFD simulations are used alongside the wind tunnel, but have the advantage of a higher throughput, despite the ultra-efficient tunnels at TMG. This throughput is particularly useful when qualifying large numbers of design permutations, enabling designers to prioritise the high potential ideas.
Of course, while the aerodynamic characteristics of the car are a fundamental design element, they are just one element working in unison with other major systems including the drivetrain and tyres. All of these systems influence the others in terms of performance and reliability. It’s no good having a great engine and hybrid drivetrain if the aero package creates too much drag that reduces top speed and increases fuel consumption. When the tables are turned though, a strong aerodynamic package can compensate to a certain extent for an engine with a little less power than the class leaders. The aerodynamic balance of the car is also a critical factor in terms of tyre performance, which in endurance races is essential to get right. It’s not only about extracting the maximum grip from the tyres, but about ensuring consistent performance levels over three, four or more stints during the race. This needs poise from the aerodynamics as well as the driver.
The TS030 HYBRID has already covered many miles in testing on the track over the winter. Part of that has been to confirm and correlate the findings of both the wind tunnel and the CFD cluster. The design engineers can then have confidence that new developments will have the expected impact on performance when they make it to the race car. The only true test of course is when the car takes to the track alongside some tough competition. For the aero team, that is not the end of the process but simply another step in the continuous design, develop and refine cycle of race car creation, where the aerodynamic package constantly evolves in response to different tracks and the flow of new ideas to make the car faster.
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