Amazing that tweaking lubricants or modifying a damper can have such a huge impact on performance. It struck me that the teams use actual hardware machines to do some of the track simulation given that I live in a world where everyone talks about virtual simulation. Any sense of whether CAE is employed in any of their mechanical finetuning?
Beth, I was wondering that as well. My experience, though, is that it takes time and effeort to set up the simulations, even with a very good package. I have run into organizations that still use their own in-house developed simulations. They have confidence in them and have used them for a long time. It seems there would be great risk in this, but they are unwilling to move to the established tools.
In racing, it takes time to model both the track and the vehicle. Think of all the modeling one would have to do make this work. So, I can see how the teams use the machines they do. They can get high fidelity results very quickly. Thcy can also make "real" changes quickly. This hybrid approach seems to work better in the tight deadline world of racing.
What I find amazing is the technical equivalency of these cars. One tiny difference here and there in the performance of the Indy cars can mean the difference of a handful of seconds in the progress through 500 miles. And that's all the driver needs, just a few seconds of advantage. Amazing.
Back in the 60's, (when I was very young), we used to read about racing mini-coopers in the UK. They all had the same engine, but some guys were getting more out of them with "tuning". Turns out the winning drivers were cutting the tranny grease volume in half, and using lighter weight lube, plus they reduced the crankcase lube quantity by 50%. Gave them enough more HP that they won races After all, the engine only has to last one race!
I've got an acquaintance who races a VW Golf in the SCCA seniors circuit. He has two engines, swaps them out between races, and does a complete teardown after each race. I've seen him do this in an afternoon, changing out the camshaft with a high-lift version to shift the torque curve for a particular track. And that's a low-budget, one man "team".
The competitive edge in Indy Car racing has gotten so small due to regulation, that the difference between first and second place may be little more than a few milliseconds.
It absolutely amazes me as to the technological extremes that are available today. I also wonder how much of it still takes human instinct and where the lines are drawn. I remember watching Space Cowboys and Clint Eastwood's team was in the shuttle simulator. The young pups in the simulator with them always flew by computer control and told the old experienced pilot that there was no way he could manually land the shuttle in the current simulation they were running. Of course the old guy flipped over from auto-pilot to manual and proved them wrong. On the other hand, the importance of simulation came through loud and clear in Apollo 13 when they were trying to solve a power consumption problem that Apollo 13 was facing as it approached re-entry. It is really interesting what is available to these Indy teams and speaks of humanity's determination to progress and not be limited by finite human ability.
I don't know if I should be appalled or depressed. Or both. Probably both.
This is a problem of the Indy controlling authority micro-managing the engineering in all the wrong ways. OK, I understood when they outlawed active control surfaces because people were dying when they failed. But this level of hamstringing (spelling?) Engineers is beyond absurd. Specifying which bearings can be used? Tuning lubricants to specific tracks? Let's vacuum all the fun out of racing, then vacuum it out some more.
Besides, human beings drive these vehicles, so any effect that a lubricant may have on the outcome of a race is lost in the noise of operator limitations, error, and habit.
Since the money that goes into this industry is obscene, let the Engineer's loose and see what they come up with (like it used to be). The whole benefit of having Indy (socially) is that it's bleeding edge technology that winds up (slowly) available to the rest of us (i.e. a technology incubator).
Want to make it really interesting? Spec out the driver completely. Then they will have to start Engineering better sensors and processors, improving reaction times, which will wind up (in a decade or so) in our street cars and save countless lives.
End of my rant (and don't even get me started on Nascar of the NFL).
That is how so many problems are caused - lack of balance. Where does striving to improve enter the realm of overreactive control? Not easily answered and often the folks behind an initiative have the best of intentions...this issue is common in so many endeavors and it is often not until the distance of history that the error is recognized.
As I think about it, the even greater shame is the lost opportunity to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists. Without a visible platform to demonstrate the technology, it really is just a bunch of cars going around in a circle.
For real racing innovation and fun one only needs to attend a local short track where backyard mechanics still thrive. Shoe string budgets, making do with what you have, and close competition is seen in the lower divisions. For the fan, you can actually see the cars go by and relate to most of the vehicles. The drivers love to talk with fans and actually have time to show people their cars.
I'm old enough to remember the fun days of Can AM racing where almost anything went – The innovation was exciting. We could hardly wait until the next race to see what guys like Jim Hall would bring to the track.
Over regulation just give us cookie cutter cars that are boring!
I understand why IndyCar had to step in and place controls on the technology side of this. When Toyota spends $1 billion in five or six years, then, yes, I suppose controls have become necessary. What I don't understand is why everyone kept upping the ante until that became necessary. At some point, I would think these automakers and race teams would have behaved the same as anyone in a high stakes poker game and simply said, "It's too rich for my blood."
I like the fact that the automakers are willing to pony up with big bucks to develop the sport. The gain for them is the bragging rights that they are technologically "in the game" and ahead of the other car makers, and that's worth it for them (or else they would cut off the money).
The trick for IndyCar is to finess the rules to harness that money and effort in a productive way to encourage real innovation (the way Indy used to be) and make it more than just a bunch of cars driving in a circle. Unfortunately, judging by this (how many angels can you fit on the tip of a needle [bearing] ?) IndyCar is not succeeding.
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