11th Jul2014

Mercedes AMG Petronas, Suspension, and a Man in Lederhosen

by Michael Chandler
mercedes-amg-petronas-previews-the-2014-malaysian-grand-prix-78898_1

Photo Credit: Daimler AG

As has been reported by many people (many, many, many people) the FIA is looking to ban the front and rear interconnected suspension system.  Why did they do this? Well, first I need to explain exactly what it is first.

Basically it is a system that keeps the cars’ ride heights as stable as possible, using hydraulics and witchcraft.  Technically it is only supposed to work to keep the front and rear ride heights as similar as possible through the corners.  TECHNICALLY.  One team (definitely not Mercedes AMG Petronas) has accused another (probably Mercedes AMG Petronas) of advancing the system to also work left to right.  According to Charlie Whiting, FIA race director, the system’s primary use is now aerodynamic, which makes the whole system illegal for everyone!

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Photo Credit: Force India

Well sort of.  Mr. Whiting views the system as illegal, but it hasn’t actually been banned yet.  The teams have an opportunity to push the ban to the start of the 2015 season, but that’s probably not going to happen.  For the ban to be pushed back there needs to be a unanimous vote, and that’s not going to happen.  Force India doesn’t use a FRIC system, so if it’s banned they don’t lose anything, and if someone violates the ban and is excluded from the results Force India could definitely benefit.  Caterham and Sauber could close the gap between them and Marussia, who are on the bleeding edge of suiting the system to their car.

Who looks to lose the most from the ban?  Well, according to lederhosen model Valtteri Bottas

“Yes! Maybe some teams could be more affected than us, I would say.”

So there you have it.  Mercedes could come back to the pack (in Germany of all places) because their suspension control system will be banned because at least three teams have no reason to not ban it.  And also a Valtteri Bottas quote to boot.

The German Grand Prix will be happening on July 20 at Hockenheim.  You can watch it on CNBC starting at 6:00 AM (Mountain), or on the internet somewhere. The choice is yours.

Words by Michael Chandler, photos as credited.

 *Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.
24th Jul2013

Caterham SP/300.R

by Michael Chandler

Caterham Dyson Racing demo car Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-1

Track day drivers looking for the next step up in their motorsports careers got a look at the future on July 19th and 20th when Dyson Racing and RaceCo showed off the dramatic Caterham SP/300.R on the East Course at Miller Motorsports Park. 

Caterham Dyson Racing demo car Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-7

A project of England’s Caterham Cars, the SP/300.R was designed by Lola Cars with input from and development work by America’s legendary sports car championship-winning Dyson Racing. As part of the team’s role as the SP/300.R’s exclusive distributor for the Americas, Dyson Racing recently completed a nationwide tour, demonstrating this futuristic Le Mans Prototype-inspired sports-racing car to enthusiast drivers at premier motorsports facilities around the nation. 

Caterham Dyson Racing demo car Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-9

At Miller Motorsports Park it was two-time American Le Mans Series driver champion Chris Dyson who gave rides and coached prospective owners during their own laps behind the wheel of the Caterham SP/300.R.

“I really enjoyed the folks I met out here during our demo drives,” Dyson said. “It was great of RaceCo to make this happen and it was a pleasure to make these friends of RaceCo our friends as well. I’ve always loved Miller Motorsports Park, so I made sure I got the assignment to come here.”

Dyson noted that the SP/300.R represents a new and very different approach to motoring fun than Caterham’s traditional Seven. “The Seven traces it heritage back to Colin Chapman’s original Lotus Seven from the mid-1950s. The SP/300.R looks like a slightly smaller version of the cars we race in the ALMS series and it has the same 21st-century technology. It is the perfect car for the trackday driver who’s been driving a hot street car or a vintage racecar and is looking to go faster and spend less money. The SP.300.R is the next logical step.”

Caterham Dyson Racing demo car Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-2 Caterham Dyson Racing demo car Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-6

Here are some of the technical details. With its strong and safe high-sided aluminum-honeycomb monocoque chassis and separate front-end crash box, the SP/300.R weighs only 1275 pounds, but provides unmatched driver safety. And with 300+ horsepower from its supercharged two-liter, four-cylinder, dry-sump lubricated Duratec-based engine, this car boasts an impressive power-to-weight ratio that few if any production-based trackday cars can match. All those numbers equal more numbers: 0-60 in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 165 mph.  The SP/300.R’s race car technology includes a mid-engine chassis layout, pushrod-actuated/rocker-arm suspension with coil-over springs and adjustable shocks, airjacks and adjustable front and rear rollbars. Power is transmitted to the centerlock 13-inch Formula 3-style wheels and racing tires through a Hewland FTR six-speed sequential gearbox with error-proof paddle-shift (the clutch is only used when starting or stopping the car) and a limited-slip differential.

Caterham Dyson Racing demo car Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-11

The car has a few tricks up its eight-piece coachwork sleeve as well.  Lola developed the aero package by using computational-fluid-dynamics technology to produce a car with an optimized high-downforce, low-drag aero signature.  The SP/300.R features AP Racing disk brakes with cockpit-adjustable front-rear balance, an adjustable carbon composite rear wing, a downforce-generating aluminum rear diffuser (990 pounds at 150 mph), and at the front end the splitter and carbon-fiber dive planes are aerodynamically optimized to balance all that downforce.

Caterham Dyson Racing demo car Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-10

The SP/300.R features a genuine two-seat cockpit, just in case your friends want to see what it’s like being strapped into a prototype-style race car for a few quick laps.  The twin roll hoops and front crash structure are MSA spec, and the 30-gallon fuel cell meets FIA specifications.  While the six-point harness keeps you strapped in the cockpit, you can feel free to adjust the balance of the AP Racing brakes.

 

Want to see it for yourself?  RaceCo is going to be home for a few months to one of Dyson Racing’s Caterham SP/300.Rs.  Get a hold of them and get out there to take a look at this amazing machine.

 

Photos by Michael Chandler, words by Michael Chandler and Cole Powelson.  Special thanks to Cole Powelson, the Caterham guys (sorry I forgot your names) and the corner workers and safety truck crew for letting me climb all over the car, hike around the track and let me ride along.
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.