Aston Martin tops Le Mans test
Pech wins Rally Krumlov
Value modelling process cuts competition car development costs by up to 50%
Prodrive is developing value model for theoretically-optimised Dakar and RallyX entries, as global interest in the formulae grows.
A new approach to the design of competition cars can slash the cost of developing a competitive vehicle by up to 50%. Developed by Prodrive, one of the most experienced and successful motorsport constructors, the approach focuses engineering resources to maximise the benefits of every Euro spent. Prodrive says the technique can be applied across any formula and will ‘almost guarantee’ to deliver a competitive competition car.
“We believe we have created a real asset,” says Prodrive’s motorsport technical director, David Lapworth. “Whether our client wants to win straight out of the box or challenge the established brands with a giant killing act, we can now provide a high-confidence solution for a fraction of the costs required for a traditional approach to race or rally car development.”
Prodrive’s process combines its substantial motorsport engineering expertise with value analysis expertise from the company’s road-car engineering consultancy. “Automotive engineers have impressive systems to help them meet tough performance and quality targets within specific budgets,” says Lapworth. “Working with colleagues from our Automotive Technology division helped us understand how to translate their value analysis techniques into a rigorous process that supports design decisions, correlating engineering investment with performance value far more precisely than previously.”
The heart of the process is a rigorous definition of the sensitivity of the vehicle’s performance to incremental changes in the characteristics of each significant component. “Much of the investment has been focussed on quantifying parameters through which the performance of systems can be defined and then developing models that link changes in those parameters to the degree of change in overall vehicle performance,” explains Lapworth.
The first step in the process is to create a generic model of an ideal vehicle for the formula. Specific targets are then set for key performance factors such as weight, weight distribution, centre of gravity, aerodynamic forces, engine power etc. The next stage of analysis is to define the degree of contribution of each component on each of these performance factors, allowing a rigorous definition of the improvement to whole-vehicle performance that will be generated by incremental improvement in each component.
“At this stage, we have a very precise understanding of the cost of making the car competitive for each performance step, essentially a Euro per second/kilometre in the case of rallying or second per lap in racing,” says Lapworth. “The power of the approach is that this allows us to make decisions very quickly and very accurately, ensuring that time and money are only invested where they will deliver most value. Everyone in the design team understands these parameters and therefore does not waste time over engineering a component or endlessly seeking irrelevant incremental performance.”
Much of the cost reduction comes from the time saved by Prodrive’s engineers, but a significant contribution is also derived from what Lapworth calls ‘value balancing’. “Most constructors are under such time pressures that they base decisions on a combination of experience and what they are good at,” he explains. “That can mean, for example, a highly accomplished chassis that you can’t fully exploit because of a poor power unit. Our approach ensures that resources are focussed only on the areas that deliver the biggest gain, so the relative performance of every system is balanced across the vehicle.”
The foundations of the process were developed in 2009 as Prodrive prepared a generic rally car for new World Rally Championship regulations in 2011. “At that stage, we didn’t know which car we were going to put the design into, so we spent time ensuring we had a rigorous understanding of every characteristic that affects vehicle performance, then building that knowledge into a model-based process,” says Lapworth. “In the end we ended up in talks with three vehicle manufacturers about a programme and chose to work with MINI. The result was that the MINI World Rally Car was delivered very quickly, with far less testing than any previous programme, yet the car achieved three podiums in its first seven outings and very nearly won on its third event. The design and development budget for that programme was also a fraction of the norm, indeed less than 50% of what we had previously spent on developing the Subaru Impreza WRC.”
The process was then applied by Prodrive to the design and build of Aston Martin Racing’s GTE entry for Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship, helping the constructor to deliver improved performance alongside improved value compared with previous generations of cars. With each new project following the same approach the process has been refined meaning that Prodrive is now confident it can guarantee the delivery of a competitive cars at a fraction of the cost of traditional programme.
Prodrive commits to Rallycross & Dakar
Prodrive is currently using this process to develop generic cars for Global RallyX and Dakar, according to Prodrive’s motorsport business development director, Richard Taylor, who led the company’s multiple world championship-winning Subaru World Rally Championship team. “We see RallyX as an increasingly important formula that is catching the attention of manufacturers and major global brands looking to use sport as a marketing platform,” he says. “It’s exciting to compete in, great to watch and costs are reasonable.”
Taylor says that Prodrive has already started to analyse the regulations for this and Dakar very carefully, looking for the subtle nuances that open opportunities for competitive advantage. “Over the coming months, we are developing theoretically-optimised models for both, which will allow us to develop a competitive car very quickly,” he concludes.