Wednesday, 21 March 2018

FIA WEC: BMW Motorsport designer Michael Scully on the new BMW M8 GTE: “It’s the most elemental, determined race car we have ever built.”

When the BMW M8 GTE broke cover last year, it was celebrated for its innovative design that embraced both the motorsport and road car heritage of BMW, while making a clear statement of modernity. Speaking in an interview, Michael Scully, Head of Design BMW Motorsport, and the man behind the aesthetics of the latest Le Mans challenger, explains how the BMW M8 GTE’s looks came to life.

© BMW Motorsport

Mr. Scully, the BMW M8 GTE has been built to compete in the toughest endurance races around the globe. Why do you think the look of the car is important?
Michael Scully: “When a car like the BMW M8 GTE debuts publically before a flagship production car such as the BMW 8 Series, the continuity of performance and design character are of heightened importance because the race car plays such an active role in helping to shape and communicate the essence of the new BMW 8 Series.

Race cars are typically known to be functionally-driven objects, and I love when a vehicle is so focused: they have an innate, authentic expression of what they do. That visual communication is more subjective than a stopwatch however, and as a designer, I’m interested in both the absolute performance of the vehicle, and what character its shape and graphics communicate. Having synergies between those elements is sometimes highly challenging, but it’s also what I find most rewarding in design.”

As a designer, does this balance of function and emotion bring compromise or structure?
“It’s a two-way street. The criteria of functional requirements help structure the design process and give us something to respond to. Trying to find innovative, clever solutions in response to that framework is, for me, what being a designer is all about. Without those constraints, the creative process could be considered to be solely an artistic thing: essentially producing sculpture, for example. Uniting the essential BMW design DNA with the functional and regulatory requirements in the development process is for me, where the creative dynamic really begins.”

In which way does design show the character of a car? And what is the character of the BMW M8 GTE?
“I think we have created a focused, determined expression with the BMW M8 GTE. The car has a formidable presence, and this is partly due to its essential proportions sourced from the production car: It has the classic two-box proportion with long hood, and visual emphasis of mass on the rear wheels which make it, fundamentally, a sports car. As we added nearly 100mm to each side of the car, and with its explicit aerodynamic elements, the car overtly conveys its intent to win races.

At the front of the car, we’ve taken the opportunity to pronounce the internal ducting of the kidneys with a bold colour application, and celebrate the purpose-driven aerodynamic shapes. Combined with the intense, forward-focused headlights and endurance racing-specific corner lights, the car has a highly determined expression… something that I feel is relevant to the purpose of the car.”

Your grandfather was an influential architecture historian. Do you think this is a co-incidence or do you believe you can inherit the language of shape and design?
Scully: “My Granddad taught me that there is added significance when a building or an object acknowledges its context, and that designing in a situational vacuum is fruitless. An object can add positively to the human experience if conceived with an awareness of its surroundings. Sometimes this connection can be accomplished by directly referencing that environment; for example a house on a mountain range with the roofline gesturing to the mountains’ specific slopes, or sometimes by blatantly disavowing the existing surroundings to provoke a larger dialog. Both can be valuable depending on the specific instance, but making those deeper connections is a designer’s onus. I think that’s where I learned about finding relevance, meaning, and impact in an object or image.”

So, if the mountain range is the context for the building, the circuit is the context for the race car?
Scully: “Exactly. The context of a race car is the competitive arena. I’m captivated by objects that are built for competition use because they look, and are, so purposeful. As a result, they happen to send a very clear, visceral message of their intent.  For the BMW M8 GTE to be relevant in this context, modern, bold, and impactful shapes and graphics were in order, and I think the car succeeds in carrying those attributes forward to the world’s stage.”

What are the other challenges for a car race designer? 
Scully: “At BMW Design we use precise lines in conjunction with nuanced surfaces to achieve an interplay between the two, and lend a visual structure to the shape of the car. The regulations for the BMW M8 GTE however, forbid any kind of crisp lines being added to the surfaces; in fact, they require a minimum of a 50mm radius to any surface addition in many areas. This tends to necessitate very clunky, albeit legal shapes. With this project we were continuously looking for ways of maintaining the integrity, richness, and precision of the BMW 8 Series production car design, while also abiding by the regulations, and achieving our aerodynamic and packaging targets. One of the ways we have accomplished this is with inlets and outlets for the air in the bodywork: they perform critical functions, and also give a precision and structure back to the shape that could otherwise get a bit heavy.”

How did the relationship with your BMW 8 Series colleagues work?
“BMW Design’s leadership has obviously had a very active hand in the BMW 8 Series, and that also includes the GTE variant. Additionally, the exterior designer of the BMW Concept 8 Series is a good friend and co-worker of mine: understanding where he was coming from thematically was really helpful in maintaining continuity between the cars. We also had the chance to directly exchange ideas for the GTE, so in that sense it was a natural extension of the BMW 8 Series lineage.

I see race cars and production cars at the BMW Group as having a two-way relationship: A lot of manufacturers promote how their race cars inform their production cars, and we do that too, but at BMW our production and concept cars also inform our race cars. And I think that’s what gives an authenticity to each of them.”

Do you have an example of that two-way relationship?
Scully: “On the mirrors of the BMW M8 GTE, I was striving throughout the development process to get the iconic BMW ‘M hook’ that points back towards the centreline of the car integrated into the main housing of the mirror. It’s an element of our M production cars that really resonates with BMW purists. From my initial sketch with an underslung, cantilevered support, and in iterative collaboration with the aerodynamicists, we found some notable functional benefits from the shape of the mirror, particularly in the highly sculpted base: it’s something that really does positively affect the aerodynamic flow regime down the side of the car.  So with the mirrors we have a relationship where the race car’s functionality is improved, but the fundamental design vocabulary and direction is inspired from the production cars.”

What are your favourite parts of the BMW M8 GTE and why?
“As I mentioned, I’m proud of the mirrors because they have an embedded aerodynamic function, carry the M iconography, and have a modern, purposeful expression. I also really like the front kidneys with their exposed interior surfaces for the specific care and feeding requirements of the race car. The kidneys evoke the history of BMW with the forward-leaning shark nose, and by opening them up with exposed internals, we reference that heritage in an entirely modern way.”

To sum it all up: Where does the BMW M8 GTE rank compared to the other BMW race cars you have worked on?
“The BMW M8 GTE is truly distilled down to its essence. It is an efficient, competitive machine. It has a highly defined purpose, and a distinct, dynamic persona. For me, it’s the most elemental, determined car that we have ever built.”

Source: BMW press release

FIA WEC: Dragonspeed adds Maldonado to LMP2 line-up

Dragonspeed has confirmed former Formula 1 driver Pastor Maldonado as its second driver for their LMP2 car in the 2018/2019 FIA WEC Super Season. Maldonado will join Roberto Gonzalez behind the wheel of the #31 Gibson powered Oreca 07. The third driver for the car is still to be announced after a deal with Esteban Guttierez fell through earlier this month.

The 33 year old Venezuelan will make his sportscar debut at the Prologue in a few weeks, after a two year break from competition. Maldonado raced in Formula 1 for Williams and Lotus between 2011 and 2015. In 96 starts he won the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona in 2012.

Roberto Gonzalez who was announced as designated driver at the presentation of the FIA WEC entry list, already built up some experience in prototype racing.  The Mexican drove for Manor in the World Endurance Championship last season and competed with AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (Ligier JSP217) in the Daytona 24 hours this January. 

The driver line-up for the teams BR1 in the top class of the FIA WEC has been announced before with Renger Van der Zande, Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman. Van der Zander will be replaced by Pietro Fittipaldi - grandson of two-time Emerson - in two rounds for which he is unavailable due to a clash with the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship. 

Kristof Vermeulen.

Friday, 16 March 2018

IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring: Pole position for Cadillac (P), BMW (GTLM) and Ferrari (GTD)

Tristan Vautier has secured pole position this afternoon in his #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi for tomorrow's Sebring 12 Hours.  

It's the first pole position for the team in its new DPi prototype, and the first pole for the Frenchman in the WeatherTech SportsCar Series.  Vautier held off fellow Frenchman Olivier Pla in the #2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Dpi with 0.160 seconds after an exciting duel. Third fastest was Ricky Taylor in the #7 Acura Team Penske Dpi, 0.341 seconds behind pole position. 

After a disappointing 24 Hours of Daytona where the brand new M8 GTE showed its reliability but a lack of pace, BMW now dominated the LMGTE class, scoring pole and third position at the end of the qualifying session. Both BMW were in top of the timetable, until James Calado managed to squeeze in its #62 Ferrari 488 GTE. Connor de Philippi was the fastest man on track, clocking in a record breaking 1.55.893 for the GTLM class with his #25 BMW M8 GTE. Calado was a (very) close second, just 0.058 seconds behind the BMW. The #24 BMW of Jesse Krohn set the third fastest time. 

Spirit of Race took pole position in the GTD class with Daniel Serra behind the wheel of the #51 Ferrari 488 GT3. Serra also set a record qualifying lap in 1.58.710. Chistopher Mies in the #29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 GT3 was second fastest, over half a second behind Serra. Just 0.022 seconds slower was Jack Hawksworth in the #15 Lexus RCF GT3.  The #93 Michael Shank Lexus is still undergoing repair works after yesterday's crash and didn't take part in qualifying. 

The 66th annual 12 Hours of Sebring will start on Saturday at 10h40 local time (14h40 UK time, 15h40 CET).

Saturday's (very) cold and foggy morning practice saw Helio Castrovenes fastest in the #7 Penske Acura in 1.47.076 in the Prototype class, both BMW's setting the pace in GTLM and the Land Motorsport R8 fastest in GTD. 

Mazda dominated yesterday's night practice, putting both Joest run Mazda DPi's on top of the timetable.  Oliver Jarvis in the #77 beating Jonathan Bomarito in the #55 with 0.457 seconds. The Ford GT of Joey Hand was fastest in the dark, ahead of the #25 BMW and the #911 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor.  In the GTD class the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW was fastest. 

Kristof Vermeulen. 
All pictures © JellyBaby.Media

Thursday, 15 March 2018

IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring: Penske Acura fastest in first two practice sessions

Action started today for the 66th annual 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida.  43 cars went out for today's first two practice sessions under sunny skies, but with bitter cold temperatures in the morning.

The #7 Penske Acura DPI's was fastest overall so far, Helio Castrovenes topping the timetables in the first session, Ricky Taylor in the second session.  The Joest Mazda seem to like the track at Sebring better than Daytona in January, setting second and fourth best times in the second session of the day.

In GTLM its's Ford vs Ferrari so far, the Risi Ferrari sandwiched inbetween both Fords today. The #66 Ford set the fastest time in the first session, #67 in the afternoon.  The #93 Michael Shank Acura set the quickest time in GTD during the morning session, in the afternoon it was the #15 3GT Racing Lexus who was fastest.

The second session was red flagged early when Justin Marks went hard into the tyre wall at turn 13, even moving the concrete wall a few foot behind.  Marks got out of his #93 Michael Shank Acura but with heavy damage to the car it's unsure whether they will be able to participate in the night practice session.



Sunday, 11 March 2018

Amelia Island Concours d'élégeance: 1929 Duesenberg and 1963 Ferrari win best of show

A 1929 Duesenberg J.SJ Convertible and 1963 Ferrari 250/275P have won the best of show awards on Saturday at  the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d'Ă©lĂ©geance. 

© JellyBaby.Media

As in 2017, the Amelia Island Concours d'Ă©lĂ©gance was moved one day earlier, due to bad weather forecasts for Sunday. That late day change didn't scare off any visitors, with thousands of car enthousiasts attending the concours under sunny skies. 

Guest of honour this year was Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, double Formula 1 World Champion and two-time winner of the Indy 500. The concours showcased some impressive racecars of Fittipaldi, including a 1970 Lotus 72/5, 1974 McLaren M23/5, 1974 Porsche 911 RSR IROC, Renault Dauphine "Gordini"and 1977 Chevrolet IROC Camaro Z28.


More than 300 cars and motorcycles, split up into 35 classes were presented at the Amelia golf club. Highlights next to Fittipaldi's race cars was an impressive line-up of "Martini race cars", N.A.R.T Ferrari's, several one-off and unique automobiles, Steve McQueens original "Bullit" Mustang and an almost complete collection of Auburns. 

© JellyBaby.Media
The highly valuated Best in Show Concours d’Elegance Trophy was presented to a 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible owned by Harry Yeaggy from Cincinnati, Ohio. This Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible has Murphy roadster-style coachwork that was restyled in period by Bohman & Schwartz of Pasadena, California. Styling changes included a lengthened hood, slotted fenders and more modern bumpers. One of the early owners of this car was Edward Beale McLean, who owned the Hope Diamond and whose family owned The Washington Post.

© JellyBaby.Media

A 1963 Ferrari 250/275P from The JSL Motorsports Collection in Redwood City, California, took home the prestigious Best in Show Concours de Sport Trophy. The winning Ferrari 250/275P won the overall at the 1963 ADAC Nurburgring 1,000Kms with John Surtees and Willy Mairesse and the 1964 Sebring 12 Hours with Mike Parkes and Umberto Maglioli driving.  This car finished second at the 1963 Sebring event and won the first race at Mont Tremblant as a NART entry with Pedro Rodriguez driving. The car was campaigned as a NART entry in 1964 and 1965.

“I could not be more pleased with the judges’ decisions for the 2018 Amelia Island Concours winners,” said Bill Warner, Chairman and Founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “We are overjoyed to present the Duesenberg and Ferrari with these honors. These cars are prime examples of automotive prestige and we are proud to recognize them.”

© JellyBaby.Media

In the power-driven age, a special class of electric horseless carriages highlighted the renewed enthusiasm for the 120 year old technology.  IMSA GTP celebrated its GTP -- Grand Touring Prototype -- racers from the 1981 through the 1993 IMSA Championships. A quarter century has passed since IMSA’s GTPs last raced in anger. They were the spiritual descendants of the mighty, unlimited Can-Am racers of the 1960s and 1970s and the vanguard of a new generation of automotive performance and technology. By the end of the GTP era in 1993 they had eclipsed every major record the fabled Can-Am racers set.  Another spectacular display was the collection of Martini race cars, including 2 Porsche 917's. 

A few further impressions of this years concours at Amelia and an overview of some class winners and a rundown of Le Mans cars will be published in the upcoming days. 

Kristof Vermeulen.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Michelin Le Mans Cup expands to 29 car grid

The Michelin Le Mans Cup continues to grow with another big increase in the number of full season entries for the 2018 season. No less than 29 cars will be on the grid for the first race at Le Castellet in April. 23 LMP3's and 6 GT3's will battle it out for this years title.

© Michelin Le Mans Cup

The LMP3 class grows up to a massive 23 cars this season, showing the success and importance the class has reached in the endurance racing ladder. Several teams are returning for their second season in the championship, many of them with multi-car entries. Other new teams are also joining the championship for six races around Europe, including the season highlight at Le Mans. For the first time, three manufacturers will be present in the Michelin Le Mans Cup with Ligier, Norma and the return of one Ginetta.

DKR Engineering returns to defend its 2017 title, although with a new driver line-up. Last years champions Jean Glorieux and Alexander Toril are moving up to the European Le Mans Series this year, chasing down the European title. They will be replaced by Dutchman LĂ©onard Hoogenboom and Jens Petersen from Germany. 2017 Vice Champions Tony Wells and Colin Noble return for a second shot at the title, in a 2-car effort by Nielsen Racing. 

United Autosports also returns and will lead the field with no less than three Ligier JSP3's. Matt Bell and Wayne Boyd will be joined by American James McGuire and Briton Richard Meins, with American Najaf Husain and Colin Braun in the third entry. French team Graff will also enter three cars, split between two Ligiers and one Norma. Swiss outfit Cool Racing is stepping up their efforts with a two-car entry. Motorsport 98 and Spirit of Race are both returning with an unchanged line-up. RLR M Sport also expands to two cars this season. Ross Warburton and Alex Kapadia will be joined by John Farano & Job Van Uitert.

A new face on the grid will be Japanese team TKS, which was invited for the Road to Le Mans race in 2017, and now enters the Michelin Le Mans Cup, bringing in the only Ginetta P3-15 on the 2018 grid for Shinyo Shano. Also new on the grid will be British teams Brookspeed International (Ligier) and Lanan Racing (Norma), both teams with on single car. There are also two new French teams: DB Autosport and CD Sport who are both racing Normas M30/Nissans. French teams Duqueine Engineering, N’Race and Spanish team SPV Racing complete the LMP3 grid for this season.

Despite the growth in LMP3, the GT3 grid stays on the same level with 6 cars confirmed for a full season campaign. Last season saw 4 manufacturers on the grid, in 2018 it's a battle of a lonely Porsche against 5 Ferrari's. 2017 champions Ebimotors return to defend their title but will switch their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 for a brand new Porsche 911 GT3 R. A return for the team to Stuttgart's finest after racing with Porsche in the past. Paolo Venerosi and Alessandro Baccani will share the wheel of the 911. Kessel Racing arrives with 3 Ferrari F488 GT3's, with two Italian and one British driver crews. Spirit of Race are back for a third season in the Michelin Le Mans Cup with Christoph Ulrich and Maurizio Mediani in the #51 Ferrari. AF Corse complete the six-car line up with Marco Cioci and Piergiuseppe Perazzini sharing the #71 F488.

Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO: “Three years after announcing the Michelin Le Mans Cup I am very happy to see the grid significantly increase in size once again. The 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup will feature some of the top teams and drivers from the world of endurance. The series also gives bronze drivers the maximum amount of track time on some of the best circuits in Europe and the fact the grid has increased by nearly 50% in 2018 is testament to appeal of the Michelin Le Mans Cup. The Road to Le Mans also attracts drivers and teams looking to compete on the full circuit at La Sarthe, giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents.”

GĂ©rard Neveu, CEO of the Michelin Le Mans Cup: “The Michelin Le Mans Cup continues to grow stronger and we are extremely pleased to see a healthy 29 car grid for the 2018 season. The LMP3 class is the endurance racing success story and with 18 cars in the European Le Mans Series there will be 41 LMP3 cars from three different manufacturers at each of the race meetings in 2018, which will be a phenomenal sight. More than ever the Michelin Le Mans Cup turns out to be a great platform to move up the Endurance ladder; to compete in the European Le Mans Series and, for the best, race in the WEC and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There promises to be some great racing in the Michelin Le Mans Cup this season.” The 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup will start at the Circuit Paul Ricard with the collective test on 11 April followed by round one at the same venue on the 14 April.

Download the 2018 entry list here !

Kristof Vermeulen.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

FIA WEC: A closer look into the heart of the BMW M8 GTE

In less than two months, BMW returns to the FIA World Endurance Championship with their all new M8 GTE. After the cars debut at Daytona, it will race at Sebring next month before the M8 will make its debut on Europe at the WEC prologue at Le Castellet in April.  BMW developed a new engine for the M8 which already showed its reliabilty at Daytona.  Let's take a closer look at the M8's powerhouse. 

© BMW Motorsport

Every successful race car needs a powerful and reliable engine to accelerate to top speed. In the case of the new BMW M8 GTE, this is the BMW P63/1. The story of this special powerhouse began back in February 2016. With the start of the conception phase for the new GTE engine, the engine designers at BMW Motorsport embarked on their most comprehensive project since the development of the power unit for the DTM comeback in 2012. In total, more than 500 engine design drawings – and another 500 drawings for the powertrain – were created in the following months. The result of that work is the most efficient engine that BMW Motorsport has ever developed, delivering between 500 and more than 600 hp (depending on the specifications of the sporting authorities).

The P63/1 passed its first performance test at the modern BMW Motorsport test rig in Munich on the 20th January 2017 with flying colours. That was a special moment for the engineers – as was the roll-out of the car on 1st July 2017 and the race debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona (USA) on 27th January 2018. The goal during development was as clear as it was ambitious: to develop the most efficient engine ever to power a BMW race car. To achieve this, it was initially very important to decide upon a base engine ideally suited to the high demands encountered in motor racing. Working closely with the developers at BMW M GmbH, the decision was made to use the BMW S63T4, a V8 engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo Technology, which was first used in the new BMW M5. 

As stipulated in the regulations, the cast parts in the engine block and cylinder head were adopted without modification from the production power unit. Both components were made in the light-alloy foundry at BMW Group Plant. Here, innovative and sustainable manufacturing methods are used to make technologically-sophisticated engine components from light-alloy casting. Aside from the regulated cast parts, the engine in the BMW M8 GTE – containing approximately 2,300 further components, including 985 unique parts – required comprehensive modifications. Of these parts, 181 were derived from series projects, while more than 700 were specifically developed for the P63/1 or added from other BMW Motorsport racing engines.

The engineers reduced the capacity from 4.4 to 4 litres, in line with regulations for the GTE class. The new design of the crank drive involved the implementation of a flat crankshaft, which brings with it the advantage of a regular firing order and gives the engine an even sportier sound. The geometry of the combustion chambers, including the inlet and outlet ports, was also modified to ensure that the P63/1 is ideally designed for the demands of racing. Comprehensive modifications to the intake and exhaust system, and the complete redesign of the turbocharger, have also helped to improve efficiency. Among other things, this results in the fuel burning very quickly and comprehensively at the optimal time, at a maximum temperature of over 2,100 degrees Celsius. This
allows the P63/1 to achieve efficiency levels well above 40 per cent. This makes it the most efficient BMW racing engine ever in sports car and touring car racing.

© BMW Motorsport

This efficiency gives teams far greater flexibility with regard to race strategy. As well as being efficient, driveability is another outstanding feature of the P63/1. This helps the drivers get the most out of the BMW M8 GTE on the track. A completely new approach to engine control made it possible to achieve instant throttle response and linear power delivery from the engine.

Technical data for the P63/1 engine for the BMW M8 GTE.

Model:                         V8 engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo Technology

Capacity:                     3,981 cc

Output:                       500 to over 600 hp (depending on the specifications of the sporting authorities)

Number of cylinders:  8

V angle:                      90°

Bore:                           89 mm

Stroke:                        80 mm

Cylinder spacing:      98 mm

Engine speed:            approx. 7,000 rpm

Kristof Vermeulen
Source: BMW Motorsport press release