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GP Week : Issue 136
Both Craig Breen and egon Kaur, the top contenders in the 2011 WRC Academy, went off the road on Rallye de France. This should have gifted victory to the Spanish island driver Yeray Lemes – until the moment when he drove back to the finish and committed his second speeding offence on the event. A mandatory five minute penalty was imposed. Suddenly, Ulsterman Alastair Fisher found he was the winner. Only four of the 16 Academy drivers actually covered the full two days of the route of their event. Outsider Brendan Reeves retired with a broken clutch, which left Kaur and Breen the only two possible contenders for the championship, with the final round of the season to be held on gravel at the Rally GB. Academy – Contenders fall down ... MInI World Rally Car’s Chief engineer dave Wilcock explained that no moment had been wasted in the five weeks since the Mini team competed in Germany before Rallye de France. “Basically we’ve been working on reliability issues. After Kris Meeke’s retirement in Germany, for what was really a minor failure – one of the battery terminals to the starter motor fatigued – we have been doing some modal analysis work to identify the vibration harmonics which caused that to happen. “From that work we have made some alterations to the cars, hopefully to solve that problem. We did a one-day test on Sunday (25th Sep), half a day with each driver to confirm their Germany set-ups, and their alternative set-ups, just made 100 percent sure that we’re happy with those adjustments. “ We have made a few adjustments to the cars in terms of the set-up, to cater for the generally smoother, more flatter roads and the fast flowing roads of the Alsace stages. Both drivers are really happy with their times in the car, so we’re happy enough at the moment. “So far as the engine work is concerned, we have a lot of ongoing future development work with BMW Motorsport. Homologation rules dictate the specific times when we are allowed to make changes. The main ambition is to improve basic reliability. BMW have been looking at a new cylinder head with reliability in mind, to overcome the tendency to suffer cracking around the valve seat area. Under the FIA’s global engine policy, teams have the choice of maintaining the standard components and reworking or machining from new, like Citroen have done with there’s, and the same with Chevrolet on their Touring Car engine. BMW chose to use a standard block and head and multiply from there, because that brings certain advantages, and in that process they will do more running which highlighted weakness in one certain areas so they are working on that with the casting to introduce a new cylinder head shortly. “So there are pros and cons for both methods, whether one is more cost effective that the other is difficult to say, depending on the number of alternations you’ve got to do to your standard casting in order to make it durable. There is still more work to be done to understand which way is the preferred method to do this. “In addition to this, we are looking at a piston ring and piston configuration, and arrangement development. This is to do with ongoing direct-injection development and adjusting to the 33mm turbo restrictor. The work is all about achieving optimum combustion, so with the combustion chamber area being both in the crown of the piston partly in the cylinder head, the object is to find out how each interacts. This work takes time. Direct-injection regulations allow you more control over the fuel entry and the burn of the fuel. There are various methods you can use to where you direct the fuel, the spray pattern of the injector, how you ignite it, all these things. “ The work is very complex and it is continuously being developed. The rally car engine work is hand-in-hand with Touring Car work. I think the Touring Cars tend to learn a bit more from the rally than the other way round, especially in the matter of general driveability which is very important on a rally car. The BMW motorsport engineers have found it quite intriguing and insightful in the way the rally car engine is developed alongside the touring car engine. Both have benefited from working with each other. “Our first opportunity will be homologation on 1st March 2012, one year after the original homologation of the type and for this we need to submit paperwork in February. The FIA allow us the chance to homologate a limited number of changes to the basic design of the car (“jokers”) and in addition teams are allowed one emergency “joker” in addition in a year. “ There is a long list of little things Prodrive’s engineers would like to make. The challenge is to decide which ones are the most important.” Mini on the money ... 40