Category Archives: Sportscars

Spotlight on a Legend: What Happened to the Ford DFV after Formula 1?

As you may have read already, the DFV had more than a staring role in the history of Formula 1. A reputation like that though, attracts attention and many others believed they had the perfect use for the V8 in other forms of motorsport. These are their stories.

Endurance Aspirations

Right from its initial release to the public, the DFV seemed like the ideal solution for many constructors needing an engine for their sportscars. The top class for endurance racing at the time was Group 6, occupying the prototype endurance racers. Meanwhile, limited-production sports and GT cars were housed in Group 4. By the time the DFV appeared, a 3L engine size limit had been written into the Group 6 rulebook. It appeared the timing couldn’t be better.

Ford Europe took it upon themselves to lead the way in this new class. The rules restructuring had rendered their monstrous 7 litre Mk.II and Mk.IV GT40s obsolete. Meanwhile, the 4.9L Mk.I version was still suitable for Group 4 GT racing duties, now in privateer hands. This led their Ford America counterpart to withdraw from the sport, crucially taking their financial clout with them.

The new regulations were designed to phase out the popular big-banger prototypes (Wikimedia Commons)

READ MORE: SPOTLIGHT ON A LEGEND: THE COSWORTH DFV

Collaborating with Alan Mann Racing, the European team produced the beautiful P68 prototype. This coupe was designed to fully exploit the Group 6 rules. The chassis and suspension closely echoed Grand Prix car designs whilst the aluminium body’s low 0.27 drag coefficient allowed a top speed approaching 220mph. All with the DFV placed at its heart. While initial tests raised some concerns its first race suggested it could be a race winner, qualifying 2nd and leading at times before retiring with driveshaft failure.

Ford’s gorgeous new prototype seemed to have potential early on (Wikimedia Commons)

The Cold Hard Truth

The pretty prototype certainly had potential, but it hid a nasty secret. The slippery body caused chronic instability issues, producing far more downforce on the front axle than the rear. This was fine on compact, low-speed British circuits but terrifying on the high-speed tracks in Europe.

The team stuck at it for 1969, even developing hydraulically-controlled active wings for a spider variant. But the FIA’s ban on high-mount aerofoils soon put pay to that idea. All the while, reliability issues hammered the car. In fact, the P68 failed to finish every event it entered.

Ford took extreme measures to make their new car co-operate (Primotipo)

Ford weren’t alone in trying their luck with the DFV. In fact, most produced much more competent competitors. However, Ford’s high-profile reliability issues, thanks to rushed development and funding restrictions, had hidden the DFV’s own unsuitability. Most issues were caused by it’s flat-plane crank. It allowed much faster engine responses at the cost of greater vibrations. In a long distance race, this escalated such that the V8 often shook itself apart.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1’S 5 MOST ICONIC ENGINES

Other issues presented themselves too. Running the Cosworth in a closed body prototype of course meant less air passed over the engine. This wasn’t a problem in a conventional sense, water cooling with radiators managed combustion chamber temperatures as usual. Instead, smaller mechanical components in the top of the engine started to overheat during longer races. The timing gear was particularly vulnerable.

Being designed for single-seater usage, the engine heads were expected to be exposed (Wikimedia Commons)

In a formula car, the engine would be exposed, allowing passing airflow to offer secondary cooling. The shorter sprint races also reduced heat build up in the first place. For endurance, low drag bodies took priority, trapping heat and weakening smaller high speed components, leading to near-inevitable failure.

Fortune Favours the Brave

1975 marked a turning point for the engine’s track record, and at greatest event in endurance racing; the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Due to the ongoing effects of the 1973 Oil Crisis, a minimum fuel stint length of 20 laps was introduced to bring some focus to fuel economy. The front running Alfa Romeo and Renault-Alpine teams knew their cars couldn’t meet this at a reasonable pace and withdrew, while 1974 winners Matra, with nothing left to prove left sportscars for Formula 1.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIN AND THURSTY ENGINES CAUSES CHAOTIC END TO MONACO GP

This was an opportunity for smaller teams like JWA. Famous for their 1968/9 wins in the Gulf liveried GT40s, they had since become a constructor in their own right with their Mirage prototypes. Given the unique nature of this year’s race JWA prepped their new GR8 for it specifically, focussing on a low drag but highly stable design propelled by the DFV.

Their biggest rivals would be Ligier. Realising they would not be able to homologate their JS2 for the GT classes, they went all out for an overall win, replacing the usual Maserati V6 with a race-ready Cosworth V8 too. For the sake of fuel efficiency, both entries detuned their V8s, dropping the rev limit to 8400 rpm and power down to approximately 380 bhp.

READ MORE: F1 2021 MONACO GRAND PRIX: HEARTBREAK FOR LECLERC AS VERSTAPPEN TAKES CHARGE

The Gulf Mirages took first blood, converting their 1-2 start from qualifying into a race lead. The Ligiers had to settle for 3rd and 5th, split by a Joest run Porsche 908. The #10 Mirage of Vern Schuppan and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud led the sister #11 car of Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell initially, untill swapping at the first pitstops. From there they pulled away, both putting a 3 lap lead on the 3rd placed Ligier by 9pm. At half distance, 2 of the 3 Ligiers entered had retired, while the #10 Mirage had lost 5 laps to a gearbox change, dropping it to 3rd behind the remaining JS2, the #5 of Jean Louis Lafosse and Guy Chassuell.

From here, things remained fairly static until late race drama. The leading #11 Mirage had 2 unscheduled stops to remedy gearbox and electrical issues resepectively. This cut their advantage to under 2 laps with just 2 hours remaining. The surviving Ligier was ordered to run flat out to the chequered flag, reliability be damned. As the clock struck 4pm though, they hadn’t done enough. The #11 Mirage of Bell and Ickx took victory by a single lap to the Ligier, while the sister Mirage kept 3rd. A remarkable podium sweep for Cosworth.

The #11 crew would take the 1975 spoils (SuperCars.net)

The sprinter would again succeed at Circuit de la Sarthe under similar circumstances in 1980. Impending rule changes blunted the competition, while torrential race during the early hours dulled the pace. Local hero Jean Rendeau would ultimately succeed, winning a race long game of cat-and-mouse against the much faster Porsche 908/80 of Ickx and Joest in a car of his own design and construction.

Home at Last

As ground effect Group C cars became the premier prototype class, the Cosworth remained popular as it had in F1. However, greater effort was made to make the engine suitable for the role. Known as the DFL, 2 versions were produced. A 3.9L unit catered for the most powerful C1 class, whilst a destroked 3.3L version was aimed at C2. This was the entry point for Group C with reduced costs and stricter fuel allowances on the smaller capacity engines to benefit privateer entries.

Ultimately, the 3.9L DFL still suffered it’s F1 routes, and overall success in the World Sportscar Championship would forever pass it by. Despite the redesign, the flat-plane crankshaft had to be maintained, bringing the familiar high-speed vibrations and concurrent reliability woes with it. Ford had once again tried to lead the way, but their C100 suffered all manner of reliability issues, much akin to its P68 predecessor.

Ford’s factory sportscar efforts continued to struggle in the Group C era (Wikimedia Commons)

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The C2 class was a different story. As mentioned earlier, fuel restrictions were enforced throughout the field; the cars limited to 330 litres for a 1000km race. This allowed teams to run 3.3L DFL engines understressed, especially compared to competitors using smaller turbocharged units, as was often the case.

With time, it became the darling of the category. Courage, Eccurie Eccosse and especially Spice found much success, taking 5 Le Mans class wins and 4 class championships between them. The 3.3 DFL was a faithful powerplant right up to C2’s disillusion in the early 90’s. This marked the slow end for the category as a whole, as it was torn apart from within. But that’s a story for another time.

Spice would be the most successful of C2 competitors (Wikimedia Commons)

The American Dream

It’s no real surprise our staring hero made a home in the States, but it did so under much more controversial circumstances. By 1975, turbocharging dominated Indycar racing, but time was finally catching up with their venerable Offenhauser engines. The unlimited boost pressure teams subjected their engines to was becoming too much too often for the big 4 cylinder, leaving many to search elsewhere for a more reliable option. One such team was Parnelli.

They had working knowledge of the Cosworth DFV through F1, competing with their VPJ4. So, they decided to prepare an experimental version for Indycar duty. After a thorough re-engineering, including a drop in capacity to 2.65 litres, the Cosworth Turbo was ready for the final round of the 1975 USAC season, taking 5th on debut. Buoyed by this strong result, the team committed to a full season the following year with the new engine.

READ MORE: THEO POURCHAIRE TAKES SEAMLESS WIN IN MONACO TO BECOME YOUNGEST F2 RACE WINNER

The project gained momentum and performance throughout 1976, with Parnelli scoring wins at Pocono, Milwaukee and Phoenix to secure 4th in the championship.  All this by a totally independent outfit with no support from Cosworth. Keith Duckworth (the “worth” in Cosworth) was famously against turbocharging and thought the whole project folly. It was a pointless endeavour chasing the 850bhp+ needed for Indycar with an engine only initially designed to produce 500bhp.

But the results didn’t lie. In fact the project had become so successful, Parnelli planned to become a distributor of Cosworth engines for Indycar, inviting Duckworth to Pocono for discussions. Seeing the performance of the Parnelli-Cosworth first hand, Duckworth instead poached 2 of the project’s lead engineers. This brought the design back in-house to Cosworth, allowing them to continue development themselves and cut Parnelli out of the equation.

The turbocharged Cosworth DFX remained popular long into the CART era (Wikimedia Commons)

Big backing only enhanced the engine’s potential, now known as the DFX. It became the next must-have powerplant for Indycar, with Penske, Mclaren and the Lightnings of Fletcher Racing joining Parnelli in Cosworth power for 1977. That year marked the first of 12 straight championship titles for the turbocharged V8, while 10 consecutive Indianapolis 500 wins would follow from 1978 onwards.

So there you have it. How one little engine went on to make its mark all across the globe. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this jaunt through the archives!

2021 Le Mans Hypercar Regulations explained

Last weekend saw the end of an era. The #7 Toyota TS050 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobyashi and José Maria Lopez took the final win, and the championship, in the Hybrid LMP1 era of the WEC.

These rolling laboratories have produced some of the most technologically impressive cars in motorsport history. They’ve also produced epic on-track battling to boot, but rising costs have decimated their appeal to manufacturers.

This issue had been known for some time, so since 2018, the replacement to the class, now known as Le Mans Hypercar, has been in development with a single key goal: Get the manufactures back to sportscar racing.

The Story So Far

The Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) regulations have had quite a turbulent development since they were announced to replace LMP1 in 2018.

Pressure from manufacturers led the regulations to be adapted to allow racing versions of road legal hypercars, echoing the fire-breathing GT1 cars of the late 1990s.

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: The IMSA merger was confirmed this year

An announcement at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January saw a small, but incredibly significant change, as convergence with the IMSA Sportscar Championship in America was confirmed.

This will see both power and weight reduced, as well as aerodynamic efficiency restrictions to be put in place to mimic those of the newly announced LMDh regulations.

READ MORE: 2022 IMSA Sportscar Regulations Explained

Then, as if development hadn’t been difficult enough, the global situation made delays to any programs that were underway inevitable.

Therefore, the decision was taken to push back the introduction of the class to 2021, allowing constructors more time to develop their vehicles, after lockdown restrictions were eased.

Chassis and Body

As stated previously, a manufacture wanting to enter the LMH formula has 2 options for constructing a car. As would normally be done for this style of car, bespoke racing prototypes can be produced from a “clean sheet” design, only focussing on the regulations of the racing series.

Alternatively, they can derive a racing version from a road-legal hypercar. There could be some performance differences available by taking this option, particularly in the hybrid system. However, this means that at least 20 road going versions must be produced.

Regardless of the option chosen, these cars will be dimensionally very similar to the LMDh vehicles they will eventually compete alongside in 2022. They will have a total length and width of 5m and 2m respectively, with a 3.15m wheelbase.

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All cars will have a minimum weight of 1030kg, regardless whether or not they are using a hybrid system (more on that shortly). Meanwhile, a Balance Of Performance (BOP) formula similar to what is already used in GTE will be applied to all cars in the class. So, up to 50kg of ballast can be added to that at the ACO’s behest.

In terms of aerodynamics, cockpits will be much wider that we are currently used to for an endurance racing prototype. This will bring the aerodynamic performance around the driver to a comparable level between to 2 types of car design, causing them both to look much closer to a conventional 2-seater supercar. Overall aerodynamic performance will also be closely regulated.

Finally active aerodynamics, which were initially to be included as they are so commonly used on road-legal supercars, have now been banned due to cost concerns.

Engine and Hybrid Systems

The headline stat here is a maximum power of 500kW (670bhp). This has been reduced from an initial limit of 585kW (795bhp) in order to allow convergence with the incoming LMDh regulations, as used by IMSA.

Compared to the outgoing LMP1 regulations, there have been significant changes as well. Diesel powered engines are now banned otherwise, engine design is free. This includes the option of using a Wankel rotary engine now being possible.

Hybrid systems meanwhile, are optional, with a maximum output of 200kW (268bhp) and All Wheel Drive allowed. Only the front axle can be powered in a prototype design but, if the manufacturer is producing a production-based vehicle, then the hybrid system has to be identical to the car it is based on.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

Cars choosing to use hybrid technology will be subject to a “deployment threshold”. When on slick tyres, the hybrid motors cannot drive the car until it has reached a speed of 120kph (75mph). When on either intermediate or full wet weather tyres, this increases to between 140kph to 160kph (86mph-100mph).

This, in theory, should reduce the advantage the hybrid cars will have over non-hybrids, especially when leaving slow corners. However, it is yet to be seen if this will have an effect on how the different style of cars can get past the slower LMP2 and GTE traffic during a race.

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As Toyota as proven this season, that is how they gained their advantage over their privateer competition, rather than raw lap pace.

Competitors

Currently, there are 4 entries confirmed to the LMH regulations. Toyota and ByKolles will be joined by first time World Endurance Championship competitors Glickenhaus. While Peugeot will return to the championship in 2022 after an 11-year absence.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Glickenhaus will make their series debut next year

Aston Martin had initially been planning to enter the series with a car based on their Valkyrie hypercar. However, this operation was postponed soon after convergence was announced and planned to evaluate its options regarding a return to endurance racing.

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

With the brand now looking to make a full scale assault on Formula 1, it seems unlikely this project will get back under way.

Performance

All these changes will slow the cars down significantly when compared to the old LMP1 cars. The FIA and ACO had targeted a lap time of 3:30 around Le Mans, more than 15 seconds slower than the current qualifying lap record.

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

The trade off for this is that the regulations have been changed to mainly cut costs, meaning that there is renewed manufacturer interest. This is then coupled with the incoming convergence plans, which should only serve to increase competition in the premier class of endurance racing.

2022 IMSA Sportscar Regulation Changes Explained

This week sees the finale of the 2020 IMSA Sportscar Championship get underway with the 12 Hours of Sebring. It also sees the beginning of the end of the DPi cars, the current top class in IMSA competition.

Changes for 2022

Image credit: IMSA.com

Both Mazda and Cadillac are scaling down their factory-backed entries, whilst Acura will be withdrawing altogether, allowing its pair of ARX-05s to be campaigned in private hands.

We’re going to be rounding everything we know of their, now finalised, replacement for 2022: the Le Mans Daytona hybrids, or LMDh.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

As the name suggests, there have been 2 key areas on change within the regulations. A hybrid aspect has been introduced to reinforce relevance to current road car technology.

Also, the ruleset has been developed in tandem with the ACO, leading to the long awaited convergence of top-flight prototypes between the American IMSA and global WEC series.

Chassis

As with the outgoing regulations, the existing chassis theory will be maintained for LMDh. All cars in the class will be based on a new generation 2023 spec LMP2 “spine”; this being the complete car, minus any of the powertrain or bodywork components.

PRODIGY: The new LMDh’s will be based upon a future LMP2 car

These will be constructed by the one of the 4 mandated manufacturers set by the FIA (Multimatic, Oreca, Dallara and Ligier). All will share common dimensions of 5.1m length by 2m width with a wheelbase of 3.15m.

Minimum vehicle weight is set at 1030kg, while a downforce to drag ratio of 4:1 has been specified. This simply means that for every 4 kilos of downforce being produced by the aerodynamics, they must produce 1 kilo of drag as a result.

READ MORE: GIRLS ON TRACK – RISING STARS UNDERWAY AT MARANELLO

This will prevent huge budgets being poured into aero development, keeping costs down and racing close. Further to this, all cars will also share a control floor design.

One key draw of the DPi class was the ability for surface bodywork to be changed in order to better reflect a manufacturer’s design language. This will continue with the new class, theoretically allowing teams to fully differentiate themselves from each other even if using the same base chassis.

Powertrain

The total maximum power output of the cars is capped at 500kW (670bhp), a portion of which is provided via a hybrid system.

In a further measure to prevent cost spiralling out of control, as is often still too easy with this technology, the entire hybrid portion of the powertrain is standardised across all entries.

Bosch supply a 50kW motor, and its associated controller, that is integrated directly into an XTrac gearbox, meaning that these cars will exclusively be rear wheel drive.

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

Meanwhile, Williams Advanced Engineering provide the battery and power electronics.

As for the engine itself, the format is expected to remain similar to what we see already with the DPi cars. Manufacturers will provide their own branded engine, limited to a maximum output of 630bhp.

Costs and Interest

While the total cost of a complete rolling car, minus it’s engine, is still estimated at €1,000,000 there are some fixed costs that interested parties in the series are able to consider.

The “spine” of the vehicle, as provided by the chassis constructors, is cost-capped at €345,000 while the entire hybrid system is expected to cost a maximum of €300,000.

Although there are no confirmed entries in the class so far, IMSA is quoted as being in contact with “over a dozen” manufacturers interested in the class since convergence was announced in January, with many already working directly with one of the chassis constructors.

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

Included in that dozen are Cadillac, Mazda, Acura and Nissan, who would be returning from the current regulations. Meanwhile, BMW, Ferrari, Lexus and more have also been mooted, many of whom already have a strong presence in the IMSA championship via its GT classes.