Zurich Gnome

The journal of a Swiss-based motor-racing enthusiast.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Suspension Settings

This might be a bit technical, but it's been inspired by the story that Toyota allegedly managed to acquire software from ex-Ferrari employees.

It's clear that any visible parts of the car can be understood and copied by rival teams, which is why for years teams would cover their front and rear wings when the car was stationary. But software is not visible, and nobody really knows exactly how Renault's traction control works, or what Benetton's differential management system does. But what is clear, is that there is now an amazing variation of settings available.

On my race car, there is just one setting on the shock absorber (damper) and it's easy to understand. You either make the damping softer or harder. Softer works better at low speed, harder is better for longer faster corners. On the racecars that we ran as a team, there were three settings; low speed bump, high speed bump and rebound (which controlled how quickly the suspension goes back to normal after a bump). That starts getting pretty complicated, and I could never understand how the engineers arrived at a particular setting as a compromise for the whole circuit.

But now, the car knows exactly where it is on the track, thanks to a combination of GPS and computerised circuit mapping. So where we would struggle to find an optimum setting for the circuit as a whole, it's now possible to set the car up for every different corner. When a circuit has a mix of corners, including a slow bumpy hairpin and a long smooth flat-out blast of a bend, the onboard electronics can set the car up excatly as required. The driver wants the car rock solid under braking and then really soft for the corner? Done. No wonder then that one team might be interested in the source code from a championship winning car. Why not read the full story here?    


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