SYNOPSIS: Aston Martin has been using their race cars to push design in their consumer models since its inception. By using lessons learned on the track, Aston Martin Racing has redefined automotive design and development.
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Every year auto makers reshape their cars to perform better and look sharper than the year before. Aston Martin Racing uses lessons from the track to bring high performance to their consumer cars.
Aston Martin Racing has had a long history of translating great design into success on the race track. We spoke with Rick Simpson, Chief Designer of Body and Aero, about how their race experiences have pushed Aston Martin to experiment with new consumer designs.
Aston Martin Racing compete with their V8 Vantage in the F.I.A. World Endurance Championship and supply machinery to customers to compete in many other GT classes around the world. In GT championships, drivers and teams compete against cars of similar classes, based on production cars available to the market. Races range from short sprints to 24 hour endurance events – the most prestigious of which is the 24hrs of Le Mans.
As the race season progresses, Rick and his engineers stay in contact with the teams using Aston Martin's Vantage model. This relationship gives designers the ability to rapidly redesign components of the car.
One design challenge that Aston Martin Racing faced with their GT cars was how to correctly distribute the car's weight to meet the competition's minimum weight requirements. When designing their latest Vantage GT3 race cars, A.M.R. targeted making a car that was well under the weight restrictions provided by the rules. By designing their car under the weight limit, the engineers gave themselves flexibility to decide how to best configure the ballast that would be required to bring the car up to competition weight.
One of the most important aspects of race car performance is maintaining balance. A car shouldn't roll as it banks into turns, and it has to keep it's grip when it accelerates out of a turn. Designers also have to consider how the front and rear balance affects a cars performance. Balance is affected not only by the density and position of mechanical components, but also by aerodynamic loads acting on the car's surfaces.
When turning, a car's nose tips downward into the turn and moves back up as it comes out. Finding the correct distribution of mass and aerodynamic effects so that the car will smoothly transition in and out of turns was one of the major challenges for Rick's team. By using rapid surface design tools, together with CFD analysis, the aerodynamics of the car could be fine-tuned.
Rick's team discovered that the information they were gathering from the track translated into important design decisions that could be implemented into the balancing scheme for upcoming consumer Vantage models.
There's an old saying in racing, "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday". Aston Martin Racing designers took modifications dictated by the realities on the track and modeled new features and body types. These new features were first modeled digitally onto a stock Vantage V12 model. They were then rendered in pristine detail and provided to clients well ahead of the production cycle, giving customers a glimpse into what their future car would look like.
Aston Martin's involvement with a complete spectrum of racing classes has allowed them to push the envelope of design further, and faster than the competition.