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Renault's countdown to the 2005 season
Renault have high hopes for the R25
February 20, 2005

During the weeks between the launch of a Formula One car and the start of a new season, the sole aims of some 800 people are to perfect its reliability and performance.

On February 1st 2005, the new Renault R25 was officially presented to the world. However, in contrast to the bustle of the photographers' flashes, speeches and general festivities of the launch in Monaco, the atmosphere was far more studious back at Enstone and Viry-Châtillon. The countdown to the season's curtain- raiser was already well underway and everyone at Renault F1 Team was conscious that every day that passed had to be put to maximum effect…


Renault R25

Testing, testing, testing.
Prior to its presentation to the press and sponsors, the new car took to the track for the first time at Valencia where Enstone's Chief Test Engineer Christian Silk was on hand to oversee operations.

"Before Christmas, we ran an interim specification car with a view to accelerating the program. This work included the validation of our new electronic control system and certain mechanical components, as well as tire evaluation," he says. "When the R25 first took to the track, our initial priority was to check safety before placing the accent on reliability."

The car went out for limited number of laps each time and, following each run, all the data collected was carefully analyzed and checked. For the mechanics, those early tests were a chance to familiarize themselves with the car while the engineers responsible for its major functions also traveled out, ready to react in case of the slightest problem. Fine-tuning performance is then an ongoing process as the season progresses…


Renault R25

Viry: adapting and fine-tuning.
For the staff at Viry- Châtillon, the first tests were a chance to run the RS25 in a new environment. "To a large extent we are able to simulate the different circuits on the dyno, but nothing can replace actual track time when it comes to getting to know the new V10," explains the engine test team manager Matthieu Dubois. Prior to its maiden run, the RS25 was first put through its paces in a series of twenty-four dyno endurance tests but it will still be possible to modify items like the valves and pistons before the first Grand Prix. On the other hand, it won't be possible to change such components as the block and crankshaft upstream of the first race. "Testing not only enables us to validate our simulation work but it also gives us a chance to optimize the engine's integration in the chassis and to fine-tune its performance."

Focus on reliability.
Always a major concern when a new car takes to the track for the first time, reliability essentially stems from rational organization. "Today's F1 cars are basically an evolution of the previous season's machine," explains Tim Wright, reliability engineer at Enstone. "It's therefore easier to understand the interaction between its different functions and to obtain a high degree of reliability. The potential for problems comes when you introduce new features."

Success in that case depends on identifying the ideal compromise between taking risks and being conservative. A car that is reliable out of the box makes it possible to achieve incremental gains afterwards with a view to optimizing performance, an approach that is far more fruitful than when the problem is tackled the other way round.

While the test team works flat out to develop the new car, the factory at Enstone is also buzzing with activity. Here’s an explanation of what goes on behind the scenes to prepare for the first race.

Reacting in real time.
After every day of testing during the winter, a report is sent to the chassis and engine drawing offices in which all the incidents encountered during the session are listed, from the most insignificant to the most serious. The drawing up of any necessary changes begins at once to ensure that the modified parts are available in time for the next test. As a function of this list, one or more engineers are assigned to the task, while regular meetings are held on both sides of the Channel to decide which components need to be re-designed and produced the most quickly. This can mean a day's work for one engineer or a number of days for perhaps half a dozen people. It is therefore vital for the drawing office to maintain a significant degree of flexibility. For once testing begins it's not rare for up to eighty drawings to be produced at Enstone every day.

Speedy turnaround.
On the production front, the main task consists in prioritizing the work that needs doing, including the production of parts for development, for stock or for the season's first race. Working out the priorities follows a precise procedure. At Enstone, all parts scheduled for production are listed in a file known as UDSC (Usage, Damage, Shortage, CrossOver). This master list can be consulted on the factory's internal server and each job is given a priority coefficient. The speed at which work is carried out can be breathtaking. In certain cases, digitalizing, producing and wind-tunnel testing a new part can take just hours thanks to a technique known as rapid manufacturing. This automatic computer- assisted tool, only a few of which actually exist, enables certain components to be laser-produced in resin and has understandably been of significant benefit to the aerodynamics department. However, wind tunnel work isn't the only area to profit from this avant-garde technology. The cars that line up on the grid of a Grand Prix feature maybe twenty parts produced at Enstone using this technique.

At other times, Enstone may prefer to subcontract certain jobs. "For certain generic parts or for priority reasons, we sometimes call on outside suppliers," confirms Keith Saunt, Head of Manufacturing. "The reactivity and production quality of all the companies we deal with are carefully noted and we employ only the very best." Even so, it is still vital to ensure that sufficient time is planned into the process to allow thorough inspection of all bought-in parts.

Planning for Melbourne.
Preparing the car is one thing, but ensuring the provision of parts and their transport to Australia is another race against time. For this reason, the team calls on simulation software to determine the set-up of the cars that will line up for the first Grand Prix and this allows the engineers to draw up a list of the parts they will need at the circuit, including wings, gear ratios, etc. This inventory is then passed on to the production and spares departments.

The year's private test program was also finalized in December to ensure that all the necessary parts are available in time. Meanwhile, the cases that will go to Australia need to be packed. At Renault F1 Team, it's the Sporting Manager Steve Nielsen who is entrusted with getting the 26 tones of freight, the three race cars and more than sixty staff to the other side of the planet. "We start making arrangements a year ahead," he points out. "The fact that the 2005 season kicks off with three flyaway Grand Prix in quick succession effectively left us with no alternative." After leaving Enstone at the end of February, the airfreight containers won't be back in the UK until after the Bahraini Grand Prix.

By that time, the R25 will have already covered thousands of kilometres in race conditions...

.--Renault F1 Team--

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