Rob, the winter is traditionally the period during which development happens behind firmly closed doors. How is the RS26 V8 project progressing?
"The entire team at Viry is focused on arriving at the first race in Bahrain as well prepared as possible. Timing is a crucial aspect of the project, as with any new engine. The project was committed in October 2004 when the 2006 rules were announced, and the timing constructed based on making the best use of our resources for V8 design and development alongside development of the RS25. We ran a V10-based V8 demonstrator engine extensively on the dyno to guide our work, and the definitive engine was fired up this summer on the exact planned date. We have since accelerated our work, to hit our performance and reliability milestones. There is still a lot of work to do, but we are on target."
How major a change is the transition from V10 to V8 engines?
"It is a deliberately major step: it was motivated by the desire to substantially reduce engine performance to off-set the continuous progress from engine, tire and car improvements. But an important distinction to draw is that it is more of a change in design than technology. The design of the 2006 engine will be very different, but it is based on similar technology to, and inspired by, the V10s up to 2005."
To what extent can track-side running be simulated on the dynos at Viry, during engine development?
"Engine testing is one of our core skills at Viry. We are very well equipped to simulate track conditions, and we constantly work to maintain and extend this capability. We measure performance, characterize engine behavior, prepare the calibration of our control systems and develop reliability. In 2005, we completed 37,000 km of track testing with the RS25 – but approximately four times as much work on the dynos. However, we cannot simulate everything at the factory, and this is why track testing remains an important final stage in validating an engine. But the preparation work behind the scenes is on a larger scale now than many people appreciate."
So with the V8 and other developments, track running is simply a final approval stage rather than part of the development process?
"No, circuit running is an integral final stage in the development process. We need to understand the dynamic behavior of the engine in the car, but only after having made it reliable through our work at the factory. With the V8, the vibrations that ‘escape’ externally are very different to those on a V10. It will be important to understand how the car and its systems, and also the drivers, respond to these differences. But circuit running must also be as efficient as possible, so that maximum benefit is gained from every kilometer by the chassis team. We try and ensure our track programs are focused on confirmatory work rather than speculative research and development that could cost track time."
In conclusion, then, the RS26 engine project is on time, and on target…
"Our goal is to arrive well prepared at the first race of the 2006 season, and at the moment we are on target to do so. We have planned the project in a prudent, pragmatic way, balancing the needs of the teams at Enstone and Viry, as well as the as well as the imperative to maintain performance until the final race of 2005, with the necessity of not over-stretching our resources."
"Some rivals are already running a V8 engine on track, and we are not under-estimating their performance, nor in any way over-estimating our own. But we do not know what constraints they are operating under, or how their development philosophy compares to our own. We are confident we have the correct answer for our team, and are looking forward to running our representative RS26 V8 engine, in a representative R26 chassis, early in the New Year." Press Release Renault