Test The Limits

How Simulation Can Help the Lords of the 'Ring

By Exa

June 25 2015

The news out of Germany is that the owners of the Nürburgring have effectively banned timed runs, by insisting that manufacturers adhere to track speed limits. The desire to be fastest around the 12.9-mile long Nordschleife, the famously long and demanding German racetrack, has never been greater. The biggest battle recently had been among makers of front-wheel drive hot hatchbacks, with Honda recently claiming Renault’s crown with its new Civic Type R.

The Nürburgring is also popular for development testing and a number of makers have engineering centers based there, including Jaguar Land Rover and Hyundai. One US engineering head was once heard saying that his development team would have to go lot of different tracks to get the same information as they acquire in a single lap of the Nürburgring.

But it’s an expensive business clocking up miles around the track, so for one client we simulate a lap to allow them to understand what happens thermally on the car. This goes beyond visualizing air going through the grille. We can show how components of the cooling package heat up and cool down over a series of laps. This is especially critical when the car is slowing down and there is less airflow available for the engine cooling. This type of simulation yields insight that the manufacturer can apply to improve their designs and prevent engine overheating or the need for de-rating.

Nürburgring is also an excellent environment for testing brakes since the track puts car to its limits. Of course, it is very expensive to use Nürburgring to identify problems with brake cooling. By this point the car went through many development stages and any design changes will be extremely expensive. However, this situation can be prevented. We can simulate the brake cooling performance on the track even before any prototypes are built. In this way the first drive down the Nürburgring will be much less stressful.

Our simulation can also be applied to other development cycles such as hot weather testing, maximum torque or mountain climbing. It means that manufacturers don’t need to do thousands of miles in far-flung locations costing time and money – with prototypes that can break down when they get there.

When engineers arrive at test sites like the Nürburgring they want to be absolutely confident that parts won’t fail. It should be a verification test not a development test, at least for durability.

Then they can concentrate on the task of honing other performance aspects, like the suspension – but, in light of recent developments, just not with a view to breaking any fastest lap records around the famous German track.