Virgin Racing VR-01

Last year, Richard Branson threw a little bit of money (well, relatively speaking) at Brawn GP.  Apparently he liked it, because he went and bought himself a team for the 2010 Formula One season.  And just to show he’s serious, he hired on Nick Wirth as technical director.

Wirth, if you’re not familiar with the name, began his career as an aerodynamicist for March, designing and coordinating aero development for their Leyton House F1 cars.  After developing a fairly decent active suspension for March, he moved over to Benetton in 1996, where he replaced Ross Brawn (who left for Ferrari with a German guy called Schumacher).  Lately, Wirth has been doing aero development for Acura’s (now moribund) Le Mans Prototype programme.

I relate all of this to convince you that Wirth knows what he’s doing, because the most notable feature of the VR-01 is that its aero has been entirely developed using CFD.  No wind tunnel time.  None.  And this is what they came up with:

Easily the best livery on the grid (so far), and that counts the vespid Renault scheme about which I haven’t written yet.

The first thing I notice about the car is its low front suspension geometry.  This is not your standard Formula One nose arrangement: the inboard pickups are all quite low and the instant centres might be in useful places.  That arrangement ought to provide the VR-01 with plenty of mechanical grip at the front, but flies in the face of the long-standing common wisdom that Air Flow Under The Nose Must Not Be Impeded.  In fact, cleaning up front airflow was the motivation behind the Newey vee-section — which we see on the VR-01, but on this car it looks like an excuse to lower the main section of the nose.

While we’re on the subject, the front wing is a very different solution from the one found on most cars.  The endplates are Sauber-ish, but the wing itself has only two (admittedly enormous) sections with no room to mount what ScarbsF1 is calling “cascades” — high, forward-mounted winglets which’ve become nearly ubiquitous over the 2009 season.  Looking at the nose section, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wirth is trying to get downforce by controlling the air above the nose.

The front view also emphasizes the deeply-undercut sidepods (now standard-issue, and notable in their absence on the MGP W01) and incredibly tight packaging around the airbox and engine cover (now also standard-issue).  The turning vanes at the sidepod corners don’t have mirrors on them (yet), but are carefully sculpted and just scream “lots of CFD” to me.  Nothing dihedral about the sidepods, and the mirror mounts look pretty basic.

Let’s have a look at the profile:

Still an awesome livery.

The nose reminds one of the Ferrari F10, except lower at the tip, and the sidepod/engine cover/airbox arrangement is very McLaren-ish.  The side view (so far…) is notable for its simplicity.

Well, this is the first of the totally-new cars to be unveiled.  And if I may indulge in some far-flung speculation for a moment (this being my blog, you’d be hard-pressed to stop me), if the VR-01 can compete with the other newbies and contest for mid-pack finishes it will be a great day for motorsport.  Aero development is often cited as one of the most ravenous cost centres in all of racing, and has propelled many once-great series into the dismal Purgatory of spec cars.  But computer power is still getting vastly cheaper per teraflop, and many smaller constructors (Van Diemen, Reynard, and Stohr — just to pick the first three that come to mind) may be able to afford CFD clusters whereas time on a rolling-road wind tunnel at a large enough scale to get useful Reynolds numbers would be ludicrously expensive.  In short, cheap(ish) CFD — if useful — could put race car development back to where it was in the early ’80s, when clever engineers with good ideas could build cars that win national championships with minimal infrastructure.  (Now all we need is a way to lay up and autoclave carbon-fibre monocoques in the privacy of our garages.)

Anyway, enough of my speculation.  There’s more on the VR-01 here, here, and in this forum thread.

1 Response to “Virgin Racing VR-01”

  1. June 4, 2013 at 04:33

    Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it tough to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about
    creating my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Cheers

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anarchocapitalist agitprop

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