The importance of testing in racing

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David Leach, race engineer at JOTA Sport, outlines how to get the most out of pre-season development and testing ahead of a new race season

JOTA Sport is now preparing to enter both the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) in 2016, making the testing periods arguably more important than ever before.

In order to achieve the maximum from pre-season development and testing, it’s important to evaluate the areas that will offer you the most in return, taking into consideration both time and budget constraints.

There are three main performance areas that we focus on during the testing and development phase: human, technical and procedural.

Firstly, in terms of human performance, the most important element we focus on is pit stop performance. Essentially we film the entire pit stop and analyze each individual element one by one, whether that’s tire changing or refueling. We then sit down with the chief mechanic to identify weaknesses and see where we can make improvements, so that when it comes to race day every member of the team is well prepared.

We also look at how well the team performs in certain situations and how they respond to potential issues that could arise. We look at how they respond to accident damage or what measures they would adopt to deal with a car failure. Depending on how well they perform in each area we then move people around in the team to suit their expertise.

In relation to driver performance, we analyze a number of different aspects that relate to both the physical and mental characteristics of the driver. For instance we record and analyze variables such as car speed, brake pressure, throttle trace and steering angle, which are captured using on car sensors.

This information can then be either viewed in real time using telemetry or downloaded and processed in the garage. We then compare the data from different laps and different drivers and use it to interpret why one driver is quicker than another. Finally we will then sit down with the drivers individually and look at the detail and discuss with them how they can improve their performance.

On track testing during the technical development phase is focused on understanding how to maximize the performance of the tires. This can be examined further by looking at single lap and double stint performance analysis.

For example, in a typical six-hour race, teams are only permitted to use four sets of tires throughout and during this period the car will be refueled seven times. Therefore performance in the second stint of each set of tires is key, because the car is heavy with fuel again but on used tires. We carry out extensive rig testing during this particular development phase in order to understand the process in more detail and then this has to be verified on the track through continuous ‘long run’ testing.

In addition, understanding how to maximize the aerodynamic performance of the car is crucial. Understanding the aerodynamic platform of the car and how to optimize it on track enables you to make small changes to the car which improves lap times and is often the difference between winning and finishing second.

Finally the majority of the procedural development takes place behind the scenes. So for this element of testing we evaluate the work we do in the factory in terms of how we maintain and service the race cars.

Pre-season testing allows us to evaluate and analyze many of the areas discussed above in a measured and scientific way, however the results can only be truly measured on the track.

Accurate testing and development before the race season starts pays dividends when fighting for race victories. Endurance racing is punishing and what we do is only achievable with everyone in the team pulling together in the same direction.

April 26, 2016

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About Author

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John joined UKi Media & Events in 2012 and has worked across a range of B2B titles within the company's automotive, marine and entertainment divisions. Currently editor of Automotive Testing Technology International, Crash Test Technology International and Electric & Hybrid Marine Technology International, John co-ordinates the day-the-day operations of each magazine, from commissioning and writing to editing and signing-off, as well managing web content. Aside from the magazines, John also serves as co-chairman of the annual Electric & Hybrid Marine Awards and can be found sniffing out stories throughout the halls of several of UKI's industry-leading expo events.

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