Current and former engineers relive extraordinary experiences from their careers
I’ll never forget…
… a dyno cooling issue in the parklands 24 hours before the Australian Grand Prix
A few years ago we organized a full field of 18 Formula 4 cars to race as a support category at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. This was a great boost for the series, which had at times struggled with field numbers. However, some of the cars hadn’t been raced for quite some time, so they
all needed to be tested for reliability and to equalize their engine performance before the Grand Prix.
The issue with this was that the F4 cars were spread out all over the country. The first time that we would actually have all the cars in one place was going to be on the Wednesday morning before the Grand Prix, at the track. So, we rented a hub dyno to use on-site and planned to test and tune all 18 cars at the track, in a tent, starting a day and a bit before the event. What could possibly go wrong?!
As the event setup began, we installed the hub dyno in a tent within the parklands at the circuit. The owner of the dyno had suggested that water cooling wouldn’t be needed as the cars were quite low powered (comparatively), so we didn’t bother with that and got started on tuning the first car late Wednesday afternoon.
Halfway through testing the first car, to our surprise the dyno over-temperature alarm went off and we were forced to stop testing. The dyno was getting too hot already – and we were only on the first car! It looked as though we were going to have to water-cool the dyno after all. The problem was that we had no water supply where we’d set up in the middle of the parklands.
After a bit of desperate discussion, we came up with a plan to fill a large rubbish bin with water, drop in a submersible water pump, and let the water pump flow water from the bin and through the dyno for the cooling. We’d then run a return water line from the dyno and pump the heated water back into the bin.
We figured we had the problem solved. It was already getting late on the Wednesday evening when we finalized our plan, so we had to wait until the next morning to go out and buy a large rubbish bin, a submersible pump and a large amount of garden hose and fittings.
The closest water to our dyno was quite a distance away, so we walked the bin across the park to fill it up. Moving the empty bin was easy enough, but it was quite a challenge to wheel it across uneven grass when it was full of water. Eventually, we carried on working on the first car with less than 24 hours left to test and configure all 18 cars.
We quickly got into our stride and about three hours later, we were onto the fourth car and all appeared to be going pretty well. The work on car four was then rudely interrupted by the dyno overheat alarm going off – again! Walking out the back of the tent, it was obvious what the problem was – the plastic bin was full of steaming hot, boiling water. This was more than a bit of a problem; the water was going to take quite a while to cool down and we were running out of time.
Luckily, we had a simple solution: get a second bin. So throughout the afternoon and long into the evening, we ran cars one after the other on the dyno until the water began to boil, swapping the water bins back and forth. I can’t put into words the relief we felt when all 18 cars were tested and configured by midnight on the night before the Grand Prix!
The Formula 4 cars running as a support event for that Australian Grand Prix was probably the highlight of the F4 series in Australia. Despite all our issues with the testing, we had no technical issues on any of the cars. One of the main team managers said that the cars were as even [working as well]as they had ever been in the series. All our hard work was vindicated!
Rachel Evans spoke to Jamie Augustine, national category technical regulation manager, Motorsport Australia