Power Train Test Upgrades

20 October 2016

Ilmor Engineering is one of those companies that largely chooses to fly underneath the radar. Its customers include some of the biggest names in motorsport and beyond, ranging from NASCAR teams to aircraft manufactures. And yet you could quite easily drive past the company’s Northamptonshire headquarters in the UK without even noticing it.

Across the road sits the factory where Mercedes makes its all—conquering Formula 1 engines. That too was part of the Ilmor empire until the German brand completed its purchase of the group in 2005. The rights to the name and the non-F1 side of the business were promptly sold back to its original owners and since then the two have gone on as separate entities.

Ilmor has diversified over the years into OEM automotive, marine and defence but motorsport remains the backbone of the business. These days it’s perhaps best known for developing and manufacturing the Chevrolet IndyCar engines but the company also works with Roush Yates Racing Engines on the Ford NASCAR program, not to mention Renault on its F1 units. Add to that a number of GT and World Rally Championship projects and it’s obvious Ilmor is doing a lot behind the scenes.



The unremarkable–looking industrial unit that forms its UK base is home to 85 staff and array of test facilities. There’s a bank of seven dynamometers, including an in-house designed F1 dyno capable of more than 20,000rpm – due to be retired shortly for a new Apicom FR500BRV eddy current unit. Alongside it sit three Schenck D700 water brakes, two Apicom FR1000S eddy current dynos and an AVL Elin EBG P22 transient AC dyno run in tandem with an Apicom FR500BRVS eddy current brake.

Each cell is fed with its own stream of inlet air, with independent control of temperature, pressure and humidity. This largely to provide fixed environmental conditions, rather than full climatic testing but one of the cells does have a neat trick in the form of a large compressor that mimics the effect of a turbocharger or supercharger. This provides up to 8 bar of boost, allowing engines to run in a forced induction mode without the associated hardware.

“At any one time we’re typically using four of those dynos for internal use and hiring out the remainder” says Ian Whiteside, chief engineer of advanced projects at Ilmor. “They’re fed by a 42,000-liter tank above ground or one of five 9,000-liter subterranean tanks, which can be loaded with anything from aviation fuel to methanol”.

The company is currently in the process of switching over its dynamometer control systems to the REO-dEC platform. There’s also a Horiba MEXA 7170D emissions measurement system and a total of four AVL IndiSet analysis machines for high-speed data acquisition.

At the high-performance end of the spectrum, the biggest challenge is actually getting cylinder pressure transducers to survive, explains Whiteside: “On our Formula 1 and IndyCar work we’re really pushing the capability of the sensors. Even using the highest quality 300 bar sensors from AVL and Kistler, their lifespan ranges from a few hours down to a single knock event. They tend to have a bit of concussion after that!”

Less brutal, but no less important, is Ilmor’s off-engine rig. This is another in-house designed device developed for testing engines or components in a motored state. It is powered by a 46kW electric motor, which provides enough torque for large-capacity road engines and even th4e big NASCAR V8s.

Some of the most interesting work carried out on this rig revolved around valvetrain development. Whiteside explains. Just down the corridor, the company has a single-valve rig, which enables valve and spring motion to be examined in even greater details – something that is particularly critical in NASCAR engines, which rev to higher than 9,000rpm with pushrod actuation and mechanical springs.

“It’s interesting, because the valve doesn’t always move in the way you think it’s going to move”, says Whiteside. “NASCAR valvetrains are designed to allow lofting – where the follower parts company with the camshaft to achieve higher lift. Getting it to come off is quite simple but getting it to go back down is a bit trickier! On the single-valve rig it’s also quite difficult to get the right lubrication on the rockers and the push rods during the test, so we could only run that for a few seconds at a time”.

A number of techniques are used for capturing the details of this valve motion. One option is to bounce a laser beam off the face of the valve, explains Whiteside, while another is to cut a series of serrations onto the valve to be picked up by an eddy current sensor embedded in the valve guide. High-speed video is another method, often used in conjunction with a tracking system that picks up the motion of coloured dots placed on the components.

Further down the facility lies the injector flow rig, which is routinely used for characterizing the injectors on the firm’s IndyCar engines. Quite unusually, it features a rate tube, which can capture will be open 12:00-15:00he injector flow on a crank angle basis, as opposed to averaging it out over a longer time period.

“With this rig, we can look at how the mass flow changes as the injector opens and closes. That’s really useful for comparing the repeatability of injectors, but it’s also good for looking at the performance as the injector ages”, notes Whiteside.



Although the airflow rig is still used for correlation purposes, most of the development work has been carried out in CFD since the company underwent a major overhaul of its simulation capabilities in 2015. It now has a new 32-core computing cluster, running the converge CFD code from Convergent Science.

Developed with in-cylinder combustion modelling firmly in mind, this package contains a variety of different features designed to improve the speed to accuracy balance of the CFD simulations. It’s Ilmor Engineering’s first foray into the world of in-cylinder simulation and, according to Whiteside, the results have been impressive.

“One of the first major projects we did using Converge was the revised IndyCar cylinder head for the start of this season”, he reveals. “We saved six to eight weeks in terms of development time – a reduction of around 50% - and arguably got to a better solution as a result of using simulation. By screening the designs in the virtual world, we also saw a 75% reduction in our prototype build costs”.

Embracing an increasingly digital age is one of the things that keeps Ilmor at the cutting edge of engine development and means there’s surely a lot more come from this company.

Taken from Automotive Testing Technology International September 2016


20 September 2016

Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud stormed to a maiden IndyCar championship with a fifth win of the season at Sonoma.

Pagenaud and team-mate Will Power were the only two mathematically in the title hunt heading into the double-points finale but a gearbox issue for Power on lap 36 of 85 put him out of contention. Pagenaud led team-mates Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya at the start and enjoyed a 5.4-second lead after the first stops.

A yellow for the slow-moving Power prompted a second flurry of stops that left Pagenaud leading by 3.9s from Castroneves. Castroneves had already switched to an alternative strategy a handful of laps earlier in a bid to claim a first win since Detroit in 2014 but wasn't able to make the early pitstops work, leaving Pagenaud defending from Graham Rahal and Montoya.

Pagenaud had enough pace in hand to cross the line first by 3.5s for a fifth win of the season that confirmed his 2016 IndyCar title.

Rahal and Montoya did enough to secure the podium places, ahead of the strong Andretti pair of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in their Dallara-Hondas. Josef Newgarden signed off his season with a sixth, holding off Castroneves in seventh. The finale was a largely trouble-free race with only one yellow flag period for Power's issues, although Mikhail Aleshin and Tony Kanaan came together at the Turn 7 hairpin on lap one. Both were able to continue and finished 11th and 13th respectively.

Pocono Raceway

24 August 2016

LONG POND, Pa. – Simon Pagenaud entered the ABC Supply 500 with a 58-point lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship over Will Power.

As the Team Penske drivers left Pocono Raceway, the silver No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet of Power was much larger in the figurative rear view mirror. Power won the 500-mile race at Pocono Raceway by 1.1459 seconds over pole sitter Mikhail Aleshin, while Pagenaud crashed out in 18th place to heat up the championship battle with three races yet to be completed. Ryan Hunter-Reay, last year’s Pocono winner, charged from the last starting position to finish third.

Enough to trim Power’s points deficit to Pagenaud to just 20 points. Josef Newgarden, who finished fourth in the race, moved into third in the point standings, 100 behind Pagenaud. Aleshin, in the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda, accounted for several of those lead changes. The 29-year-old Russian battled up front all day after earning his first career pole on Saturday and led 87 laps en route to his matching his best Verizon IndyCar Series finish. Hunter-Reay’s wild day began on the first lap, storming from his 22nd starting spot to 14th. The driver of the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda later took the lead on Lap 49, capping his last-to-first run despite racing his backup car after the primary was damaged in a practice crash on Saturday.

The complications weren’t done for Hunter-Reay, however, who later lost power after taking the lead on Lap 163, losing a lap as he reset the car’s electronics while driving through pit lane. A late caution helped the 2015 Pocono winner get back on the lead lap and he cut through the field in the final 20 laps to the bottom step of the podium. Poor fortunes also struck Hunter-Reay’s teammate and reigning Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi, who was part of a bizarre incident on pit road on Lap 64. Upon exiting his pit stall, Rossi (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda) made contact with Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet, went airborne and bounced over the top of the No. 3 of Helio Castroneves (Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet). All three were eliminated from contention, and Rossi and Castroneves’ days were done.

For Pagenaud, it went pear-shaped on Lap 158, when the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevy wiggled in Turn 1 and slapped the outside wall. Pagenaud was uninjured but the damage cuts a major chunk out of the points lead he has held since the second race of the season. After a final caution on Lap 176 for debris allowed all leaders to pit, a 20-lap sprint to the finish saw jostling for position all around the track.

But after a few laps, Power and Aleshin had stretched a three-second lead on the rest of the pack. The Russian stalked Power but could not find a way alongside in the closing laps. Power won his fourth race of the season and made it six straight races finishing in the top two, darting to the second race at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit in June.

Power also claimed his 29th career win, tying him with Castroneves and Rick Mears for 11th on the all-time list.

There is no break for Verizon IndyCar Series, as the field heads Saturday to Texas Motor Speedway for the resumption of the Firestone 600. The race was suspended after 71 laps in June due to rain. There will be a brief practice session (5:30-6 p.m. ET, RaceControl.IndyCar.com) before the race resumes under the lights on the 1.455-mile oval. Race coverage begins 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.


Mid Ohio

01 August 2016

Simon Pagenaud marched to a fourth win of the season at Mid Ohio after a pair of cautions swung the advantage to a handful of different drivers.

Pagenaud had been leading Team Penske team-mate Will Power when the first caution hit on lap 15 of the 90. A tangle between Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon into the Keyhole hairpin brought the yellow flags out and handed the advantage to Mikhail Aleshin and the other drivers who had already pitted on the undercut strategy.

After the pitstops cycled out Aleshin looked like he would take a maiden series win but the second caution caused by Jack Hawksworth slamming into the Turn 1 barriers on lap 60 proved his undoing. As the final pit window opened following Hawksworth's crash, the whole field other than Dale Coyne Racing team-mates Conor Daly and RC Enerson took to the pits. Aleshin's Schmidt Peterson mechanics waved him out of his box but the incoming Josef Newgarden who occupied the pitbox in front meant Aleshin careered into the Ed Carpenter Racing driver and put him out of contention when he had to pit again one lap later for a new wing.

That left Daly gunning it from the front on the restart in a bid to make his four-stop strategy work but with limited fuel and older tyres he had to pit in the dying laps, swinging the advantage and the race win back to Pagenaud.

The championship leader eventually crossed the line 4.1 seconds ahead of Power. Carlos Munoz completed the podium, taking advantage of the same undercut strategy as Aleshin and crossing the chequered flag as the highest Honda-powered Dallara. Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe did well to finish in fourth and fifth respectively after Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais - who had been running ahead - touched with just three laps to go. A final splash and dash meant Daly picked up respectable points in sixth.

It was an anonymous race for both Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan who could only manage 12th and 13th respectively. Enerson had been running well in his IndyCar debut before the engine cutting out on one of his pitstops meant he finished 20th.

Autosport 31 July 2016

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