€19,000 software and an Excel spreadsheet: how to run a Renault World Series car
Motorsport is big business, even away from the glamour of F1, so we jumped at the chance to head to Silverstone and check out the World Series by Renault – a high-octane event that tours Europe with a mix of cars in tow.
We tagged along with TDS Racing, sponsored by PC Tools, and later interrogated the team’s technical director Jacques Morello to discover what techy demands are placed on a team at this level of the sport.
It’s certainly not cheap; Morello explained that the telemetry system “costs about €8,000, and analyses the engine, gearbox, driver performance and aerodynamics of the car”. That’s quite a lot of spare change, but it’s at the cheap end of the scale: Morello mentioned that “the systems used for Peugeot or Audi’s Le Mans cars can cost several hundred thousand Euros”.
Still, the kit used by TDS Racing provide a wealth of information – as these screenshots show (click to enlarge). The first provides dozens of measurements and warning lights, from standard fare such as oil and fuel temperatures to more obscure settings, and the second screen goes into even more depth, with graphs to display temperatures, levels and measurements from across the team’s clutch of Meganes.
Telemetry isn’t the only software used by TDS, although the team’s relatively small budget means that Morello sometimes has to improvise. “I use a self-made Excel spreadsheet to plan and evaluate race strategy. Lap times and fuel consumption information is fed into the spreadsheet, and it then calculates the number of pit stops and the number of laps in a stint”.
Morello’s spreadsheet doesn’t just do simple calculations. “The effects of the safety car” can be factored into the equation, and Morello has also made sure that weather conditions are taken into account – handy for planning the rest of the race while it’s happening, as “everything can be modified in real-time”.
Elsewhere, commercial software comes into play, with Morello confirming that “for lap simulation we use Bosch LapSim, and we use Magneti Marelli Wintax4 for data analysis”. Neither of these packages come cheap, but it’s not worth skimping on packages like this, with Morello opining that “preparation is 90% of the job, and 90% of the result.”
LapSim offers a huge wealth of options for race simulation, from camber, aerodynamic and tyre adjustments to hundreds of gearbox, weight balance and suspension settings – ideal when you’re racing on a variety of different European circuits. The cost? Up to €8,730.
Wintax4, meanwhile, also costs a pretty penny, with different versions of the software costing anywhere from €649 to €19,800. It’s used by the team for data analysis, and it’s a vital part of TDS Racing’s ongoing success.
The cars themselves are built from custom-made carbon fibre and kevlar, and high-end technology plays a part here, too. “We design on CAD,” said Morello, “and then send the files to the factory and collect the finished parts.” They’re manufactured using either laser or water cutting machines, and it’s clear which Morello prefers: “water cutting gives us an advantage, with thicker material able to be cut – although it’s a bit more expensive”.
That all goes to make a car that’s fearsomely powerful. The Meganes used by TDS and the rest of the World Series teams delivers 360bhp and weigh only 980kg – less than the average hatchback. As usual, though, they don’t come cheap, and will set you back at least €120,000.
Despite that, we were pleased to hear that more modest bits of technology play their part, too. When asked about the cheapest bit of kit, Morello answered definitively with “my laptop”, and then explained that “it’s one of the most important parts of the team”. Among cars worth €120,000 and software that’ll set you back tens of thousands that’s something, at least, we can all relate to.