Shock developments
Racecar Engineering|Design of a Racecar
Optimising dampers for different motorsport disciplines is a key facet of shock absorber technology. Racecar spoke to those at the forefront of suspension system development to fi nd out more
Gemma Hatton

Quite often, the only time we hear Formula 1 teams talk about suspension is when they are arguing the legality of their clever designs with the FIA and the rest of the paddock in the latest regulation row. So why can’t teams leave their suspensions alone? In short, because suspension is arguably the most important tool for gaining track performance.

The main purpose of the suspension is to absorb the oscillations between the vehicle body and the wheel, generated by undulations in the track surface. Also, maximum contact between the tyres and the track is needed for the most time to achieve optimum grip. Suspension also plays a role in maximising cornering stability, braking distances and acceleration. So you can see why motorsport engineers invest so much time, resources and money into manipulating suspension characteristics in their continued quest for that optimum set-up. And much of the work is centred specifically on dampers.

‘The main damping concept of flow architecture, and how the pressure is built up in the damper, is the same for all our dampers in high-level motorsport,’ says Claes Hesling, project manager, racing, at Öhlins. ‘Our damping technology ensures that the damper responds properly under all conditions without experiencing cavitation. This helps minimise the variation in contact patch load, which in turn optimises grip and control.

'Another aspect is the versatility, which is achieved with flexible valving systems to ensure powerful and precise adjusters.

‘Of course, the main differences between the dampers for different motorsport categories is the size and weight demands,’ Hesling adds. ‘In all forms of motorsport you want to achieve the lightest and most efficient packaging possible, but it cannot be at the expense of durability. A damper failure would be catastrophic, so you try to be as close to the limit as possible without going over it.’

Formula 1 dampers

In Formula 1, suspension design is extremely aero driven because the main source of grip comes from the downforce generated by the aerodynamic package, as opposed to pure mechanical grip. Therefore, F1 engineers are continuously hunting for ways to use suspension behaviour to influence ride height and other parameters to increase downforce.

Of course, these types of active systems have been banned since the 1990s, with current regulations dictating the only method in which suspension design can result in an aerodynamic gain is when it is ‘wholly incidental’ to the primary purpose of the suspension itself. Not that this stops teams trying, as past experience has proven. Collapsible heave systems have been used at the rear to reduce ride height, with teams optimising front suspensions to increase ride height at the end of straights, as well as altering pushrods and uprights to lower front ride height at the corner apex.

Geometry set

It is not only the behaviour of the suspension that is aero driven, but also the geometry. For example, in Formula 1 the lower front wishbones are in line with the axle because this ensures they do not disrupt the airflow coming off the front wing, minimising any potential turbulence and consequent drag. This may not be the most mechanically effective design, but the desires of the mechanical engineers are some way down the pecking order in F1.

‘The main target of the dampers, or shock absorbers, in Formula 1 is to control the aerodynamic platform of the car because this is where you get the most gain in grip,’ confirms Olivier Lardon, manager of motorsport dampers at ZF Race Engineering. ‘However, the suspension is also linked to the tyres, so you can also use dampers to adjust tyre temperature and therefore bring the tyres into the best working range to achieve optimum grip. For example, if you have larger or stiff er tyres, you may need to increase your damping coefficient to get more energy into the tyre.’

Tyre role

The characteristics of rubber ensure tyres naturally contribute to the damping of the unsprung mass and must therefore not be forgotten. This behaviour can be utilised by the suspension set-up to try and control bulk tyre temperatures and grip. At high speed, the high-frequency inputs of the track help generate that bulk tyre temperature, so modifying the high-speed damper settings will have minimal eff ect on tyre temperature, but may compromise other areas of handling.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM RACECAR ENGINEERINGView All

Model behaviour

Understanding the benefits and limitations of scale model wind tunnel programmes

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

First impressions

Cranfield Impact Centre plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of racecars. With tougher regulations coming into force in 2021, Racecar Engineering investigates

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Shock developments

Optimising dampers for different motorsport disciplines is a key facet of shock absorber technology. Racecar spoke to those at the forefront of suspension system development to fi nd out more

10 mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Shake down

From K&C to seven-post, there’s a wide range of test rigs now available for checking, testing and developing motorsport suspension systems. Here’s Racecar’s guide to all you need to know about these extraordinary machines

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Automation station

Today’s machining industry is shifting towards automated technologies to minimise human intervention and increase accuracy. Racecar investigates the engineering behind this trend

10 mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Hot tubs

Carbon fibre monocoques lie at the heart of most top-level racecars, and they’re a complex piece of engineering in their own right. Racecar investigates

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Powder keg

Additive manufacturing is a hot topic. Racecar looks at the pros and cons of the various current methods and their relevance to motorsport

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Head in the clouds

CFD is moving forward at a phenomenal rate. Racecar investigates the latest developments, including cloud-based computing

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Designing a revolution

The process of creating a racecar has moved on from the drawing board and pencil, but coming up with a competitive car is still as skilful as it ever was

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
Design of a Racecar

Speed trap

Making the current IndyCar both look fast and hit its performance targets was a delicate balance of engineering and aesthetics

10+ mins read
Racecar Engineering
February 2021
RELATED STORIES

BIDEN TELLS EXECS US NEEDS TO INVEST, LEAD IN COMPUTER CHIPS

President Joe Biden used a virtual meeting with corporate leaders about a global shortage of semiconductors to push for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, telling them that the U.S. should be the world’s computer chip leader.

4 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #494

ELECTRIC CHEVY PICKUP TO GET ESTIMATED 400 MILES PER CHARGE

An electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck will get an estimated 400 miles of range per charge, General Motors says.

2 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #493

What Is Wi-FI 6E?

If you’re in the market for a new router or any device that uses Wi-Fi, you should first understand the new Wi-Fi 6E standard and what it means for the future of wireless networks at home and in offices around the US. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a group of Wi-Fi platform vendors that work with the FCC and electronics manufacturers to set standards for Wi-Fi technology, announced the Wi-Fi 6E designation in 2020 for any IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) products that support 6GHz wireless spectrum. Essentially, this means Wi-Fi 6E enables faster speeds and lower latencies than Wi-Fi 6 and earlier iterations.

5 mins read
PC Magazine
March 2021

RALLY CAR REVOLUTION

30 YEARS THAT REINVENTED THE SPORT OF RALLYING

10 mins read
Die Cast X
Winter 2021

Reinventing Maserati. Again.

The first time I visited the Maserati factory on Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena, just a mile’s walk from the city’s 12th century cathedral, the plant was building Biturbo coupés.

3 mins read
Motor Trend
January 2021

THE BARN-BURNER IN CORN-COUNTRY

A 14-CLASS TRUCK AND TRACTOR PULL IN THE LAND OF LINCOLN

1 min read
Diesel World
January 2021

Time-Tested, Fresh Look

Inside the angry farmer products super stock ford

4 mins read
Diesel World
May 2020

FIAT CHRYSLER IN TALKS WITH FOXCONN TO DEVELOP ELECTRIC CARS

Fiat Chrysler is in talks with the Taiwanese company Foxconn to develop and manufacture battery-powered vehicles, the U.S.-Italian automaker said.

1 min read
Techlife News
January 25, 2020

Automakers Side With Trump In Legal Fight With California

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and many others in the auto industry are siding with the Trump administration in a lawsuit over whether California has the right to set its own greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
November 1, 2019

Racing Reality

We follow Hurley Haywood at Le Mans to learn what has changed

9 mins read
Automobile
November 2019