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Three problems, one solution!

Posted 29 Aug, 2012 by in Race0
Three problems, one solution!

To say that the sixth round of the FIA GT1 World Championship wasn’t a stroll in the park for Hexis Racing would be a gross understatement! The team’s two McLarens failed to score points in the qualifying race, and only Alvaro Parente-Grégoire Demoustier saw the flag in the championship event adding a meager two points to their total. This is how team manager, Philippe Dumas, summed up his squad’s feelings of disappointment on their return from Slovakia: “We really prepared well for this meeting with hopes of a great result. Finally, it turned out to be one of the toughest weekends we’ve had for a long time.”

Following the cancellation of the Chinese trip, the FIA GT1 World Championship went back to the Slovakia Ring where the cars had already raced in June. Then the no. 1 McLaren MP4-12C driver line-up of Frédéric Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldorp had set pole and finished in second place in Sunday’s race. How can such a difference in results only two months later be explained?

Problem no. 1: the differential
This summer the two Hexis Racing McLarens had a big mid-season rebuild. Unfortunately, a technical problem with the differential was detected when the team arrived in Slovakia and this ruined Friday’s free practice session. These sessions are crucial to work out setups and any time lost on the first day is very difficult to make up afterwards. All the more so as the McLarens had been given a major evolution that required in-depth work.

Problem no. 2: wishbones!
McLaren has been authorized by the FIA to homologate new suspension wishbones. This system, which is basically a true racing one, represents an improvement but the parts were only homologated the day before the departure for Slovakia, and the old wishbones could no longer be used. In addition, the new parts have been validated with the Michelin tyres in the Blancpain Endurance Series, which are very different to the Pirellis used in the World GT1 Championship. “We spent most of the winter tests understanding and setting up the car on the Pirellis, so we had to start again from scratch with this new suspension system,” said Philippe Dumas.

Problem no. 3: boost incomprehension
The McLaren MP4-12C is the only car in the FIA GT1 World Championship with a twin turbocharged V8 engine. In the 80s the power produced by twin turbos raised the output to over 1000 bhp on a little 4-cylinder engine! This technology requires control of both the supercharger pressure and the engine to maintain a balance of performance between the cars in the field. The McLaren was homologated with an electronic warning system and a light comes on if the turbos up the power too much. In this case, the car can simply be disqualified. “There’s a lack of understanding between the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) stewards and McLaren on this question,” says Dumas. “We’ve gradually found out that we haven’t yet fully mastered the power output of our engine. According to different parameters, including the external temperature, the warning light can come when the pressure is more or less high and we can lose up to a second per lap.”

The solution: give everything as in 2010 and 2011!
Let’s sum up what’s just been said to refine the analysis of the weekend in Slovakia. By the time the team had sorted things out in free practice, there wasn’t enough time to fine-tune the setup of the cars fitted with the new wishbones in time for the qualifying session. In this type of situation, a team can go in the wrong direction very easily, but Hexis took exactly the right decisions. The information gathered during the 60-minute qualifying race helped the French squad to improve and boosted its hopes of a good result in the championship event. Unfortunately, Fred Makowiecki had his first collision since he arrived at Hexis in 2007, and the other car finished ninth after losing its flat bottom.

However, positive conclusions can be drawn from this weekend from hell, and give the team reason to remain optimistic for the races to come. The points situation isn’t very different to the ones Hexis has faced over the last two years, and the result was the runner-up spot and then the teams’ world championship crown as well as bronze medals for the drivers. Despite the points lost in Slovakia, Stef Dusseldorp and Fred Makowiecki are still in the running for the world title.

“We have to pull ourselves together in Russia; we can’t afford to trip up,” sums up Dumas. “Luckily, we don’t have too much time to worry as the transporters have already left. The positive side is that we’ve tested a lot of things, and it’s up to us to make the most of the data we’ve collected. We’re going to go flat out as we’re still in with a chance of winning the title; we’ll do everything possible to clinch it, and we hope that the FIA will do something about the BoP (Balance of Performance) as the current lack of balance between the cars just isn’t acceptable.”

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