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7 Jan 2017
WRC: New year, new rules

The blog has long been a place for me to look at the technical side of Formula One but, on occasion I do find cause to cover over series.  One such example of this is the changes that the WRC is undergoing for 2017.

I have already covered most of this over on but wanted to reuse some of the illustrations I'd completed and add to them for another look at how the regulations will change things as the action gets underway in Monte Carlo on January 20th .

Bigger, bolder and louder

The 2017 regulations have been introduced to conjure up a sense of the past for fans that believe the WRC has lost its edge.  Harking back to the aesthetic pleasures that their Group B fore bearers carried the new breed of cars should at least look the part, although the more flamboyant driving style of a decade or so ago will still likely be neutered.

It's not all about looks though with more under the drivers right foot too, the 1.6 litre turbocharged engine is able to pack more punch due to an increase in restrictor size - up from 33mm to 36mm seeing figures closer to 400 than 300bhp.  There are passive diffs front and rear but for the first time since 2010 an active central diff is allowable, allowing the driver more scope with which to tune the cars characteristics for each stage.

The illustration of Citroen's all new contender above shows how important cooling will be, with several inlets crafted into the front of the car in order to cool the various radiators, chargecoolers and oil coolers, whilst providing a fresh supply of cooling to meet the demands of the front brakes.  The heat generated by the engine is evacuated via the side facing bonnet scoops in the case of the C3, although each manufacturer deals with each of these requirements in their own way.

The changes to the cars bodywork is extensive, giving the manufacturers an opportunity to craft surfaces that deal with the extra track width that is available, as the wheels are displaced by a further 55mm.  As you can see in the C3 illustration above, the bumper is significantly different to the one that would feature on a road going C3, taking advantage of the 60mm length leniency in the regulations to help place all of the inlets and craft both the splitter (highlighted in yellow) and the dive planes / canards (highlighted in green). 

It's understood that multiple plies will be used to improve the splitters structure in order to enable the constructors to limit damage caused on tough terrain and reduce the impact that could have on the more aerodynamically sensitive cars.  The splitter, which can be removed from the bumper is shaped with purpose in order to provide airflow to the various facets of the underbody and other aerodynamic devices.

The dive planes / canards are significantly sized on all four of the manufacturer's designs and all work to improve stability, reduce understeer and reposition the airflow around the flared arches.

Enter the M-Sport Fiesta to show off what the new rules mean in terms of displacing airflow along the cars flanks, with the extended arches supplemented either by louvre stacks (as the Fiesta has) or outfitted with mesh, not only to control debris that can be thrown up but also the direction of the airflow as it is teased along the car.  More canards and inlets can be found ahead of the rear quarter panel and are used to cool the rear brakes and supplement the rear aerodynamic devices.
Switching back to the full view of the Citroen C3 we can see that each of the manufacturers have made different choices in terms of the side skirt design with the French marque opting to blend their skirt into both the front and rear arches, whereas M-Sport, Hyundai and Toyota have opted to disconnect the front arch and skirt, creating different aerodynamic solutions.  On top of this the wide, almost flat skirts shown on the C3 have humps just behind the front wheels and ahead of the rear wheels and whilst they likely allow access to the jacking points I can't help wonder if they also serve an aerodynamic purpose too.
The i20 from Hyundai is clearly and evolution of last years car, albeit in the 2 door coupe configuration rather than the 5 door they used last year.  As such I suspect it will be a solid base but from a visual and aerodynamic perspective it does look a little tame when compared with the other three.  Even so a quick comparison of the WRC car with its road going counterpart shows just how much wider and more aggressive these new breed of WRC cars are.
If the Hyundai is the least adventurous of the 2017 cars then Toyota's Yaris must be considered the most, as it's packed with a bonkers level of detail from the front of the car, right to the back.  The wing mirrors supports look like a work of art and resemble the type of effort you'd expect to see in a prototype series like F1 or the LMP1 category in WEC.  Just like all of the competitors have, the mirrors have been moved further down the door panel giving the driver, who has a fixed position, a much better view out of the mirror whilst also making use of a better aero position.

The rear wing (bottom right) is a complex array of surfaces that hopefully combine to improve both balance and downforce for the corners whilst paying attention to how much drag is generated in order to keep the desired top speed.  You'll note how the lower wing (shovel) starts much further down the rear screen than on some of the other designs too, likely taking into account the more abrupt fall away of the cars hatch.  A glance at the rest of the cars rear end shows the amount of effort undertaken, with a significant amount of louvres used around the rear wheel arch extensions to guide and displace the airflow being ejected from them.  Furthermore, they've decided to be aggressive with their diffuser, mounting a large exhaust in the centre, above the it and maximising the extra 30mm's of tolerance permissible in the regulations.
You might think that all of this extra grunt might sound a bit more dangerous but the FIA have taken steps to improve safety with the change in regulations too.  One such change comes in the shape of the seats with an additional layer of Confor-C45 fitted to the inside surfaces of the head supports,  meaning the gap between the side of the helmet and the support must be less than 50mm.  There are other changes to the seats structure and foam padding, along with their positions being moved closer together to further limit side impact incursions, whilst strengthened door panels will also play their part.
As a parting shot for those that still think even the new regulations are a little lukewarm here's an illustration of a standard 5 door Fiesta alongside the M-Sport version (yellow highlights added to show where bodywork has been added or extended).  I for one can't wait to see this new breed of machines take on the varied surfaces they'll encounter around the world and for those that don't already know you'll be able to do so via Red Bull TV who'll be streaming each event.
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6 Jan 2017
No way back...

As a follow up to my earlier post that the administrators have been called in at Manor I thought I'd expand on some of the technical issues that are faced by any new investors that may crop up and also shed some light on the timing of the announcement.

Manor Racing are/were the smallest entity on the grid, operating with a staffing level south of 200, it is these people that we have to feel the most for in a situation like this but also be pleased for, as the directors took the decision to put the company into administration at a point when they knew they couldn't pay them.  It is my understanding that the staff have been paid up until December but in a meeting that all staff members were called to this morning it was suggested that no payment for work conducted from now on would be guaranteed and only settled by the administrator or a new investor.

A decision to limit work on account also carries across to the smaller peripheral community of companies that supply all of the teams with their wears.  With the design of the car at a point where you'd expect orders to have been placed months ago and either almost be ready to be shipped or already at the factory awaiting assembly it is clear that this isn't the case.  This puts an even heavier burden on any potential rescue package as it's unlikely the cars can be finished, shipped and race in any of the opening rounds, let alone get to Spain for the two pre-season tests.

The announcement effectively comes at the point of no return for a team that has already been saved from the brink by its current owners.  That time around the clock hadn't been ticking for such a long period either, going into administration in October last time around, and resulted in the team being given dispensation by the FIA to run a year old chassis with a spacer used to circumnavigate the new chassis/nose rules.  This time around they have no such option, with a rule change that creates a vastly different car from the predecessor and leaves them no alternative but to build a new car.

IF, and that's a big if, someone was prepared to take on the monumental odds faced by bailing out the team it would not only need financial clout but support from the industry itself, with many of the suppliers including the likes of Mercedes & Williams, who supplied powerunits and gearboxes respectively, are likely owed some money from their dealings during last season, needing to extend them a line of credit.  We've seen it done before, by this team and BrawnGP in recents years, but perhaps none on this scale.  Unfortunately the only way I see a phoenix operation this time around is if they miss a couple of the opening rounds, much like they did in 2015, as they shore up the operation.  However, this is contingent on FOM looking favourably on such an endeavour and will likely come with many restrictions and penalties should they not meet their targets.

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Manor are done

Having already delivered the welcomed news of a potential purchase of the team just before Christmas it is with great sadness that I have to report the news of Manor Racing's demise.  My source who provided insight into the potential takeover by an Asian consortium contacted me last night with a heavy heart, letting me know that the deal had fallen through and that the current owners are no longer willing to bear the financial costs of operating the team.

I'm told that the wheels have still been in motion over the last few months, with the crash tests completed and work on this years cars still ongoing.  However, it would appear that production has been slowed and I'm informed that with several suppliers still to be green-lit the team would struggle to make the first race let alone testing, something that would put them at a huge disadvantage should a rescue package arrive.

Personally I'm thoroughly dissapointed by the news, as it seemed that Manor were starting to get all of their ducks in a row and could be seen as a potential challenger in the midfield going forward if they continued on the same trajectory.  However, I don't blame the current ownership for drawing a line under their time in the sport, having propped the team up with a lot of their own money fulfilling the age old adage - How do you make a small fortune from Formula One? Start with a large one...
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14 Dec 2016
Manor Racing are dead, long live Manor racing....

A source close to the team has been keeping me abreast of the ownership situation of late and it appears that the team will be changing hands once again.

The team, who are the sole survivor of the new entrants in 2010, has seen many guises down the years but has always had the Manor name associated with it throughout.  The latest iteration of the team was a real Lazarus operation, with a last gasp purchase made by Stephen Fitzpatrick saving the team from administration.  However, whilst performance at the track has been relatively good this season the financial forecast has remained rather gloomy, especially given the withdrawal of Rio Haryanto mid season as it's understood that the drivers sponsors didn't fulfil their obligations.

The rumour that has been circulating the paddock is that Tavo Hellmund (yes, that's right you've heard the name before, as he helped mastermind F1's return to the States and Mexico) was behind a bid to purchase the team.   Whilst it's still plausible he'll be involved it turns out he may have been more of an intermediary, as a consortium with ties to the Asian market and several GP2 drivers seem to be the ones who are actually behind the purchase, that is understood to have been concluded yesterday at their base of operations in Banbury.

Fitzpatrick had initially hoped to cling onto the team even if he had to accept that someone else would come in as a majority shareholder, however, it is my understanding that the consortium have offered him a clean break, taking over the team in its entirety and repaying an internal loan that he funded.  The news of this purchase will be welcomed by the teams staff as it was understood that Fitzpatrick had put the team on borrowed time, unable to keep writing cheques from his own personal fortune, which as the adage goes - How do you make a small fortune from Formula One? start with a large one.  As such, several suppliers had already been made aware of the situation and were expecting the team be put into administration, should a deal not be done within the next few weeks.

The financial stimulus of finishing tenth in the constructors championship slipped through Manor's fingers in Brazil and will be a bitter pill to swallow but is not a concern of the consortium purchasing the team, who'd made their plans without the stipend in mind.   What is difficult to ascertain at the moment is how this will affect the momentum of the team, escpacially given the dramatic change to the regulations next season.  Stability within the technical staff and framework could be key to their success, with F1 stalwarts like Dave Ryan, Pat Fry and Nicolas Tomazis now part of the structure. 

The migration of drivers is another puzzle that will need to be fixed, as it appears that Mercedes are looking to distance themselves from the team, placing Ocon at Force India and looking for a seat elsewhere for Wehrlein.  This in itself is no big issue but it's likely that Mercedes wrote a large percentage if not all of the costs to supply their powerunits to the team in exchange for those seats.  Williams also have a vested interest in some respects, as they supply Manor with their gearbox and suspension and whilst it's not the kind of money you'd expect to be paid to Mercedes HPP it is still a significant financial deal.  The driver lineup for 2017 will, as always, centre around who can bring the budget and whether they have the super license credentials but I think it's fair to say that we can expect at least one returning name from the last few seasons with a fresh face in the other seat.

The last piece of the puzzle is where Graeme Lowdon fits into the jigsaw, as the teams previous President and Sporting Director was front and centre at the sign over yesterday.  He certainly has the credentials to lead the team once more but may offer the consortium no more than a foot in the door. 
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Whilst I'm trying to keep atop of the blog you may have noticed of late that there is less content appearing. For those of you that haven't realised, most of my work has now been moved over to where I'm working with Giorgio Piola.

I'm still doing the technical image gallery for each GP with the continued support of friend of the site Sutton Images. However, as always my time is limited and so this might not be updated as quickly as it once was, so keep checking back.

As some of you may have found out already I'm also working with the Missed Apex crew on their podcast from time-to-time, either doing race reviews or dedicated 'Tech Time' shows.

I've embedded the latest version of the podcast below and will update this a frequently as I appear. However, please head over to Itunes if you want it to appear in your player when episodes are available. The show is great to work on and has a great lineup of 'regulars' but has also enticed some bigger names recently too, with Will Buxton and Bradley Philpot on shows during the summer break.

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