In order to keep motor racing competitive and safe, the governing bodies of every series in existence around the world has the challenge of proposing rule changes and revisions that won't make changes too expensive for teams, and therefore, spend the series into extinction. On the other hand, teams constantly have to weigh the cost benefits of making changes that stay ahead of the competition, and by extension, the governing-body. This leaves teams two choices by which to go about doing this: either the team designs and builds its own chassis designs, or, it looks to another customer-company to build a competitive chassis.
Back in the 1990s, Lola Cars International tried to go the route of the former. It became its own team for Formula One. It would then design and build its own cars. By not making them for sale to other customers the design was exclusive to Lola, but the costs associated with building the chassis were exclusively absorbed by Lola. This nearly bankrupted the company.
The problem with the later option, building customer-cars, was the fact Formula One didn't suit such an approach because nothing within Formula One was 'spec' between teams. Everything was done 'in house'. Lola Cars abandoned Formula One and switched their focus.
Lola Cars switched their focus, but needed to find a series that fit that focus. It was obvious the company wanted to have some creative license, but customers willing to pay for it. Enter Le Mans series racing. Between the Le Mans Series in Europe, the American Le Mans Series in North America and the 24 Hours of Le Mans it was obvious Lola had found a series that allowed some creative license and a good number of customers to pay for it.
Originally, the customer to pay for the creative license was MG. The two companies would come to a partnership to build a prototype for the LMP675 and LMP900 classes. Then, midway through the first decade of the new millennium, the Automobile Club de l‘Ouest (ACO) handed down regulations that would make the LMP900 and 675 classes defunct. This led many teams to have to search for a new car when the new regulations took full effect in 2007.
MG had stepped away from Le Mans racing, especially after having to face the dominant Audi R8. MG's departure, and the fact the new regulations would cause every one of Lola's designs to become obsolete, left Lola free to make new car designs. Therefore, Lola Cars would introduce its all-new open-cockpit LMP2 prototype, the B05/40.
Compared to its competition, the Lola prototype featured a number of design differences and approaches. The prototype's nose quickly presents the design-philosophies between Lola's Julian Sole and Sole's competitors.
Initial concepts drawings for the new prototype chassis featured design elements similar to that of competitors. However, the direction Sole would end up taking the design would be quite different. Instead of a front wheel fairing line that fell downward toward the front splitter/diffuser, the design works more in the opposite direction. Instead of falling down to the front splitter, the leading edge of the front wheel fairings sweeps up and over the top of the wheel well.
In addition to the sweeping upward design, the leading edge of the front wheel fairing is also pulled in on both sides. This is another departure compared to many other designs that merely pull the bodywork in from the outside. The 'V' design to the leading edge of the front wheel fairing is just another means to direct airflow between the nose crash structure and the front wheel fairings. This is important as it works in conjunction with the airflow passing underneath the car's front splitter. But it is also important for cooling functions of both the front brakes and the radiator.
In between the front wheel fairings and the nose crash structure there are slot vents that feed cooler air toward the brake housing to help cool the large carbon brakes used to help the stopping power of the prototype.
The front splitter design features a thick design out near the outer edges and a thinner airfoil design inboard. The 'step-up' in the design is one function of the ACO's regulations for the LMP category. This limits the amount of downforce that can be generated at the front of the chassis as it increases volume, instead of lower pressure. As the air gets squeezed between the splitter and the track, the air has to speed up. This creates a lower pressure in the area and sucks the car down to the track.
The outer edges of the front splitter and front wheel fairing can adapted to meet the requirements of individual tracks. This outer edge was designed in such a way that either wing elements, or dive planes, attach right to the outer portion of the front wheel fairing to further add downforce to the front of the car. This would be particularly useful on high-downforce circuits.
For those higher-speed circuits, like Circuit de la Sarthe, a nose with a smooth outer edge can be attached to the car. The smooth outer panel puts the quest for downforce squarely on the front splitter, but, it helps increase top-end speed as the car has less drag induced upon it.
While other elements of the car's nose design are similar to those used on the MG-Lola EX257, the nose structure underwent changes on the new model. The nose bulkhead has been designed lower and seems to emerge out of the bodywork that covers the double-wishbone suspension members. It features a flat top with a low angle. Because of the low angle of the nose, clearance over the suspension members, such as the coils and dampers, became compromised. To rectify the situation, bulges were designed into the top of the nose's bodywork to cover the suspension members.
Lola's design for the B05/40 includes a two-seater, open-cockpit design. According to the regulations, the car had to feature a twin roll-hoop design. Being an open cockpit, and, having another roll-hoop, extra turbulence is created in this area of the design, which means more drag and slower top-end speeds. Lola's solution to this challenge was one that has been used in designs for decades. Two aerodynamic bulges were included into the design just prior to the car's cockpit. This helps to direct all around the cockpit area.
Fitting with current prototype design, Lola's front wheel fairings are not directly incorporated into the car's sidepods. The front wheel fairings are much more fitting to the traditional idea of 'fenders'. In the old days of sports car racing, there was little difference between a sports car and a Formula One car. What would make one a sports car would be thin pieces of metal attached over the top of the wheels to act as fenders. This approach is still somewhat the desire of the designers.
The leading edge of the front wheel fairings is of utmost importance as wheels cause an incredible amount of drag to a car. However, airflow colliding together also creates an incredible amount of drag and instability to a car. This is a problem around the radiator inlet.
Should the radiator inlet be too big, too much added drag results. If the opening is too small, the engine will not receive the necessary cooling. Therefore, to help with stability and cooling, at the same time, designs have placed an importance emphasis in the area between the front wheels and the radiator inlet.
The car's sidepods sit rather tall, but are pulled in toward the car quite drastically. This opens up an area for airflow to escape out around the side of the car's rounded sidepods. Obviously, when looking at the car from the side, the front wheel fairing's bodywork extends back quite a distance behind the front wheel. The inboard portion of this bodywork contours out toward the side of the car as it travels aft. This opens up a channel for air to flow more easily. In addition, by being extended aft, the bodywork helps to blend the airflow passing around the side of the radiator sidepod with the oncoming air passing along the side of the car.
The front wheel fairings, legally, need to be attached to the front nose structure. Sole worked with this rule to make the new car legal, but also, to help with the flow of air aft along the car. The 'valance' panel attaches the front wheel fairing to the nose structure, but, it has also been designed in such a way as to help blend and direct airflow. Instead of airflow just spilling over the top of the radiator sidepod, the panel helps to bend the airflow over the top. It also helps to blend it with the air flowing over the top of the panel.
One of the hallmarks of Lola Cars is its ability to design cars capable of adapting to its customer's needs. Many teams will utilize Lola's competition-tested HT (high-torque) gearbox instead of seeking after another, or, creating their own system. Whether its own, or another system, the B05/40 easily adapts to different gearbox and electrical requirements. The car's cockpit can easily be adapted to a team's needs. However, most cockpits of the B05/40 will feature the steering-wheel mounted paddle-shift transmission and other electronic components that will allow drivers to control the engine, brake bias and other functions. The driver's cockpit will normally remain sparse with the exception of a dash-mounted display or steering wheel with a display panel incorporated right into it. The driver's side remains sparse as the round bulge on the co-driver's side of the cockpit enables teams to have controls mounted directly there without it being exposed.
Following the inspiration of what the company had already created in the past, Lola stuck with an open roll-hoop design for its twin roll-hoops. The roll-hoops; however, aren't the only thing that protrude out of the top of the car.
Dependent upon the engine chosen to be run, there will be a couple of different air-scoops incorporated into the design of the car. In the case of the turbocharged 2.0-liter AER four-cylinder engine, a large air scoop stands tall out of the car's left-hand bodywork just behind the cockpit. In the case of a normally aspirated engine, like the V8 Judd engine, a narrower air-scoop stands out of the top of the engine cowling between the roll-hoops.
Along the side of the sidepods, there is a large vent opening. This helps to pull in air flowing along the side of the car and directs inward. This serves a couple of purposes, and therefore, has been retained. Pulling air inward helps to reduce the overall drag of the car. But also, since the air passes right by the inboard portion of the rear wheels, cooling the rear brakes becomes a simpler matter. A short air-scoop, attached to the rear brake housing, extends out into the airstream and captures it to help with brake cooling.
When viewed head-on, the inboard line of the rear wheel fairing leading edges are notably contoured outward. This design helps to pull the air inward as it travels aft, just as the case with the leading edges of the front wheel fairings.
The top-deck of the rear bodywork sits low. Because its sits low, there is a deep channel for airflow between the rear wheels. Utilizing the contour of the leading edge of the rear wheel fairings to direct airflow inward, this channel between the rear wheels helps funnel large amounts of airflow out the back of the car. This means a large amount of airflow will be directed to the car's very important rear wing. It also helps to keep the airflow from colliding with the air passing along the side of the car, which limits disturbances at the rear of the car. This means greater stability, which is very important for a good-handling car.
Protruding out of the top of the car's rear deck is the engine's exhaust. These exhaust pipes are concealed by aerodynamic shrouds the enable the air to pass around the exhaust without too much disturbance.
Compared to the model used in the wind-tunnel. The rear end of the customer car is quite different. Though the top-deck of the rear bodywork is low, it is taller than what the model showed. In addition, the design of the rear wing endplates was quite different on the wind-tunnel model. The rear bodywork of the rear wheel fairings was pulled in tighter. Instead of a more square design made available to teams, the model had more round rear bodywork. This meant the rear wing endplates could not attach to the rear bodywork straight down. In fact, the endplates were designed with a bend inward in them. However, this design was abandoned for a more straight-forward design.
Lola utilizes a double-pillar support structure for the rear wing. The rear wing, itself, is conventional in its design. Compared to the wing designs used in Formula One at the time, the rear wing on the B05/40 is straight and part of a twin-plane design.
The air pulled inward through the large vent on the sidepod escapes out the back of the car over the all-important rear diffuser. Air that has been squeezed underneath the car is enabled to escape out, and up, at the back of the car. This further helps to suck the car down to the track. The air passing out the rear of the car through the side vents in the sidepods acts like a vacuum. As it passes over the top of the diffuser it creates a lower pressure that pulls air out from under the car faster, and therefore, creates more downforce.
This design feature has been used for years, especially in Formula One. This is just another example how Lola has managed to provide customers top-flight aerodynamic prototypes for use in Le Mans endurance racing.
Lola's design technology, as well as its new model's ability to house a number of types and makes of engines, such as the normally-aspirated Judd, Zytek, Acura and the turbocharged AER and Mazda, has helped to make the company a premier prototype designer and builder. What made the company even more of a staple amongst the LMP2 field was the simple fact such technology and flexibility was made available to many different customers. Because of what Lola offered, it was able to secure orders for the new prototype from almost half a dozen teams. Prototype racing hadn't become a spec-series, but Lola had many customers to help pay the bill for its creative license. Sources:
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'Lola B05/40 AER', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2342/Lola-B05-40-AER.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2342/Lola-B05-40-AER.html. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
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