In the 2015 MOTO3 season, Mahindra Racing stood third in the constructor's championship, a result they wouldn't complain of amid the likes of Honda & KTM. However, racing being a laboratory for developing new technologies, doesn't allow any space for being content. Fast forward to the 2016 season and Mahindra Racing, after the first four races is at 42 points, the same stage where they were last year. However, any follower of the sport will be able to spot the visible improvement in the race pace of Mahindra Racing. Sometime back we caught up with Davide Borghesi, Head, Design & Development, Mahindra Racing (R) and Michele Ciappina, Head, Manufacturing, Purchase & Quality Control, Mahindra Racing (L) to understand the changes in the motorcycles for this season.
FINDING THE EXTRA TENTH OF A SECOND
In order to up the pace and competitiveness of the machines this year, there have been numerous changes made to the engine and chassis, said Borghesi. One of the most important changes is the new Bore x Stroke ratio, which is around the maximum value allowed by the rules of the sport. Borghesi prefers to term this as a new engine because of the redesigning involved in achieving the desired ratio. This increased power is seen as an improvement in performance by the team and expects the pace to improve further through the season.
The next change to the engine is the valvetrain, sporting a new camshaft & valve springs. The valves too are larger due to the new Bore x Stroke ratio. Interestingly, the team is working closely with the University of Milan for 1D and 3D simulation, an association which has helped design the exhaust port and critically the engine now has double ports on the cylinder head. This has resulted in the motorcycles using a double exhaust from this year, which allows for higher performance, while meeting the sound regulations of the sport.
While this change has resulted in an increase of about two horsepower only, the key increment of it when combined with other changes is the improvement in overall race pace and not just top-end power. This improvement is aimed at improving the acceleration out of corners and the ability to overtake. In addition, one of the key motives of all these changes was to smooth out the power delivery as rear tyre wear turned out to be an issue in some of the races last year, leading to a crash in some cases and the team losing potential points.
On the chassis and body front, one of the key areas to go under the scalpel was aerodynamic optimisation of the bodywork. Extensive work in the wind-tunnel and by using simulation helped improve the performance, which showed on the track as well, not only on the straights but also on handling and the effect of lateral winds on the motorcycle.
Chassis work involved improving the rigidity but the constitution of materials was retained from last year. Another important work involved optimisation of processes related to manufacturing of frames and material procurement for the same. Monitored by Ciappina, this is critical for ensuring the design changes remain exactly the same from one frame to another throughout the season.
TECHNOLOGY TRICKLE TO ROAD MACHINES
The primary interest of any vehicle maker in motorsports is to develop technologies that can later be introduced to road machines and improve the product appeal and sales eventually. Agreeing to this, Borghesi said working with suppliers for machines developing power close to the maximum possible limit presents a great amount of technical and process knowledge. Even factors such as fuel-efficiency can be improved through learnings from MOTO3 as the team is presently trying various design and placement options in terms of injectors, ports, etc. While the team uses a lot of carbon-fibre, Borghesi and Ciappina concluded that they also use aluminium and steel and that the learning from here could be used to make a motorcycle such as Mojo or any other one lighter, efficient and quicker, in an undisclosed but hopefully quick timeframe.
Text: Arpit Mahendra