The trail to the holy grail of motorsports

Published on July 6th, 2009

The trail to the holy grail of motorsports, Formula 1, is hardly a well beaten path. Not many have emerged from the throngs of the infamous track teaming with success but then again, conquering the obstacle-ridden path is a victory in itself.

Highly regarded as the final stepping stone towards Formula 1, the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 is as close to the real McCoy as it’s going to get.

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Our attentive ears have often picked up on commentators’ mumblings during F1 races about how so and so made their way up from Formula Renault. Now you do wonder what exactly is Formula Renault don’t you?

Sure your wildly imaginative minds can conjure up vivid images of a single-seater race car that mimics an F1 car, perhaps with smaller wheels and tyre and some of the fancy schamancy aero bits yanked off but what exactly lays under the skin of the Formula Renault racers? Here we’ll try to explain a bit about Formula Renault and what makes it tick and tock.

The penultimate step towards Formula 1 is every bit as challenging, not only for the drivers, but for the machines as well, that are cut from the same cloth as the F1 machines but tailored differently.

All teams are provided with similar single-seater race cars with identical specifications and output. Getting ahead of the field is entirely up to the engineers and drivers to fine tune and drive the cars to within a whisker of their balanced crankshafts on the track.

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Brought into this world through a merging of the Eurocup Formula Renault V6 and World Series by Nissan Renault Sport Technologies, the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 compromises of 13 two-car teams that are invited to compete by the organising committee.

Having eked out the likes of Robert Kubica, Markus Winkelhock and Sebastian Vettel during its early years from 2005 to 2007, this was the time when the series set itself up as a penultimate leap towards F1. The new Formula Renault 3.5 is now tasked with continuing to produce champs in the same mould from 2008 right up to 2010.

The cars incorporate the latest aerodynamic technology right off F1 cars in recent years. Ground effect has been improved with a raised nose and a concaved front wing. As all the machines are the same, the chassis is built exclusively by Dallara. Extensive win-tunnel testing has helped in refining the aerodynamic capabilities of the cars.

Motivation comes from a new version of the 3.5-litre V6 24V power plant developed by Renault Sport Technologies and Solution F. Incorporating flexfuel technology, the engines can run on SP98 or E85 bioethanol. Going green does have its benefits though as the engines running on E85 pump out a 500hp without a single nick on the reliability armour. Engine overhauls still take place every 4,500km.

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Safety first has always been the choice words in the world of motorsports, more so with F1 and Formula Renault. Many modern day safety advancements have been borne out of racing use and been adapted to use in commercial vehicles. Here, safety legislations are on par and comply with F1 safety regulations.

One of the primary goals of Formula Renault is to prepare the drivers for the demands of F1, therefore the news that the machines share many similarities with their compatriots of the upper echelons should not come as a surprise. Among the similarities are carbon brakes, left-foot braking, adjustable perimeters and pit stops.

Cost is the ultimate deterrent for advancement in racing. Hence, designing many of the components on the existing Formula Renault racers to be interchangeable with the previous model was a genius cost-cutting measure. Components such as the gearbox, rear suspension, carbon brakes, wheels and the Magneti Marelli electronic management system are all transferable to the new racers.

Date of Creation: 2005
Chassis: Carbon-fibre monocoque
Engine : 6 cylinders 3498cc 24valves
Max Power : 425bhp at 8250 rpm
Weight : 600kg
Max Speed : 300khp
Gearbox : 6 forward speed reverse dog-clutch

text: Dinesh Appavu  pix: Renault Sport

 

 

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