Revived interest sparks new ideas at tech conference.
“Our objective is to use our race cars to showcase the cars we put on the road,” said Richard Brekus, BMW’s product planning chief. Brekus was part of a panel at this year’s SAE World Congress exploring the link between motorsports and production cars. Racing plays a critical role in developing brand identity and marketing, the panelists agreed. But it also offers manufacturers an opportunity to test new technology under harsh conditions before offering it on the retail market.
panelists offered up a variety of examples, such as the ultra-light carbon-fiber
roof on BMW’s new M6 sports coupe, and the 7.0-liter engine in the new Corvette
Z06, which was an offshoot of the powertrain in the last-generation C5R racecar.
Porsche’s Dr. Frank Stefan-Walliser noted that the latest, normally aspirated
911 is making as much as 540 horsepower, about 30 more than the last-generation
sports car. “That was gained with (knowledge) developed in the GT (racing)
category,” he explained. Meanwhile, the harsh demands of racing can provide a
quick way of “proving out” technology shared with a manufacturer’s production
vehicles, said Robert Davis, vice president of product development for Mazda
North America. Problems on the track revealed potential issues with a shifter
fork on the latest MX-5, as well as a suspension component on the RX-8,
The transfer of technology is a two-way street, suggested BMW’s Brekus. When the organizing body for the Formula One series approved the use of traction control several years ago, “Our production engineers were called in an told we needed traction control in our race cars — and they had a week to do it.”
Don’t be surprised
to see the auto industry use racing to test and develop alternative fuel
technology, suggested David Wilson, a group vice president for motorsports, with