Component testing is vital, but some parts can’t be tested. Warren Stean opted for new, and replaceable, made-to-measure alternatives
When I finally took the plunge and started down the path to acquire, restore and ultimately drive a Formula 1 car, I made the conscious decision to do everything possible to try to avoid seriously injuring myself, or worse. Some might say if you don’t want to get hurt, don’t drive a racing car, but there are things that can be done to bring risk levels down. This was one of many reasons why I chose a mid-1990s F1 car in the first place and bought the Jordan-Peugeot 195.
Besides the sheer noise and drama of this period of Formula 1 machinery, they also come with the benefit of safety measures that followed the tragic weekend at Imola in 1994, as well as the improved composite construction techniques of the time. I personally think some of the F1 cars from the early 1970s are among the most beautiful and purposeful machines ever built, but I just can’t get past the sheer danger those cars present with the location of the fuel tanks and the driver’s ankles sticking out forward of the front axle line.
Huge respect to the drivers of the day – and even more to those who race them now, because they have a choice. Those cars aren’t for me. But there are also things that I can do to my ex-Rubens Barrichello Jordan to reduce the risks to a level I find acceptable. Some 22 years after the car ended its competitive career, areas that need looking at are crack-testing the components and trying to understand where there may be inherent weaknesses, and then looking at what solutions may be available.
Known areas of concern are the carbon wishbones and the titanium integrated flexures that replace the traditional spherical rod-end mountings on the monocoque. These blade-type joints on the inboard side of the front suspension are notorious areas for failure and are also difficult to test reliably in a non-destructive manner. In the end, as with any component, they will fail. Not a particularly enticing prospect.
I also don’t have any new replacements for these parts and at some point they are going to have to be replaced, ideally before they fail. That means considering alternatives to the system of carbon wishbones with integrated flexures.
After some careful consideration and consultation with Matt Faulks at Tour-de-Force Power Engineering, who are restoring the Jordan, we made the decision to remove the original carbon wishbones and re-engineer and manufacture steel wishbones with spherical bearing inboard joints. Doing this now rather than later – or after a potential spill – means that the originals can be kept and used for any static displays, so the originality of the car is not lost. For testing, racing and demos, the car will be able to be run without compromising the suspension dynamics on brand-new and, therefore, safer wishbones and pushrods all round. Spare sets can also be manufactured, which will lower unit costs and give the car a useful spares package.
The design process for manufacturing the double wishbones and pushrod suspension in steel rather than carbon is complex because there are differences in flex and weight. In addition there are other complex material science issues that need to be addressed in order that the functionality of the suspension remains intact.
Tour-de-Force is undertaking this design process in-house using an Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD system to perform FEA (finite element analysis) on the drawn part before any metal is cut. This allows us to ensure that the component strength is a suitable order of magnitude stronger than it will ever need to be.
In F1 the part would be refined from here to reduce weight to the minimum, but for cars such as my Jordan 195 in private ownership – and therefore not trying to win F1 races — the additional strength and longer life of a component designed in this way makes more sense from a cost and reliability perspective. The spherical joints in the wishbones are staked to allow for easy replacement. Additional tooling has been produced to allow for the stripping and inspection of the uprights and driveshafts etc. Inspection and crack-testing of these parts is underway.
Next month: All change in the gearbox: reverse engineering the internals
Thanks to: Tour-de-Force Power Engineering, Bedford; Engine Developments, Rugby