Pioneering firm now wants to lead the way with hybrid racer
From the Beaujolais Run it was a quick turnaround to visit engineering company Zytek, near Repton in Derbyshire. Most of you may know Zytek primarily as an engine builder, as I did, but it’s quite astonishing how much it is accountable for in the world of motor sport.
The 2009 McLaren Kinetic Energy Recovery System? Zytek. The only electrical gearchange system in professional motor sport? Again, Zytek. The company was responsible for the first engine management system in Formula 1 on board Ayrton Senna’s Toleman in 1984, as well as the system in the Jaguar XJ220. Its latest project has been to introduce hybrid technology into LMP sports car racing.
“It’s a marketing and technology exercise,” says Pete May, race systems development engineer. “But we are building towards being able to offer hybrid systems off the shelf in 2011.”
So how did the Zytek LMP fare in 2009? Well, the car was third overall at Lime Rock – its first full appearance as a hybrid – and finished fifth at Laguna Seca. Last year’s rules meant that the motor (situated between the gearbox and engine), converter and battery all had to be based on existing road car products. This season the rules have been changed to allow parts to be designed from scratch. But that’s not to say Zytek’s problems will be at an end, as unlike with KERS there’s no convenient push-to-pass button. The driver is not allowed any control over when the extra 47bhp is deployed.
It’s all very well deciding when you want the boost to come on at a particular track, but last year you were only allowed to store 0.6MJ of energy in the battery. If you were too trigger-happy setting it up, it could be spent by the second straight. This also meant that testing was taken over by the hybrid technology. “There wasn’t one single test last year where we dedicated the whole time to car set-up,” says Johnny Mowlem, one of the hybrid’s drivers. Once Zytek has this year’s system up and running, it can use it not only to extract more power, but also to save on fuel, and even get you back to the pits when you’ve run out.
It hasn’t been without its teething problems, but expect to hear a lot more about Zytek’s hybrid system once the full race programme gets under way.