Team Bucknum soon to debut "new" car

Pilbeam facelift nearly race-ready. So many changes have been made in the off season to Team Bucknum Racing's Pilbeam MP84 that the car will carry a new model name, the MP91, when it debuts at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring ...

Pilbeam facelift nearly race-ready.

So many changes have been made in the off season to Team Bucknum Racing's Pilbeam MP84 that the car will carry a new model name, the MP91, when it debuts at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring in March.

"The changes have been so extensive that the car needed to be re-crash tested to comply with the FIA and ACO regulations," said Mike Pilbeam, owner of Pilbeam racing Designs in England. "I think people will be quite surprised by what they see in March."

>From a spectator's standpoint, the most noticeable difference will be the car's new lower profile and elongated look. The improved aesthetic was necessitated by a need to reduce drag, and became possible with the development of a new, flatter engine design that significantly lowers the car's center of gravity.

Recent wind tunnel testing indicated the MP91 will produce 44% more aerodynamic down force and 4% less drag, as a result of the restyling, the important addition of a diffuser, and a reengineered rear body section.

The new engine, developed by Graham Dale Jones-led IES in England, is a v-shaped, normally aspirated 3.4-liter purpose-built motor badged the Willman 6. The angle between the cylinders has been changed from 60 degrees to 120 degrees, which creates a short, lighter and stiffer engine that is projected to give Team Bucknum's Pilbeam an additional 100 horsepower.

Before the cars were shipped to England in November for development, the team successfully tested bigger tires that, by themselves, dropped substantial time off lap times at a test track in Nevada. New, lighter wheels are in the making, too.

All these changes, among quite a few others, will leave the MP91 lighter than last year, and allow it to meet the 675 kilogram minimum weight limit. Both of Team Bucknum's American Le Mans Series cars, #55 and #56, are receiving all the off-season upgrades.

"Last year we counted on reliability and mistake-free driving to earn our wins, and this year we'll add real speed," said Bucknum. "The MP91 has more grip, less weight, better stopping power, less drag, and more horsepower. We're pretty confident the change in how the cars look will be supported by changes on the timesheets."

The team will be in England during the middle of February for a final dry run test before the season starts a few weeks later.

-tb-

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Series ALMS