Honda arrives at the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, for the Spanish Grand Prix on 26 - 28 April, in familiar territory for the Honda engineers as much of its test programme and those of its partner teams, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda and DHL Jordan...
Honda arrives at the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, for the Spanish Grand Prix on 26 - 28 April, in familiar territory for the Honda engineers as much of its test programme and those of its partner teams, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda and DHL Jordan Honda, is conducted here during the year and, in particular, in the close season.
Testing is fundamental to Honda's Formula One participation and over the winter and during the season Honda's engines accumulate hundreds of thousands of kilometres of running, in a variety of conditions on both dynamometers and the track, to develop every aspect of the engines' performance and reliability.
Dynamometer running is the starting point for any engine test programme and indeed during the engine development cycle is central to the process. Honda is able to use state-of-the-art dynamometers both at Tochigi and its European F1 base at Honda Racing Development in Bracknell, England. The dynos, as they are commonly known, are increasingly sophisticated facilities, with technology that enable engineers and designers to replicate a wide range of performance criteria, including ambient weather conditions such as air temperature and pressure, which have a fundamental effect on the efficiency of an engine's operation.
B.A.R Honda's Olivier Panis was able to see a dyno in action at HRD when he visited the facility after the Imola race, allowing the Honda technicians to explain its range of functions. The dyno is used both as an electric motor (to start the engine) and a generator, converting the engine's power into electricity, which is used to supply the dyno's systems, with any excess being returned to the national grid. The noise, which can reach 140 decibels, is contained within the closed cell but, with the dyno's special soundproofing, is significantly reduced to the point that it cannot be heard by someone walking past the factory. To stand the energy generated the dyno is built on a cast iron bed plate on top of a concrete block, which together weigh over 250 tons with 3 metre foundations.
In parallel, track testing is the acid test for all the developments on an engine, where the marriage of engine and chassis is ultimately proven. Prior to a Grand Prix, a range of options is explored on engine set-ups and new developments come under close scrutiny to ensure they are ready to race. Nothing goes on a Honda race engine before it has been fully evaluated and put to the limit in track testing.
One of the more crucial aspects of a modern F1 engine is the software programme that controls the parameters of its performance. In the same way the team might concentrate on aerodynamic work at a particular test, software is often a central feature of Honda's testing schedule. The manufacturer's specialist software engineers within its R&D centre in Tochigi, near Tokyo, are constantly working to refine and improve the software packages available to the B.A.R Honda and Jordan Honda race teams.
Testing also provides Honda's young engineers with a solid grounding in F1 operations before moving on to the frontline race teams, underscoring the world's largest engine manufacturer's commitment to developing not only its technology but also its people as part of its well-established racing culture. What is learnt on the track by Honda's own personnel enlarges its human resource to continue wider technology objectives.