CHAMPCAR/CART: NHR, ADAMS virtual prototyping team

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - When the Newman/Haas Racing team take their positions at the starting line in Monterrey, Mexico, March 11 for the opening of the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) 2001 FedEx Championship Series, they'll have more than skill...

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - When the Newman/Haas Racing team take their positions at the starting line in Monterrey, Mexico, March 11 for the opening of the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) 2001 FedEx Championship Series, they'll have more than skill in the drivers' seat with them - they'll have the advantage of ADAMS® virtual prototyping technology from Mechanical Dynamics, Inc. (Nasdaq: MDII).

Founded by racing legends Carl Haas and Paul Newman in 1982, Newman/Haas Racing designs and races Indy-style cars, called Champ or Championship cars, for professional drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Cristiano da Matta. Based in Lincolnshire, Ill., Newman/Haas has claimed 58 victories and three series crowns in the CART series, which will hold 21 races in 2001.

Newman/Haas uses ADAMS to model and test every element of its cars. ADAMS®/Car Motorsport is a customized automotive simulation toolkit for evaluating the design of key racing and commercial automobile subsystems such as suspension, engine, tires, and aerodynamics. The Newman/Haas team also uses ADAMS®/Solver for numerical processing, ADAMS®/Tire for modeling how tires grip the road, ADAMS®/View as the basic user interface, and ADAMS®/Driver for examining how individual driving styles affect vehicle performance.

Determining optimal racecar set-up combinations is a tough challenge.   
The CART rules restrict the number of pre-season test days. This,       
together with the limited amount of practice during a race weekend      
has led Newman/Haas engineers to rely on ADAMS simulations to test      
variables and eliminate guesswork.                                      

"Week in and week out, ADAMS helps the team arrive at the track well prepared," says Skip Essma, Newman/Haas vehicle dynamics engineer. "The CART FedEx series is extremely competitive. On a typical qualifying grid, the top ten cars can be separated by as little as a few tenths of a second. Any edge, any fine change we can make with ADAMS to predict a tenth of a second gain, can move us into a better position."

Testing is an expensive proposition and Newman/Haas spends well over    
$1 million in pre-season testing. "Traditionally in racing, it's been   
a trial-and-error, educated guess basis in making changes to the car,"  
says Essma.  "For a long time, that's been effective, but as the        
competition grows more intense, we have to rely more and more on our    
simulation programs to complement our experience.  ADAMS definitely     
gives us a competitive edge.  When we get to the track, we're not       
making educated guesses.  We know the best ways to address performance  
issues and any problems that may arise during the race weekend."        

By running ADAMS simulations, Newman/Haas engineers can narrow the window of possible changes they want to evaluate once at the track. The simulations allow the engineering team to change a large number of variables in order to pinpoint the important ones.

"Making these changes on the virtual racecar takes a fraction of the time compared to making the same changes on the real car," Essma notes. "We can try many more changes in the same amount of time. ADAMS gives us the ability to try anything and everything under the sun to improve the car's performance. We've found it to be a comprehensive and extremely accurate tool."

Another critical benefit Newman/Haas has gained is the ability to simulate racecar performance for a specific racetrack. That advantage will be even more important this year, because the team will race on new tracks in Mexico, Germany, and England, where the rules prohibit testing.

"ADAMS can accurately simulate performance on a specific track with conditions selected by the race engineers," Essma says. "We can change the suspension, front and rear wing settings, or virtually any element of the entire car and send it through a series of maneuvers and see exactly how the car will perform. There are an infinite number of permutations - aerodynamic, suspension types and adjustments, shock settings and springs - all of which can be tried without expending resources on the track."

Newman/Haas has used ADAMS for more than 10 years, and Essma believes it has helped the race team innovate. "In the racing industry, there are ideas that have become tradition about the way a car should be designed or the way a suspension geometry should operate. Without a tool such as ADAMS, we'd have to physically build those components in order to evaluate them. ADAMS allows us to try out new ideas, design new geometries and components, and evaluate their performance without going through the costly build process."

Mechanical Dynamics pioneered the field of mechanical system simulation with its market-leading ADAMS® software. Engineering teams use ADAMS to build and test functional virtual prototypes of their complex mechanical system designs. Mechanical Dynamics offers extensive implementation services, including consulting and training. In this way, the company partners with its customers to help reduce the time, costs, and risks of the product development process and meet the "Smarter to Market" challenge.

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About this article
Series Automotive , IndyCar
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Newman , Carl Haas
Teams DAMS