Bob Bell (Chassis Technical Director) and Tim Densham (Chief Designer) reveal some of the secrets of the new Renault R26. The new Renault R26. Photo by LAT Photographic. At the official presentation of the R26, the 'fathers' of the...
Bob Bell (Chassis Technical Director) and Tim Densham (Chief Designer) reveal some of the secrets of the new Renault R26.
At the official presentation of the R26, the 'fathers' of the new car were bombarded with questions by the journalists present. What had been Renault's approach for defending the world titles? What were the special features of the new car? Had they installed some revolutionary systems? Here is a summary of what Bob Bell and Tim Densham revealed...
The concept of the R26
The first meetings between the engine and chassis teams about 2006, took place in September 2004. With a major change in engine regulations on the horizon -- a change from V10 to V8 architecture -- the team would focus on optimising the integration and installation of the engine in the chassis. The first work on chassis components began in November 2004 -- before the world champion R25 had even turned a wheel!
Gradually, the team fine-tuned the concept and the R26 was born on-time -- quite an achievement, considering development of the R25 continued until the very last race of 2005. The new car was fired up for the first time just before Christmas, and took to the track on 10 January at Jerez, in the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella.
Bob Bell: "The R26 is an aggressive development of a proven, successful design philosophy. The R25 did not have any real weaknesses, as our championship victory showed. For 2006, our challenge was to understand the impact of the engine regulations on the chassis design, to include those new challenges in our projects goals, and to pursue our development path under stable chassis regulations. We tried to make parts lighter and stiffer, while improving the car in every area."
Tim Densham: "We knew the R25 was a good car -- so we concentrated on improving the areas that would help us improve performance. We reviewed every component to see how they could be improved in terms of weight and stiffness. But the most important thing at this initial design stage, was the collaboration between the teams at Viry and Enstone."
1. Mechanical architecture
Bob Bell: "Our priority was to maintain the qualities of the R25, especially with the feel for the drivers and how it responded to set-up changes. With that in mind, it was logical to maintain the mechanical strengths of last year's package, such as the suspension geometry. The introduction of the V8 did not lead us to design a brand new car."
Bob Bell: "We always look for the best compromise in this area, and in previous years, that process had favoured a six-speed transmission. For 2006, the reduction in power with the V8 engines -- added to the lower torque levels and narrower power band -- led us to choose a 7 speed design. The casing is once again in titanium."
Bob Bell: "We aimed to produce the most compact mechanical package to allow the aerodynamics team, led by Dino Toso, the most freedom in their work. The V8 engine also helped us make gains in this area. It requires lower cooling levels, which allows us to use smaller radiators, and to reduce the size of the sidepods -- both in terms of the openings, and the bodywork shapes."
Tim Densham: "We work with the aero department to identify the areas that can bring most performance gains, and then the designers try to make the mechanical components as compact as possible to give the aerodynamicists maximum freedom. But the challenge was to do that without compromising the mechanical strengths of the R25, which meant finding the right balance between the two."
Bob Bell: "We will introduce development packages through the season. That will help maximise our production resources, and will allow us to have a firm idea of the step forward we make each time. We aim to have new parts on the car at every race. For example, the aero package on the car at the moment, is quite different from what will be used at the first race. An update package just before Bahrain will bring us a good performance gain."