US GP: Engines create sound of music

Racing cars have roared along the main straight at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1909. This year, history will be made as fans hear an engine exceeding 19,000 rpm along that historic straight for the first time during the weekend of...

Racing cars have roared along the main straight at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1909. This year, history will be made as fans hear an engine exceeding 19,000 rpm along that historic straight for the first time during the weekend of the SAP United States Grand Prix.

It isn't noise. The sound of a racing engine being pushed to its limit - that roar, that howl, that scream - is music to the ears. And BMW has composed a new symphony for those who attend this year's SAP United States Grand Prix.

At the recent Italian Grand Prix, BMW became the first engine to ever to top the 19,000-rpm mark. True, other F1 engines have exceeded 19,000 rpm, but they have not lived long to tell the tale.

That's more than three times the maximum rpm of most passenger-car engines and more than six times the rpm of a passenger-car engine cruising at highway speeds.

Nineteen-thousand revolutions per minute means 9,500 ignitions per minute per cylinder. That translates to 158 ignitions per second for each cylinder, or one ignition every six-thousandths of a second.

The shriek of V10 engines revving up past the 18,000-rpm mark is a glorious sound. Place it in an opera house like Monaco, where the engine note reverberates off the walls of the buildings, or down Indy's long front stretch, and the effect is even more magnificent.

The BMW V10s in the Williams cars driven by 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher both will rev more than 19,000 rpm in qualifying and perhaps in the race. BMW has tested its P82 specification engine sufficiently to allow it to turn 19,000 rpm in qualifying, and its engineers are in the process of testing the engine so that the magic 19,000-rpm mark can be used in the race, too.

"Everything we develop is aimed at racing it and not just using it in qualifying," said BMW Motorsport Director Dr. Mario Theissen. "But we have a two-step release procedure. After the engine has successfully done 250 km (155 miles) on the dyno, more than once, and a successful (on-track) 250-km test, then it is released for qualifying. As soon as it has completed 400 km (250 miles), it will be released for a race. I cannot say today if we will manage to do this before Indy."

BMW aimed to hit 19,000 rpm ever since it started designing the current engine.

"You can only do this if the concept itself carries the potential," Theissen said. "So it was a clear target from the very beginning of the design phase of P82 that it had to be able to go up to 19,000, among other targets. As usual, we started with making the engine reliable, and only then did we start to increase power step by step, and this means to increase revs, and what we have achieved is the final step for P82."

While BMW is the first to reach the 19,000-rpm plateau, other engine manufacturers are getting close. Mercedes-Benz's V10 is only about 100 to 150 rpm below the numbers being reached by BMW.

Put together 20 sophisticated V10s - the entire lineup for this year's SAP United States Grand Prix - all singing to 18,000 rpm and above, and you have F1's wonderful sound of music.

-ims-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , Williams