CHAMPCAR/CART: Gateway Mercedes Preview

Race Cars Need Their Morning Coffee, Too! There'’s Nothing Like Some Hot Water to Wake Up a Cold Race Engine MONTVALE, N.J. (May 18, 1998) -- An evening ritual for millions of Americans is setting the timer on the coffee maker to ...

Race Cars Need Their Morning Coffee, Too! There'’s Nothing Like Some Hot Water to Wake Up a Cold Race Engine

MONTVALE, N.J. (May 18, 1998) -- An evening ritual for millions of Americans is setting the timer on the coffee maker to produce hot coffee the next morning. So maybe it’s no surprise that Mercedes-Benz Champ Cars get their own version of morning coffee prior to work every day, whether that be at testing or at a race, such as the upcoming Motorola 300 at the 1.27-mile oval of Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., May 21-23, round six of the 19-race CART FedEx Championship Series.

Reinventing the Coffee Maker

Each evening a robot-like unit nicknamed "R2D2" is programmed to deliver three gallons of hot water to wake up a cold Mercedes-Benz IC108E race engine. When the timer goes off the next morning, the unit heats the water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the crew arrives, the unit is connected to the engine and the water is circulated through the cold block.

"Without preheating the engine to at least 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit), you run the risk of breaking something in the engine," said Gary Mathews, designer of R2D2 and track-side engineer for Ilmor Engineering, the race-engine design and manufacturing arm of Mercedes-Benz.

"The inside of a race engine is made up of many different types of metal and alloy parts. When the temperature increases, these parts expand at varying rates," said Mathews. "Also, there are no gaskets on the engine. For those two reasons, maintaining proper tolerances is crucial. This system helps keep those tolerances uniform.

"Once the engine is up to temperature, it can then be started and slowly brought up to 90 or 95 degrees Celsius. Then it is ready to go on the race track."

The name R2D2 came from the prototype unit, which looked like the robot in the movie "Star Wars". Now the unit resembles a small black box on wheels, and at least one resides with each of the five teams using the "E" engine this season. It takes only 20 minutes for R2D2 to do its job. R2D2 can also clean the cooling system through its filtration system, and can bleed air from the system in less than one minute. The Mercedes-Benz track-side engineers introduced the new unit this season at CART Spring Training in Homestead, Fla.

A Good Engineer has to be Inventive

"Each of our engineers brings a unique perspective to the sport of motor racing," said Paul Ray, vice president of Ilmor Engineering. "They all have their own projects where they work on perfecting components or systems, or simply inventing ways to do their job better.

"Gary’s R2D2 unit cut the engine-warming time in half," said Ray. "The unit also makes testing in winter easier because without it, it’s almost impossible to bring the engine up to the proper temperature for the track."

Mercedes-Benz has established a tradition of innovation in motor sports dating back to the world’s first auto race more than a century ago. In recent years, Mercedes-Benz has expanded its participation in sports to include PGA Tour golf and ATP Tour tennis.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar