CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Benz Drivers Get High Tech Steering Wheels

Mercedes-Benz, Magneti Marelli and Momo Produce New Wheel to Communicate with Driver Magneti Marelli Electronics System On All Mercedes-Powered Cars at Detroit DETROIT (May 27, 1998) -- At speeds of more than 240 mph, a CART Champ Car ...

Mercedes-Benz, Magneti Marelli and Momo Produce New Wheel to Communicate with Driver Magneti Marelli Electronics System On All Mercedes-Powered Cars at Detroit

DETROIT (May 27, 1998) -- At speeds of more than 240 mph, a CART Champ Car driver must assimilate information at an incredible rate, keeping his eyes focused far forward on the race track for as long as possible. That is why Mercedes-Benz, Magneti Marelli and Momo have worked together to produce a new high-tech steering wheel which includes a dashboard to provide vital data to the driver.

The wheel, as well as the complete Magneti Marelli electronics and engine management system, will be mounted on all eight race cars using the Mercedes-Benz IC108E engine at the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix, June 7, at The Raceway on Belle Isle. The race is the eighth of the 19-race CART FedEx Championship Series. Ilmor Engineering, the race-engine design and manufacturing arm of Mercedes-Benz, designed the revolutionary new wheel. Magneti Marelli developed the electronics hardware and software for the dashboard as part of the new system for Mercedes, and the wheel was produced by Momo, the Italian automotive accessory manufacturer.

"If you look into the tiny cockpit of a Champ Car, the steering wheel dominates what you see," said Paul Ray, vice president of Ilmor Engineering. "By putting the dash on the wheel, we brought the information closer to the driver so it’s easier to see. It means the driver can pay more attention to the race circuit."

Each driver can choose exactly what information they want displayed on the screen. "The driver can scroll through a series of customized screens to view lap time and speed, RPMs, various temperatures, and other important information," said Giancarlo de Angelis, who is responsible for Magneti Marelli’s motor sports program. "Any data that is measured or logged with the on-board electronics can be shown on the dashboard.

"Marelli was the first to introduce this type of dashboard in auto racing. In fact, the entire system we’ve developed with Mercedes-Benz in CART is more advanced in some areas than similar systems we’ve developed for Formula One, and includes technology that could appear on passenger cars in the near future." Hogan Racing’s JJ Lehto, who has been using the Magneti Marelli system since April, says the new wheel is a big advancement over older-style wheels. "In the past, the dash was difficult to see because it was further away. Now the dash is much closer, and you can customize what you see. Marelli has been working hard on this and it shows.

"Now you can change the information from race to race," said Lehto, whose background includes Formula One and FIA GT competition. "On a road course you primarily want to see the shift lights. On ovals you primarily want to see the RPMs. Some drivers want more information and some want less. With the Marelli wheel, the driver can have it any way he wants."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers JJ Lehto