Reynard Motorsport is without doubt one of the most well regarded names in auto racing. As a chassis constructor, they have virtually dominated the Champ Car ranks having won the last five constructors titles in the CART FedEx Series. The ...
Reynard Motorsport is without doubt one of the most well regarded names in auto racing. As a chassis constructor, they have virtually dominated the Champ Car ranks having won the last five constructors titles in the CART FedEx Series. The marque has visited the winner's circle at Indianapolis 500 and won titles in numerous other formulae around the world. In it’s 27-years, Reynard has become the world’s leading manufacturer of racecars, generating over $60 million in revenues.
Reynard began its association with Skip Barber Racing School, Inc. in 1997 when Skip Barber sought a new maker for the latest evolution of the Barber Dodge Pro Series racer. Born from that initial collaboration was the Reynard Dodge 98E, the first racecar conceived and produced without a pencil ever meeting paper. From start to finish, Reynard engineers designed the car solely through computer aided design technology. All of the initial aerodynamic and structural development took place in the theoretical electronic world of the computer until in the end the car was created and tested as essentially the finished product that races today.
The success of that collaboration led to the next when Skip Barber decided the time had come to raise the bar of the Formula Dodge Race Series. Again Reynard was called upon to design a new aerodynamic package and gearbox for the Formula Dodge R/T 2000. Today the R/T 2000, an evolution of the original Formula Dodge racer has proven to be a worthy successor as it has received rave reviews from the racers who pilot them.
As development of the R/T 2000 continues in its nascent year, Reynard Special Projects Technical Manager Keiron Salter paid a visit to Skip Barber headquarters in Lakeville, Conn. Hand-carried with him from England was the prototype Gemini sequential gearbox that would complete the initial iteration of the R/T 2000.
Not only did Salter hand-deliver the gearbox; he rolled up his sleeves and assisted the Skip Barber engineers in its installation. While the new gearbox was on the track at Lime Rock Park taking part in its shakedown, Skip Barber Racing News had the opportunity to talk with Salter about Reynard and its collaboration with Skip Barber.
Q: Tell us about the Special Projects division at Reynard.
A: Special Projects handle all of the projects that aren’t the mainstream Champ Car or Formula Nippon programs. Typically it’s all the Reynard projects that don’t have a badge on the front, so we get involved in consultancy with major manufacturers. The sports car program is the most recent one, and that is unique because it does have a Reynard badge on the front as a customer car. We’re also involved in the smaller interesting programs like the (Barber Dodge) Pro Series car and the (Formula Dodge) R/T 2000.
Q: You‘ve touched on it a bit, but to most people, all of Reynard’s products are customer efforts. What really sets the Special Projects division apart?
A: We have to be very flexible, and we have design groups that can be split and consolidated as quickly as we need to; thus, we can respond quite quickly to big projects and small projects alike. The Champ Car and the Formula Nippon groups have a very stable foundation. They reiterate the same car year after year evolving and developing that car, and those engineers are dedicated to that effort.
In Special Projects we might be doing a car like yours today, and then designing a suspension piece for a road car manufacturer. So it’s really the whole of the automotive consultancy, which the Champ Car and Nippon projects don’t get involved with.
Why would a company as large and diverse as Reynard take on a relatively low profile project like the R/T 2000?
These programs are really good at training and developing young engineers. As a young engineer you can’t get the ability to work on a project like the Champ Car one without developing experience at this level first regardless of what your educational background is. So Reynard, because of its passion for training engineers and keeping them, we like to have programs like this where an engineer with relatively no professional experience can have a senior position within a project whilst under the supervision of the other managers and technical experts within the group.
Q: Does any of the technological development taking place with Reynard’s Formula 1 effort with British American Racing filter down to the other divisions of the company?
A: Not directly, however it does help to have it all operating at the same facility. We know all the people who work on that project and it certainly helps having Adrian (Reynard), and Malcom Oastler working on both sides because it allows for a technology transfer, though not in specific details, but more of a transfer of knowledge and technologies.
Q: Because of the customer nature of the work at Reynard, does the design process begin with a core idea that is later adapted for various engine, suspension and gearbox applications, or does Reynard look at what is in use and work in the inverse?
A: Yes, being a customer manufacturer means that are design constraints are a lot different than if you were building say a Formula 1 car that has a very clear objective. It makes the job a lot more difficult, and I think it means that our engineers have to be a lot more flexible and a lot more responsive than an F1 engineer where it’s very clear for them what they have to do.
We normally try to set out our projects by looking at the market, looking at what our customers require and designing a product that meets all of those criteria. Inevitably as those criteria change, and the customers change, because the motorsport market is ever so rapidly changing, that you can start designing a car and within six-months the requirements of the design have changed because someone else has brought about a better machine. I think that encourages our engineers to think a lot more.
Q: Is the state of the motorsports industry a healthy one?
A: Yes, especially in North America because there is so much diverse racing with CART, NASCAR, sports cars and school series. I mean I can’t believe that there’s going to be a 100 of these R/T 2000s running around. In Europe you’ve got single seaters and touring cars along with a burgeoning sports car market so I think motorsports is very healthy. I think that a company like ours that is not one product oriented can enter any of those markets effectively.