Knowledge is power – AER Ltd and a big LMP1 adventure
Motorsport.com's Sam Smith spoke with Advanced Engine Research's founder and chairman Mike Lancaster about the P60 engine and their foray into the LMP1 class.
Advanced Engine Research Ltd’s V6 GDI twin-turboLMP1 engine (known as the P60) debuted at COTA last September and was instantly setting the speed traps ablaze with some remarkable top speeds aboard the Lotus (Kolles) entry.
For 2015 the unit will again appear in the now re-named ByKolles LMP1 car but perhaps more significantly it will also power the brace of Rebellion Racing R-One (ORECA) LMP1 cars.
AER Ltd, based in Basildon, England, was founded in 1998. As well as the P60 powerplant they also supply engines to the entire IndyLights and GP3 grid.
Sam Smith spoke with AER Ltd founder and chairman Mike Lancaster this week, and he gave us the inside story of the P60 engine, the latest on work with new customer Rebellion Racing and his hopes for more success in 2015.
Lancaster started by giving some background on the P60 and the thought processes for the product.
The full story
“First of all we went in to 2014 fairly open minded with regard to the LMP1 program,” recalls Lancaster. “In particular we first had to get our new P60 engine out on to the track. The Lotus team were an excellent choice at the start of the year, so we worked closely with them during the installation and despite their car being at a very early stage in its development it went very well. The engine reliability was excellent and we got a lot of mileage under our belts. We proved that the engine was very fast and especially fuel efficient, so it was nice to show our level of performance and validate all our hard work.
Although it debuted last season, the P60 program has long since been in development, even from the early concept stage. Lancaster and his team thought long and hard what the best specification would be to suit the new ‘high-efficiency’ requirements of the new LMP1 regulations.
“When we first heard about the LMP1 fuel flow limitation regulations a few years ago we decided we wanted to introduce a new engine and we specifically designed an engine for this formula,” says Lancaster.
“We have actually been developing this engine for three years and that process has been assisted significantly by the work we did for a Formula One team where we were developing gasoline direct injection turbo charged technology at a very high level.
“So we used the knowledge and experience we gained from that program to put in to the P60. The main difference of course from F1 and Sportscar engine is that they have different performance targets and specifically different fuel-flow characteristics so you have to chase different target.
It was nice to show our level of performance and validate all our hard work.
“You have to choose very carefully the specification, in part the configuration, exact size and bore-stroke with a great deal of care to get the optimum amount of efficiency,” he continued. “What we looked for was the BSFC (Brake Specific Fuel Consumption) at the performance level you need to achieve the most competitive lap time in LMP1. We tested many engine configurations including those we had already developed for other series such as 2L turbo P90 I4 engine and our V8 engine used as an NA and turbo and we know the strengths and weaknesses of all of these types. “
Two mandated fuel flow meters are used in each LMP1 racer. There are of serious penalties for exceeding the fuel limit, so everything has to be very precise for the engine builder. AER use its in-house sister company - Life Racing, for optimum electronic management in the fuel use at every point on the circuit.
Rebellion Racing: The perfect fit for AER?
The technical partnership between Rebellion and AER Ltd was announced last month. An acknowledged late call by the team, it is one which ensures them missing the first FIA WEC round at Silverstone in April as they change from Toyota 3.4 litre V8 to AER’s turbo V6. What is sure is that from a racing philosophy and pedigree perspective, it appears to be a very good match.
“We have a lot of respect for Rebellion Racing and what they have achieved in endurance racing over the years,” states Mike Lancaster. “In many ways they seem the ideal fit for us at AER.”
“At present we are working closely with Rebellion Racing in getting everything ready for Spa in May. It is a big challenge to change the whole configuration of their package with an engine switch. We are working hard with the ORECA engineers to get the engine and all the ancillary parts packaged.
Privateer teams can’t realistically expect to beat the manufacturers of course, but we can expect to get some great results.
Most of the engines that AER Ltd has made in the past have had the capability to be stressed members, whether the teams chose to do that or otherwise. A ‘V’ configuration engine gives an opportunity for the unit to be properly mounted in the car because of the wide fixing points around the front and rear.
“The Lotus (ByKolles) and the ORECA LMP1 chassis are obviously totally different designs,” continues Lancaster. “The Lotus was originally designed to take a normally aspirated V8 engine and the same is true of the Oreca chassis, so there are some constraints. For example, the Oreca chassis has not housed intercoolers, which have to be fitted in to the layout. Although the P60 has very low heat rejection, you still have to have a well thought out cooling system. So there are challenges and changes that have had to be made to package the unit properly.”
The AER P60 engine has many unique features including being small and light compared to some other engines. In its base state the all-aluminium constructed engine is just 108kgs. The turbos themselves are actually quite low mass these days so after these are applied with other parts like intercoolers the weight is no more than other existing engines. That time and care in the design phase of the AER P60 has paid dividends in this respect and especially in the mass distribution, which then gives a impressive C of G (Centre of Gravity) and polar moments (of inertia) improvements.
“LMP1 is a very interesting category for AER,” says Lancaster. “There are obviously some very well-funded manufacturer teams but they have all produced variable results in terms of how they are approaching their technology and in particular the efficiency of the energy retrieval. In F1 you have some teams that are very well funded but have fairly ordinary results compared to the top of the pile. In LMP1 racing it is not a given that if you simply throw lots of financial resources at a project that you are going to get immediate or indeed decent results. “
“Where we think we are as a company is that we have made an enormous effort in first refining our choice of engine and then making the decisions based on the data we studied on what the best configuration was for fuel-flow and power output. I think we got our numbers right which was borne out of the simulations, dyno-testing and then on-track experience last autumn. So for pound for pound fuel usage we think we have something that is comparable to what the manufacturers have.
We very much want to be the market leaders for LMP teams whether privateer or otherwise.
The make-up of the LMP1 class is essentially split between the manufacturers – Audi, Porsche, Nissan and Toyota – and the two ‘privateer’ teams that AER supply. So what is a realistic expectation for aims and objectives in 2015, a very big season for AER Ltd?
“Privateer teams can’t realistically expect to beat the manufacturers of course, but we can expect to get some great results and occasionally give them something to think about at certain tracks,” concludes Lancaster.
“We have talked to other teams, some from LMP2 who are considering going in to the top stream in LMP1 for 2016. It should be an attractive class and with more entrants can blossom in to something really good I think. The future looks bright for endurance racing and we very much want to be the market leaders for LMP teams whether privateer or otherwise.”
Porsche, Aston Martin on top in Interlagos third practice
Rebellion reveals 2015 WEC line-up