Five questions to Pierre-Yves Dujardin, the grey matter behind the metal. To make the 206 WRC into a winning machine, Peugeot Sport has been able to draw on a valuable pool of brainpower. From the drawing office at the team's VÃ©lizy base to the...
Five questions to Pierre-Yves Dujardin, the grey matter behind the metal.
To make the 206 WRC into a winning machine, Peugeot Sport has been able to draw on a valuable pool of brainpower. From the drawing office at the team's Vélizy base to the staff working in the field, the engineering department's mission is to make ongoing improvements to performance and reliability. Pierre-Yves Dujardin, who assists Michel Nandan, the man in charge of technical matters at Peugeot Sport, explains....
How is the team organised technically?
"Michel Nandan and myself oversee a number of departments of similar status. Development work is divided into two distinct areas: Mario Fornaris is in charge of the team that works on projects of terms of up to one year, while Julien Loisy manages the longer-term projects. From the drawing office to testing, each of these departments is responsible for a clearly defined programme. The rally team itself comes under the responsibility of François-Xavier Demaison who works with validated solutions from the build phase to the running of the cars on events. On the rallies themselves, either Michel Nandan or myself oversee the cars from the engineering side. François-Xavier also has special responsibility for Marcus Grönholm's car, Jean-Charles Odon runs Richard Burns' car, while Emilie le Fur looks after the car shared by Gilles Panizzi and Harri Rovanperä. In testing, it is the same engineer who works with all the drivers."
You have an impressive array of computers on events...
"Each driver works with his own engineer and each car has its own systems engineer responsible for collecting data and ensuring that the onboard electronic systems function correctly. We also work with two engine engineers who look after all three cars. Finally, it is up to the technical manager, either Michel Nandan or myself, to analyse all the information that is collected. You're talking about a network of nine laptop computers to monitor the cars on events."
The 206 WRC is not only competitive, it is also exceptionally reliable. What is the secret?
"Firstly, there is all the experience we have gained over the years. Also, after every rally and test session, we systematically analyse all the malfunctions that occur and work to correct them. Meanwhile, our development policy dictates that all new solutions are tested at the factory before their performance and durability is validated in the field. Mechanical engineering is not an exact science and rallying is an especially difficult business. Errors are always possible, but we strive to achieve total reliability thanks to extremely rigorous work methods. Problems can derive from a fault in the production of a component, from an assembly error at the factory or because of an unprecedented shortcoming highlighted by a given terrain or by special circumstances that can lead to the strengthening or modification of certain components. Our purchasing department keeps a close eye on the quality of parts supplied by sub-contractors. When building the cars at the factory, the mechanics are given specific, detailed descriptions, drawings, dimensions and photos for each specification. Last but not least, we try to favour a harmonious working relationship between all the different departments so that everyone is focused on the same objective and to ensure that each member of the team feels responsible for his or her individual activity. Peugeot Sport is made up of people from different cultures, from different backgrounds and with different qualifications and we need to make sure that everyone works in perfect osmosis. It isn't simple, but our results show it is possible. Of all the factors that dictate whether the 206 WRC wins or not, this is an aspect we are particularly proud of."
So engineers aren't just cold, dehumanised mathematicians...
"You don't have to be a qualified engineer to have brains. All ideas are worth following up and every individual in the pyramid has a direct influence on the car's performance. The assemblies and production division - which includes the suspension/steering/brakes, gearbox, hydraulics, bodyshop and electronics departments - is responsible for the production of all the car's principle assemblies. The role of the engine division is above all to liase with our engine tuner, Pipo. We also have a 'metrology, inspection and quality control' department that ensures components comply dimensionally and structurally, while another department looks after the maintenance and management of our computer systems."
When a car is as competitive as the 206 WRC has been this season, isn't there a risk that it isn't possible to progress?
"On the contrary. When you have a jump on your rivals, you have more time to fine-tune future developments and to take care over the validation of improvements already in the pipeline. This sort of domination allows you to work serenely. When you've tasted how good that feels, you are even less tempted to rest on your laurels. That's obviously a big boost for everyone and that can only be positive for the efficiency of future technical development."