Extensive Development Programme for Focus Prior to Second WTCC Round Team Ford Hotfiel Sport underwent a major research and development programme in the weeks leading up to the second round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at...
Extensive Development Programme for Focus Prior to Second WTCC Round
Team Ford Hotfiel Sport underwent a major research and development programme in the weeks leading up to the second round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Magny-Cours, France, on May 1st, 2005.
After a difficult start to the team's maiden international campaign, one of its brand new Ford Focus was brought to the Ford plant in Lommel, Belgium. The car was put on a four-post rig where its stiffness and rigidity was tested and its centre of gravity measured exactly. "Things like these couldn't be done during the winter because we decided on our WTCC programme in November -- after we finalised and announced our long-term Motorsport strategy," said Jost Capito, head of Ford TeamRS. "The WTCC cars had to be developed and built quickly to be ready for the first race in Monza. Now we've got the time to enter further development work, which is based on a good cooperation between our engineers at Ford TeamRS and the technicians from Hotfiel Sport."
After the car's centre of gravity was defined exactly, the engineers adopted the rear suspension in order to adjust the rear axle's rollcentre to the centre of gravity. The team then went to Cochstedt airport, an airfield between the racetrack of Oschersleben and Magdeburg in the east of Germany that was originally built as a cargo base and is now a deserted strip of tarmac. "We wanted to see whether the changes we considered necessary as a result of the four-post rig test would really work once put on the car," explained Bernd Meyer, the Technical Director of Team Ford Hotfiel Sport. Test driver Patrick Bernhardt added: "We literally drove from dusk till dawn for three days in a row to learn as much as we possibly could."
For the test, the team build up a succession of quick direction changes. "It looked like a double-Elchtest but at a speed of 75 mph," Bernhardt reported. "In the end, after a number of changes, one could really feel that the rear was much calmer and wouldn't snap-oversteer anymore." The team will now go to the Nuerburgring to double-check the results on a real racetrack before heading to Magny-Cours for the second round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
Thomas Jaeger will start the meeting in the French Loire valley in a brand new Ford Focus RS WTCC. The two incidents with Alain Menu in Monza turned his original car into a write-off. "The car was bent up until the doorpost," said team principal Hans Hotfiel. "We had to start building an all-new car as soon as we were back from Monza on Tuesday morning." Jaeger added: "The damage was rather surprising given how light the impact felt. But Menu rang me up during the week to apologise which I found quite nice and a very fair thing to do."
The 28-year-old from Munich reckons: "Even though Magny-Cours is generally a rather quick circuit, you need a medium to high downforce car. An aero-efficient car is very important. But you also need a good amount of mechanical grip in the tight corners and in the chicane leading onto the main straight."
His team-mate Thomas Klenke hopes the new geometry of the rear suspension will mark a significant step forward. "Even in Monza we managed to improve our times every time we took to the track," says the 38-year-old from Lemgo. "Now it seems as though we have located a weak spot on the car. Of course, still the whole package has to improve -- starting with the drivers. We need more mileage in the car. You need to be able to react quickly and know exactly what the car asks from you in any given situation. But still, if the improvements from Lommel and Cochstedt live up to what they seem to promise, we should be in a position to leave the Chevrolet behind us."