A racecar that moves without going anywhere

  • 21-Jul-2008 12:47 EDT
Racecar simulator.jpg
One of the 18 Cruden driving simulators in use at I-Way, an entertainment and training center in Lyon, France. This simulator uses some Cruden and Moog FCS software and hardware that will be incorporated by Ferrari in its F1 simulator.

Racecar drivers could zoom around a track hour after hour to get ready for race day situations, but that type of preparation is track time-restricted by FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) rules that govern Formula One (F1) motorsports. There is an alternative way to enhance a racing program, and Ferrari's F1 has opted for it.

"The dynamic driving simulator is a new step for us in developing virtual tests that give pilots a true feel of a real environment and direct feedback on their actions," according to Marco Fainello, Head of the Car Performance and R&D Department for Scuderia Ferrari, who added that the driving simulator will support a "new breed of test." 

Rather than relying solely on outdoor driving, drivers will be spending time under a domed environment of near-reality. The under-development driving apparatus can be viewed in terms of two halves. The bottom half will use actuators on a modified 660-motion platform to mimic the motion of an F1 racecar, while the top half will provide an actual F1 racecar monocoque surrounded by a 180º screen showing projections of images generated by industrial computers. In addition, the driver's rearview mirror view is shown via two additional screens.

"This project will represent another step-change in human-in-the-loop testing technology with enhanced fidelity through advanced platform kinematics and optimized motion cues," noted Pim van den Dijssel, Market Manager of Test Systems at Moog FCS. The company, with offices in the Netherlands and Ann Arbor, MI, has provided more than 500 motion bases to customers around the globe.

Technical specialists at Ferrari and Cruden, a full-motion vehicle simulator manufacturer, are working on the software programming of the driving simulator. "Cruden will deliver the software and image generation as well as the integration of the vehicle models from Ferrari," said Frank Kalff, Commercial Director of Cruden B.V. in the Netherlands.

As a track-time alternative, "drivers will use the simulator as a means of testing new technologies, determining an appropriate racecar setup for a specific race, as well as for generic research and development purposes," said Kalff. Delivery of the simulator, which is slated for late 2009, will follow a series of trial runs. "There will be a number of tests done to see how the system feels," Kalff said, "because the simulator needs to be tuned to best simulate reality."

To give Ferrari drivers the best near-reality visuals, engineers will be challenged to develop software libraries and data that correlate to actual track environments. "For example, the tarmac's structure and surface differs from turn to turn as well as track to track. For instance, a given track may have more grip than another track. For all of the tracks that F1 competes on, Ferrari wants each of the 18 track surfaces and the track surroundings—including spectators, trees, guard rails, curb stones, and weather conditions such as wind, rain, and sun—to be as realistic as possible in order to ensure that the driver receives the most realistic feedback," said Kalff.

The driving simulator being developed for Ferrari is unlike any other driving simulator. "It will be a truly unique piece of mechatronics. Compared to other racecar simulators that may excel in one aspect of simulation, the Ferrari F1 simulator will combine the best of several technologies, namely image generation, motion cueing, and realistic environments," said Kalff.

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