The Motorsport market: composites and advanced technology

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At Bold Valuable Technology, motorsport is in our hearts. We have grown with it during many years whilst working at the highest-level to design and make components for this industry. The motorsport industry is made of thousands of suppliers, organizers, and competing teams that keep the legacy of the sport up while the ever-evolving technology never stops transforming it. The innovation in advanced materials, propulsion systems and electronics, amongst other technologies will eventually trickle down to the automotive industry.

Motorsport - Formula 1 race

What is Motorsport?

Motorsport is the competition of racing vehicles in different events organized in diverse categories or series. The organizes of the series regulate the sport and vehicles to produce close competition amongst participants. There are different types of vehicles that compete in motorsport: motorbikes, cars, trucks and boats amongst others. Within the cars and motorbike categories, the most popular series are Formula 1, WRC, Formula E and MotoGP in Europe, and Nascar and Formula Indy in the United States.

FIA, the regulating entity

The regulating body at the highest level is the FIA (Federation International de l’Automobile) based in France. This body governs different international championships and sets the rules for different competitions from the highest level, such as Formula 1, to introductory categories, e.g. go Karting.

It promotes sport, campaigns and mobility, being safety an underlying factor in all competitions it organizes. It also promotes the sustainable mobility, directly with electric motorsport battery based powered cars (Formula-e), or indirectly with ensuring the transport and freights for the different events are shipped in the most sustainable manner available.

Custom made motorsport-dedicated race cars

Due to the regulations applied in the different series, some teams can compete using custom made motorsport-dedicated race cars. This means, teams themselves design and build their own race vehicles. Some components might be standardized in these series to reduce cost and level the playing field. Since motorsport is in essence a competition game, teams must try to beat the competition using technology and the best team possible.

The difference technology makes in the sport is massive and thus teams are aware of the value of innovation, especially in advanced materials, processes, design and simulation tools, manufacturing process. In order to do that, these organizations will work with many partners around the world to develop innovative solutions to beat the competition. Hence, it is natural, that around the motorsport teams, there will be dedicated suppliers that support the competition by providing design and manufacturing services.

This article will look at the statistics of the motorsport industry. Also, we will look at the innovations that motorsport has developed and where Bold Valuable Technology is involved, such as mechanical components and lithium ion batteries.

Motorsport Valley in the United Kingdom

One of the most important competitions in motorsport is Formula 1. This competition was born in the 1950’ and is now a global championship, with more than 20 events around 4 continents. There are only 10 teams competing in the competition, but 7 of them are based in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, these 7 teams are based in an 80-mile region around the Silverstone motorsport track, in the Midlands.

Naturally, these teams generate a large amount of business that spreads in the area amongst suppliers and service companies. It is been calculated that the turnover of the business is around £9 billion. A large amount of companies exports all over the world, being 87% of sales as exports. Since technology plays such an important role in the result of the competition, the teams are continuously researching and developing new solutions to make it to number one.

Suppliers like Bold Valuable Technology work hand in hand with teams to deliver the best possible solution. Bold is one of the 4,300 different businesses in that region associated with the motorsport industry. The total of staff working in the motorsport market is around 41,000 people, of which 25,000 are highly skilled engineers.

Bold Valuable Technology is in the UK because motorsport is one of our most important sectors. There is a powerful network of suppliers and knowledge that enables great products to be made.

Motorsport - Formula 1 race

Technology from Motorsport to Automotive

The motorsport market is such a gravity pull for technology and business, that the automotive industry is heavily linked with the UK too. Seven global automotive car manufacturers have facilities in the United Kingdom. In addition, there are 16 out of 20 world wide suppliers to the automotive industry in the UK.

According to the MIA (Motorsport Industry Association), these large companies, combined with all the suppliers and smaller OEM, generated 11,8% of the total UK’s export goods, which equates to £34,6 billion revenue. In total, 1,5m cars were built in the UK.

The UK is hence a global hub for the motorsport industry and automotive industry and accumulates an incredible amount of talent and know-how that are unique. The added value to the UK economy is calculated at £15,5 billion.

Composite materials for Motorsport

Formula 1 has always been the pace setter in technology within the motorsport industry. It is no surprise that in 1981 it introduced the first composite material chassis in a motorsport competition. It was made of carbon fibre epoxy composite (CFRP) and was developed together with the American firm Hercules Aerospace. This type of materials where initially used in the aerospace industry with the first proper applications in the 1950 for advanced and experimental aircraft.

With the introduction of carbon fibre composites in Formula 1 in the 80’s, the material has penetrated more series and is now commonly used in almost all international competitions. It has been used at the expense of metals because it offers better stiffness and strength weight ratio for structural applications. This means vehicles can be built with smaller mass which in turn makes the car or motorbike faster around the track.

Composite materials, and carbon fibre in particular, are used in many different forms and variants, combined with a wide arrange of matrix to make the most of if in each application. In addition to its strength and stiffness to weight ratio, it has predictable crash behaviour characteristics that make it ideal for crash structures. This is obviously important in motorsport events where crashes are common and thus safety is vital.

Bold Valuable Technology is experienced in a wide range of materials and has an extensive network of composite material suppliers that provide the raw materials for the different projects in motorsport, amongst others.

There are different suppliers that produce fibres and matrixes that eventually end up being used to create finished components. Bold Valuable Technology purchases these materials through specialist suppliers that make the required material with the right properties for each application.

One of the particularities in motorsport, is that technology takes many different forms depending on the applicable area of the car. There are electronic, thermal, structural, aerodynamic and many other factors that apply for each component. Hence, in a car there might be up to 60 different type of composite materials.

What is carbon fibre?

The most common composite material used for motorsport is carbon fibre. However, for electrical applications it can be problematic as it is electrically conductive. Therefore, Bold uses other materials for applications such as motorsport batteries in custom battery packs or EMI shields that require electrical insulation. For these applications there are more suitable fibres, like glass fibre for example.

PAN fibres, the most used in THE Motorsport INDUSTRY

Amongst carbon fibres, there are several variants as well. Polyacrylocnitrile (PAN) and mesophase pitch (MP) which come from two different precursors. The precursor is the original substrate material that is converted into carbon fibre by oxidation and carbonization processes means. There is research being done now to find a substitute that is cheaper and gives similar properties.

PAN fibres are the most used because they are cheaper than MP ones. There are mainly three groups of PAN fibres: High modulus, intermediate modulus and low modulus. These fibres are then mixed with matrixes, or resins, to form a composite material. The most common resins used in motorsport are epoxies, cyanatester and proprietary high temperature resistant systems.

As a comparison, composite materials have a density of 1,5 g/cm3, whereas steels are in the region of 8,0 g/cm3, aluminium is 2,7 g/cm3 and titanium is 4,5 g/cm3. Strength and stiffness are comparable, but density is much lower. Thus, with the fact that a part can have several different types of composite materials laminated in the same stack, means composite materials have the upper hand when it comes to structurally demanding applications combined with low weight.

MP fibres are used mostly for space applications or niche applications requiring extremely high stiffness to weight ratio. These materials are generally too expensive and have other particularities that make them less attractive than PAN fibres for motorsport applications.

Consult with Bold Valuable Technology for information on composite materials and we will be happy to work with you to find the best solution for your product..

Motorsport - Fiber carbon (Composites)

Metals in the motorsport industry

Although over 80% of a Formula 1 car is made from composite materials, metallic parts play a critical role in many areas. Mainly, these include engine, transmission and suspension. Bold Valuable has worked in these fields in Formula 1. The knowledge that Bold has from the motorsport sector is then applied to other motorsport series and sectors. We are fully aware of the budget levels of each application and are constantly working to lower the price of our products to penetrate new markets.

Metallic parts have in common high strength and wear resistance, intricate geometry and high dimensional accuracy requirements. For all these categories, metals excel and thus are chosen before composites.

The most used metals

As with composite materials, there are different types and each one is used for a reason. The most used material families are aluminium, titanium and steel. Each one has several alloys and can be combined with surface coatings and heat treatments. These give ultimate strength and wear resistance for different conditions of temperature, strain and fatigue.

Design engineers will combine metallics and composite materials in some components such as wings, chassis, suspension to extract the required properties of each material at the right spots.

Bold has designed many metallic components for motorsport in these materials amongst others:

  • Steel 13-8PH, 17-4PH, S154, 4130
  • Ti 6AL-4V
  • Aluminium 2014, 6061, 7075, 7068
  • Tungsten Densimet 185

Parts made include:

  • Suspension components
  • Safety and reliability bolts and studs
  • Metallic inserts for composite parts
  • Structural parts for aerodynamic components
  • Coolers
  • Connectors for high power and high voltage applications
  • Bus bars
  • Ballast blocks and structures
  • Tie bars and stays
  • Wing fish plates and end plates
  • High wear shields and skids
  • Heat sinks

Hybrid technology in F1

In 2014, Formula 1 engine regulations changed massively with the introduction of bigger batteries, bigger electric motor, and adopted a turbo compressor that in turn also harvests electric energy.

Making Formula 1 enviromentally friendly

These regulations were adopted to bring the sport to a more environmentally friendly position, in line with the global strategy of most automotive brands. Motorsport in general is also changing to lower emissions from fossil fuels, that have been used in competitions for over a hundred years.

Mercedes Benz High Performance Powerplants designed an F1 propulsion system that for the first time in the history of internal combustion engines for automotive produced more than 50% of thermal efficiency. In terms of fuel consumption, this means only 100 kg of fuel per race (2014). Before that, cars used to burn more than 160 kg of fuel per race.

The loss in power from the internal combustion engine is recuperated with an electric motor that gets energy from the battery pack. This battery is a lithium ion battery, designed for high power operation. The cell block for the battery pack, is composed of hundreds of cells and can only weigh between 20 and 25 kg by regulations. Each driver can only use 2 battery packs per season and gets penalties every time an additional pack has to be used.

The battery pack is charged during breaking via the electric motor connected to the driveline (MGU-K) and a secondary electric motor that harvests energy from the turbo (MGU-H). The latter can also spin the turbo to avoid turbo lag.

Knowledge flow from the competition to the automotive

Since big car manufacturers are involved in F1, there is a direct flow of technology from the competition to the automotive industry. For instance, Honda Research and Development, based in the UK, has engineers from Honda Automotive in Japan, to work on their Formula 1 engine. These engineers, work in the UK for months or even years to gain experience from motorsport and then move back to Japan to put that experience working on the automotive division.

The enclosure of the battery pack is made from composite materials for motorsport. These are selected for structural performance and to ensure the battery pack is safe to operate even after a heavy crash.

Bold is a specialist in enclosure design for battery packs and has designed many battery enclosures for Formula 1. This in addition with the design and development of:

  • High-power connectors
  • Bus bars
  • Power electronics integration
  • Control electronics integration
  • Cooling systems
  • Cell block design
  • AVM design
  • Battery pack to chassis integration

Motorsport - Formula 1 race

Motorsport batteries

Motorsport batteries for hybrid or fully electric vehicles have been developed for over a decade. Initially, with the introduction of KERS for Formula 1 in the 2009 season with a small battery unit that could deploy a maximum of 400 KJ per lap. In 2014, another major rule change took place and this saw a battery pack that could deploy 4 MJ per lap to power MGU-K motor.

Bold Valuable Technology has been involved with battery pack design since 2016, starting with the enclosure design as the main component but also bus bars, PCB packaging, EMC shields and cell block design, amongst others.

From 2016 Bold has been developing full packs with from concept design to integration of the major elements to detail design of power electronics, cell block, cooling system and control electronics. The pace of evolution was such, that in 2017 and 2018 we designed 4 battery packs for motorsport. Also, this included the composite enclosures, cooling systems, control electronics and power electronics.

In parallel, Bold has been working with one of the motorsport industry’s leading companies on the power electronics for a motorsport battery pack. The scope of involvement of Bold was design integration with the enclosure, cooling system layout, harnesses routing, PCB packaging, and EMI shielding design and manufacturing.

Motorsport - Formula 1 race

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