Racing Testing on the track

Spring heralds the return of hot racing action on tracks and circuits around the world. And ZF Race Engineering is raring to go.

Racing teams aren’t the only ones looking forward to the new season with great expectations. There’s plenty at stake for ZF as well. Formula One, Le Mans, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM), the World Rally Championship, not to mention the Porsche Cup and Super GT in Japan – yes, the racing season is about to start, and ZF Race Engineering is already waiting on the grid. Because many of the top racing thoroughbreds have ZF technology on board! Celebrating racing successes with automotive partners is fantastic, of course, but at the end of the day, there’s much, much more involved for ZF’s motorsport subsidiary. While ZF benefits enormously from partnerships with top constructors such as BMW, VW and Porsche, racing events also act as valuable test laboratories for new ZF products and technologies. Concepts and components capable of withstanding the extreme stresses of auto racing soon find their way into production vehicles – today’s Nürburgring circuit is the test track for tomorrow’s ZF products.

Sébastien Ogier won the World Rally Championship three times in a row in VW’s Polo R WRC fitted ﷯with ZF technology.

And speaking of Germany’s Nürburgring – last fall, the world-famous circuit was the scene of a major ZF triumph, together with partner BMW Motorsport. The 8P45R racing transmission, developed specifically for motorsports as a derivative of the company’s proven 8HP transmission for production cars, made its debut at the tenth event in the VLN Endurance Racing Championship series, an annual fixture on the Nürburgring. With the 8P45R, ZF has paved the way for the use of automatic transmissions in auto racing – previously considered a somewhat unorthodox design decision. “The 8P45R is a great example of how motorsports highlight additional development potential in products designed for production vehicles,” explains Norbert Odendahl, CEO of ZF Race Engineering. Following the successful trials in the VLN event, he believes it is perfectly realistic to bring the technology to new race categories.

Inspiring customers and employees alike

But the 8P45R isn’t the only reason Odendahl is looking forward to the new racing season. He wants to build on last year’s successes. After all, corks were popping at the ZF subsidiary for all kinds of reasons. In the WRC rally series, ZF partner Volkswagen won a classic hat trick, with drivers Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in their Polo R WRC taking the World Rally Championship for the third time in a row. Contributing to the Polo’s success: ZF’s twin-plate clutch from the Racing Clutch Systems (RCS) family, plus the shock absorbers so vital to rally-car performance – in this case made by ZF in Schweinfurt.

“Together with Volkswagen Motorsport, we managed to develop an engineering benchmark from scratch, in the form of the best chassis in the pack,” enthuses Norbert Odendahl. “Thanks to the good impression we made on Volkswagen in the Dakar Rally, they were eager to join forces with us again when they built the brand new Polo R WRC. As a result, we’ve kicked off a number of new projects,” he adds.

As wonderful as it is to celebrate these victories by drivers of cars fitted with ZF technology, not to mention the technical triumphs, ZF Race Engineering also sees itself as an ambassador for ZF – both externally and internally. “Our developments and achievements don’t just inspire our customers,” explains Odendahl, “they also inspire our current and future employees.”

ZF brand ambassador Christian Engelhart secured second place overall in the Porsche Carrera Cup 2015.

Future prospects

Formula E, featuring all-electric vehicles competing on short, attractive street circuits in the world’s major cities, is currently attracting a lot of attention. “This season, we’re taking part in Formula E for the first time, as a supplier of shock absorbers. Medium term, we’re also thinking of developing our own electric motor,” reports the Race Engineering CEO. He is also seeking to market the company’s high-performance products more widely around the world – in China’s growth market, for example.

ZF Race Engineering is also benefiting from the successful integration of TRW Automotive, acquired by ZF last year. “Having added TRW’s braking and steering systems to our product range, we can now cover the full spectrum of motorsport requirements, from entry-level amateur racing to the world’s top racing elite – both on the racetrack and off-road at the Dakar Rally and World Rally Championship,” confirms Norbert Odendahl. It’s easy to see why he’s looking forward to the upcoming racing season with such optimistic anticipation.

7 of the top 10 teams taking part in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring relied on components supplied by ZF – mainly 
racing clutches and 
damper systems.

Motorsport competitions featuring ZF products:

Formula One

Formula One is, of course, the world’s top class of auto racing, and ZF supplies no less than four teams with damper technology: Ferrari, Sauber F1, Toro Rosso F1 and the new Haas F1 Team. In his first season with Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel blew through the competition to finish third in the F1 driver standings.

FIA WEC World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 hours event

Porsche celebrated its first victory in the most important race on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar, the Le Mans 24 Hours 2015, since returning to auto racing. The Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by the winning team – Earl Bamber, Nico Hülkenberg and Nick Tandy – is fitted with a ZF clutch. And Porsche’s two toughest opponents – Toyota with the TS040 Hybrid and Audi with the R18 e-tron quattro – also depend on ZF clutches. Porsche also claimed the WEC constructors’ title for 2015.

Nürburgring 24-Hour Race

Seven of the top 10 teams taking part in the 24-hour endurance race on the Nürburgring were relying on ZF components, mainly racing clutches and damper systems – including the first four overall winners of the 24-hour event. Victory on the famous circuit in Germany’s Eifel mountains went to the new Audi R8 LMS, in the car’s very first 24-hour race. BMW followed in second place. Both GT3 sportscars are fitted with racing clutches from ZF Race Engineering. And in third place came the Porsche 911 – also equipped with clutches and dampers supplied by ZF.

Porsche Carrera Cup

All of the 460-horsepower Porsche 911 GT3 cars in the field are equipped with gas-filled shock absorbers and racing clutches supplied by ZF. ZF brand ambassador Christian Engelhart took second place overall in the 2015 driver standings.

Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM)

ZF partner BMW won the Constructor’s Championship at the DTM 2015. But ZF’s Formula Carbon Clutch 4/140Y also featured in the Mercedes driven by DTM Driver’s Champion Pascal Wehrlein, as well as all of the Audi, BMW and Mercedes vehicles. ZF brand ambassador Maxime Martin was also a DTM race winner in 2015 in his Samsung BMW M4 DTM.

Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup

All of the drivers in this series drive the current Porsche 911 GT3, based on the street-legal, lightweight 911 GT3 RS sportscar. ZF supplies the gas-filled shock absorbers and racing clutches for all of these 460-horsepower racers.

Other Events and Commitments

In Japan’s Super GT series, cars in the GT500 class all drive on clutches made in Schweinfurt. And the Honda Civic in the FIA WTCC World Touring Car Championship is also fitted with clutches and dampers from Schweinfurt. The 560-horsepower Volkswagen Beetle RX racing in the Global RallyCross Championship is equipped with ZF dampers. Other races featuring ZF technology: ADAC Opel Rallye Cup, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the U.S., Formula 3, Formula 4 and Super Formula. ZF Race Engineering is also keen to foster young racing talent. In partnership with the Porsche Junior Program, Deutsche Post Speed Academy and ADAC Sports Foundation, ZF’s motorsport subsidiary is passing on technical expertise to the next generation.

Photos: René Ehrhardt, Porsche AG/hoch zwei, (2), Illustrations: ZF

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