ZF in Motorsports Higher, faster, farther

From new teams and production-ready product innovations to commitment far off the beaten racetrack: Norbert Odendahl, General Manager of ZF Race Engineering (ZFRE), explains in an interview in Up²DATE what goals the ZF motorsports experts have set for the current season and beyond.

Up ²DATE: Mr. Odendahl, what racing highlights are you most excited about for ZF Race Engineering this year?

Exciting highlights for me include world championships in the international competitions. Looking at the Formula 1 race circuit, not only are the Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Sauber teams placing their trust in ZF driveline and chassis components, they have now been joined by the newcomers from Team Haas from the U.S. The beginning of the WRC season has already seen Volkswagen racking up several victories, so we are now setting our sights on a fourth consecutive world championship title. In the 24-hour race Le Mans, the three most successful teams – Audi, Porsche and Toyota – are relying on our clutches, so I will be rooting for all of them, so it is a win-win situation for ZF. However, in leading national motorsports race series like the DTM in Europe, the Super GT in Japan and the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship (IWSC) in the U.S., we are strongly positioned all around.

Norbert Odendahl (right) with Product Engineers at ZF Race Engineering.

Up²DATE: At the end of 2015, ZF Race Engineering unveiled an even more powerful race transmission. Can we expect other innovations in this product segment?

Odendahl: With the 8P45R for BMW M235i Racing, we have focused on new features, such as new gear ratio designs, shift points and shifting speeds, thus meeting the supersport and uncompromisingly high racing requirements. By foregoing the converter, we were able to reduce weight by 15 percent. We want to use this expertise to explore other possible uses for the 8P45R, for example, in recreational and customer motorsports. Its use in an exclusive street racecar is also conceivable.

The newly developed motorsport transmission 8P45R provides racing without compromise.

Up²DATE: Are there current examples of developments from motorsports that are being used in volume-production vehicles?

Odendahl: Under the product brand “Sachs Performance,” we recently developed a specially tuned sports suspension that was installed in 4,000 special models of the Toyota Vitz – known in Europe as the “Yaris.” We intend to use such custom-designed components to expand our brand recognition and our commitment to additional OE small-volume production, concept cars or limited editions.

Up²DATE: The product range of racing shock absorbers is very extensive. What innovations are there in this segment?

Odendahl: For motorsports shock absorbers, we have set the bar high with lightweight variants, such as the one designed especially for the Formula Student. These components weigh in at just 421 grams* thanks to a damper housing made of aluminum and individual components made of high-strength steel. In Formula 1, our linear shock absorbers weigh only 160 grams . Friction-optimized coatings and seals as well as no-play spherical plain bearings all additionally contribute to even better performance.

On the road, on the water or in the air: Racing products can be found in even more vehicles in the future.

Up²DATE: Is it conceivable that product expertise from ZFRE could also be applied in other vehicle segments?

Odendahl: Absolutely, we have already taken initial steps in this direction. From helicopter clutches, driver’s cabin dampers in snowcats and cable railways to components in rocket cars, such as the Bloodhound SSC, we can transfer our experience and technical expertise to vehicles that operate far off the beaten track, yet still have to withstand enormous loads. Our 90-member motorsports engineering team knows almost no boundaries.

Thank you for the interview, Mr. Odendahl!

* without suspension

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