Porsche Junioren Pro racers test brakes

Porsche Junioren drivers test ZF TRW braking systems on Hunsrück test circuit in Germany.

For race drivers, braking tends to be counterproductive. After all, they’re in love with the exact opposite: acceleration and raw speed. ZF recently invited drivers from the Porsche Junioren team – who also much prefer the “go faster” approach – to take a closer and more detailed look at the whole issue of braking. The workshop was held in Wüschheim, at a test circuit in Germany’s Hunsrück region used by ZF TRW’s Koblenz brake plant.

In motorsport in particular, as ZF TRW engineers Frank Schmidt, René Brenner and Heiko Tönges explained, effective braking involves much more than just stamping on the brake pedal. In their presentations, they used mathematical calculations to demonstrate how finding the ideal braking balance is especially important in achieving racing success: it’s the best way to speed up lap times. “What makes the difference is a perfect match between your braking performance and the braking system,” Frank Schmidt told the Porsche Junioren drivers.

Video: Workshop in the Hunsrück

In Wüschheim, drivers on the Porsche Junioren team focus on something they usually avoid: braking.

Wüschheim test track

ZF TRW has been using the former U.S. military base in Wüschheim (in Germany’s Hunsrück region) since 1993. On the base – which covers nearly 20 acres – stands an office building with a conference and training room, as well as a workshop and garages (complete with recharging stations for electric cars).The asphalt test circuit is just over a mile long. There is also a skidpan (with automatic watering) with a radius of around 165 feet, as well as other special test tracks such as a tiled circuit (again, with automatic watering) for testing brakes on ultra-smooth surfaces, plus a variety of hills with inclines ranging from 15 to 50 percent.

Sporting success is based on close collaboration

For years, ZF’s Schweinfurt-based subsidiary ZF Race Engineering has partnered young racing drivers working out of the Porsche complex in Zuffenhausen. As part of this sponsorship program, the young Porsche Junioren drivers visit a ZF plant once a year so they can find out more about ZF technology in general and ZF products in racing cars in particular. The young drivers are given direct access to ZF engineers.

“This interaction between ZF engineers and Porsche’s junior drivers is the basis of our shared sporting success,” explains Thomas Jörns, in charge of all things driveline-related at ZF Race Engineering, as he discusses the meaning and purpose of these regular exchanges. Jörns emphasizes that the two companies’ many years of collaboration encompass a whole range of national and international race series and applications – like the World Endurance Championship (WEC), to take just one high-profile example. He recalls this year’s spectacular Le Mans finale, won in blinding style by Porsche. “Not least thanks to the reliability of the ZF products in the victorious Porsche car,” adds Jörns with a smile. Through the company’s involvement with the Porsche Junioren team, ZF is aiming to consolidate an ongoing, sustainable partnership with Porsche that will maintain an exceptionally positive balance between the rigorous demands of motorsport and the skills needed to overcome them.

During the braking workshop for the Porsche Junioren drivers, there was plenty of time for practice sessions on the Hunsrück test track. The young Porsche drivers tested ZF’s braking systems to the limit, both on a special, water-soaked tiled circuit and on the (equally wet and slippery) skidpan. “The exciting part was exploring the braking balance between front and rear axles, so as to prevent the wheels from locking,” was Porsche Junior Sven Müller’s crisp summary. His ultimate conclusion? In motorsport, braking is anything but counterproductive!

Three questions for Porsche Junior Mathieu Jaminet

At 21 years old, Mathieu Jaminet has been driving racing cars for 11 years

So how long have you been involved in motor racing?
I started karting when I was 10 years old, then progressed up to Formula class racing when I turned 15. This year I joined the Porsche Junioren team, driving in various races including the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup France.

What has been your biggest success to date?
In the current season, that would be my victory in the Porsche Supercup on the Spa circuit in Belgium. Oh, and I’d also like to mention winning the Rookie title in the Porsche Supercup in Monza in early September of this year.

What were your impressions of the event here at the Hunsrück test circuit?
This is the first time I’ve been a guest of ZF, so it’s been very interesting. The ZF brand was new to me, as was the test circuit here in the Hunsrück. For me as a racing driver, all this information about the individual brake systems built by ZF TRW is really important – not least because it gives me a detailed understanding of how, for example, the ABS system works.

Three questions for organizer Frank Schmidt

Frank Schmidt (right) talks to Mathieu Jaminet during the braking workshop

We started by asking the participants what they were expecting, and – typical racing drivers – they all answered: how can we go faster? Now, braking doesn’t make you faster; it makes you slower. And yet achieving a perfect match between your braking performance and the braking system is, of course, important for fast lap times. Drivers want to brake late, they want to brake efficiently. And today, we’re providing them with the theoretical underpinnings they need to do exactly that.

In the whole interplay of technologies in a racing car, just how important are brakes to achieving a good result?
First of all, brakes play a very significant safety role. That’s just as true in motorsport as it is on the road. Drivers must be able to control the car at all times; they must be able to slow down the car so they can respond efficiently to traffic and road conditions. But of course brakes are also important for fast lap times; by braking late, you can maintain higher speeds for longer. In this sense, brakes make an important contribution to achieving fast lap times.

How interested are the Porsche Junioren drivers in the whole issue of braking?
Very. That wasn’t always the case! Previously, they only ever thought about driving faster; they thought braking was “bad” because braking slows you down – that was their mindset. But now every driver in the team has realized that braking properly and effectively can also help you drive faster.

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