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Formula 1 teams back to use Windshear’s wind tunnel

Windshear Inc. is looking forward to another successful year after Formula One’s regulatory body, the FIA lifted its ban on teams using full-scale wind tunnels for 2010 onwards. The company operates the only commercially available, full-scale, single-belt, rolling-road wind tunnel in the world.

Under the ban that was imposed over a year ago, F1 teams could only perform a limited number of tests on scaled down models less than 60 percent of the full size F1 car. However, following changes to Formula One’s Sporting Regulations in December 2009, the teams can now perform up to six one-day aerodynamic tests at either an FIA approved test track or a full-scale wind tunnel test facility.

As owner of the world’s most advanced automotive wind tunnel, Windshear stands to benefit significantly from this rule change. The tunnel is the first full-scale, single-belt, 180mph rolling-road wind tunnel in the world to be 100 percent commercially available; so it was perhaps fitting that its first commercial customer was an F1 team in June 2008. Word quickly spread through the F1 community about the state-of-the-art facility in North Carolina, resulting in several teams conducting numerous full-scale tests before the FIA ban was introduced in December 2008.

Asked about the lifting of the ban, Windshear’s Site Manager Jeffrey Bordner said: “We are delighted with the FIA’s decision. Our facility delivers highly accurate, repeatable data that is essential to F1 developers. Furthermore, we already have the advanced security and privacy systems in place to meet all Formula One’s requirements for highly confidential testing.”

Mr. Bordner is particularly keen to start testing F1 cars again, saying: “The Windshear team stands ready to provide the same high quality, productive testing that F1 teams came to expect of us in 2008.” He added: “Several F1 teams have contacted us already about testing early in 2010.”

Anticipating the FIA’s decision, Windshear has made several investments toward continuous improvement, including a groundbreaking, wheel side-force measurement technology and improved temperature compensation. As Bordner explained: “Formula One teams have the highest standards of data quality; this is the type of critical information that our customers are looking for when they use our facility.”

In another change to the Sporting Regulations, the FIA has banned refuelling during races in 2010. Consequently, F1 cars are need wider rear bodywork and longer wheelbases to accommodate larger fuel tanks (which will increase from around 120 litres to at least 235 litres). As Bordner, who holds a BSc in Aeronautical Engineering from Western Michigan University, points out: “These changes will probably increase the need for wind-tunnel testing.”

Windshear customers credit the facility with helping them make significant gains after testing: not least because its Single-Belt FlatTrac Rolling-Road system (from MTS Systems) provides the most accurate aerodynamic road simulation possible in the automotive industry. This greatly advances the capabilities of motorsport organisations and automotive manufacturers.

Like so many industries in recent times, F1 has suffered during the global economic downturn, so the FIA hopes its new regulations will revolutionise the sport by controlling spending while driving innovation. As Bordner stated: “We will continue to work with the FIA to ensure that our test programmes meet their rules and remain within their budget mandates.”