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Magny-Cours - the engineer's view 01 Jul 2004

James Robinson (AUS) Jordan Operations Manager.
Australian Grand Prix Preparations, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 4 March 2004

A super-smooth track surface, a challenging mix of corners and highly variable grip levels – just some of the issues the Formula One engineers must cope with in France this weekend.

James Robinson, Head of Race and Test Engineering, Jordan:
"We are looking forward to racing in Europe again which makes logistics a little bit easier than long-haul locations. Magny-Cours is certainly different from the two cities we have just been to! It's in a fantastic area of France renowned for its excellent wine and we enjoy the variety of experience with each of the places we visit. It has a different track characteristic from the races in Canada and North America, with some quicker corners and I'm sure our drivers are eagerly awaiting the challenge they present. We have had a useful test at Vairano, working to extract the maximum from our current aerodynamic package and collect data in preparation for the French Grand Prix. The asphalt type at Magny-Cours is quite unusual and a surface we don't see at other tracks so we have been working hard with Bridgestone to develop a tyre that will work there. There is the tendency for inclement weather in this region of France with the odd isolated shower so let's hope they arrive on Sunday. The problem that occurred with Nick's engine in Indianapolis has been understood and measures have been taken to address it so we are confident it won't happen again. We are also hopeful of getting a new engine specification from Cosworth in the forthcoming races."

Craig Wilson, Chief Race Engineer, BAR:
"At the halfway stage of the season, we have returned from the back-to-back North America races with two third places to help reduce the gap to second place in the Constructors' Championship and consolidate our current standing. It was great to finally see Takuma get a just reward for the hard effort and determination he has shown after the set-backs he has suffered so far this year. However, we head to Magny-Cours with still the challenge of finishing both cars high up in the points, after two further separate car stopping failures in the last two races. Reliability and performance development are key if we are to maintain our challenge for the second half of the year and we have been using the testing this week in Jerez to work on future developments and bug-fixing for the upcoming races. We have also been testing with Michelin to finalise both dry tyre compound choices for their home French GP. The Magny-Cours circuit presents its own challenges as it is quite a smooth track surface but the grip level can vary a lot depending on the ambient conditions. The mixture of very low speed corners requiring good traction, to the long medium speed turn 2 and the high speed chicanes makes it demanding on the tyres and the right choice will be critical to overall performance. The track layout also marks a return to the higher end of the downforce settings after the low to medium set-ups used in Montreal and Indianapolis."

Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams:
“For Magny-Cours, we will have several aerodynamic improvements on the car, part of our on-going development programme to enhance the performance of the FW26. We have also made some mechanical changes which should improve our competitiveness, particularly around this type of circuit. The track at Magny-Cours includes a high speed section, two high speed chicanes and a couple of slow and medium speed corners. Traditionally, it is a very smooth circuit which was changed last year to extend the last sector before the pitlane. Strategy should be fairly straightforward due to the length of the pitlane and the typical tyre degradation that we see at Magny-Cours.

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
“Magny-Cours will make only fairly average demands on the BMW P84 engine, but we still need to ensure full reliability. We've had some hot races in France in the past which places additional pressure on the thermal resistance of the engine, however, despite such conditions, the target must be to take full advantage of the P84's power and rev potential.”

Bob Bell, Technical Director, Renault:
“For Magny-Cours and Silverstone, we will have a package of aerodynamic updates and we also intend to introduce suspension modifications at the French race. I think Magny-Cours will be a standard circuit for us - it is very much an average track in terms of the challenges it presents - and we go there with our usual expectation of challenging for podium positions. Its peculiar characteristics do reward an experienced and astute engineering team, which we undoubtedly have and of course, it is given added importance by the fact it is our home race. We will be keen to perform well there.”

Rob White, Engine Technical Director, Renault:
“The development of the RS24B continues with an evolution in Magny Cours. New internal parts allow the useable engine speed to be increased, which in turn delivers more performance by better utilising the power curve. In terms of the approval process, it is always tough to increase engine speed as the mechanical and thermal loads are increased throughout the engine. To approve the revised spec, and endeavour to ensure the reliability of the engine and car, we have tested extensively on the dyno and at the track.”

Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Magny-Cours is about tyre degradation and temperature. The surface is very smooth and that means that tyre degradation is high as the cars naturally tend to slide around. The level of grip is very sensitive to the ambient temperature and therefore the track temperature. This effect is more pronounced here than at any other track we visit. We use high downforce to generate maximum grip and counteract the sliding problem, and as part of this tyre choice is very crucial.

"The only real overtaking point is the Adelaide hairpin. You need good brake stability there. And because there is a wide run-off area on the exit it is the right place for a driver to take a risk with some late braking. Traction is also important, especially out of the last corner where your exit speed influences the amount of pace you carry out of the corner as well as your maximum tempo across the start/finish lane and through the first turn. We are hopeful of a strong race and will be running a new front wing that we tested last week in Barcelona."

Pascal Vasselon, Michelin F1 programme manager:
“We will use tyres from the medium sector of our range in France and our six partner teams will choose from two different dry-weather tyre options. The biggest challenge at Magny-Cours is making sure tyres can cope with the extreme loads generated through the ultra-quick Estoril right-hander – it only accounts for about 5 per cent of the lap but that’s all it takes to prevent us running softer compounds. "

Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager, Bridgestone:
"From a tyre point of view, Magny-Cours is a very tough circuit on rear tyres because of the hard acceleration out of the low speed corners. It is important that drivers are mindful of the stresses placed on the rear tyres at Magny-Cours. Furthermore, while the surface is quite smooth, temperatures can be high so our final choice of three different specifications of dry tyre for this weekend is from the middle of our compound range. With regards to getting a quick lap time in France, teams and drivers will need to work closely on the second sector.”

Dr Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance, Jaguar:
“Cosworth Racing is continually developing their CR6-V10 engine and both drivers will be benefiting from these developments in France. Looking ahead to France we scored points here last year and we like this track. Requiring high to medium downforce it is a smooth track and contains some good high-speed corners. Overtaking although difficult is not impossible and we will be looking to make the most of any such opportunities. This circuit is relatively hard on tyres but we have a lot of information from previous races and we have been working hard with our tyre partner Michelin to ensure that we are as prepared as possible for their home-race.”