Interview with Toyotas Luca Marmorini 05 Sep 2007
With the arrival of stringent engine homologation regulations for 2007, Luca Marmorini Toyotas general manager (engine) has had his work cut out this season, but with none of the teams eight retirements down to engine problems, he has much reason for cheer.
Marmorini explains how his department has pushed forward the performance of the Toyota RXV-07, despite the restrictions, and reveals how the Japanese squad is already preparing for the arrival of common engine control units (ECUs) in 2008
Q: How do you judge the performance of the RXV-07 engine so far this season?
Luca Marmorini: We are happy with our engine performance so far this season. We have had very few major reliability issues and that is positive. It has been a new challenge for us this year with the homologation rules because in December we had to give the FIA details of any modification we wanted to do to improve reliability. Then we had to plan our work to meet that schedule.
Q: How has Toyotas engine compared to other teams this year?
LM: Honestly, it is impossible to say. If you could put all the engines on the same test bed then you could make a judgment but when you are looking at performance on track, there are so many other factors that effect lap time it is hard to judge exactly how strong any engine is. We are comfortable with where we are but, as always, we are working hard to improve.
Q: Has any development been possible during the season?
LM: Modifications are allowed to improve reliability but in terms of performance, there is nothing we can really change on the engine itself. However, there are other elements, which affect engine performance, such as the air box, the exhaust and the fuel, and we have focused on these areas to improve. In the past, you would design a new piston or a new con rod to search for extra horsepower but now we are more restricted and have had to focus on other areas.
Q: So performance has improved even within the restrictions
LM: Yes, we can say our engine performance has improved during the season. We have also looked at how we use the engine, concentrating on factors which do not directly affect lap time but are still a major part of a cars performance over a race. So we have worked on improving fuel efficiency for example because, even though this doesnt bring extra speed, it is still a performance factor and it has an impact on our overall result.
Q: Have these factors taken on more importance due to the homologation regulations?
LM: These are things we have always worked on but with homologated engines we have had to look for a different focus and now these areas have become the main focus of our efforts.
Q: How do you assess engine reliability this season?
LM: We have had no race-ending reliability issues on the engine and that is clearly the main goal in terms of reliability. However, as always in Formula One, there are smaller issues that you cannot see from the outside. I would say we are reasonably happy with reliability of the engine this season but we constantly aim for more and we are taking measures to improve. For example, we have improved our batch quality control, which means we are checking the quality of parts before they are fitted to the engine. You often hear teams explain that engine failures are the result of batch problems and we are working hard to eliminate the risk of this.
Q: Looking ahead to 2008, how much development can take place?
LM: The actual development of the engine is not possible for next season either due to the homologation rules but we have been working on the areas where development is permitted. Also, we are forever pushing closer to the limit and trying to extract the maximum from the engine we have, so that is a continuous challenge for us. But the main change for 2008 is the common ECU, which all teams will have to use.
Q: Has testing started with the common ECU yet?
LM: Weve not tested it in a car on track, no, but we have been working with it on the test beds. With a new unit like this, we want to test very thoroughly so we change one thing and then test it, change another and then test again. We are making good progress understanding the new ECU and we should be able to test on the track in a month or so, using the complete McLaren system.
Q: Looking ahead to Monza, is engine performance more important there than at other tracks?
LM: You would probably say the engine can make twice as much difference at Monza compared to a normal track. That means if an extra 10 horsepower would normally bring around 0.10secs, at Monza it would be more like 0.20 seconds, so if you have 20 or 30 horsepower that can be worth as much as half a second.
Q: How much of a challenge is Monza for the engine?
LM: Well, the engine is flat out for over 70 per cent of the lap so that certainly puts the engine to the test! The biggest challenge for us this year is that we will have a fresh engine for Monza and this will not only have to complete the Italian Grand Prix weekend, it will also have to be used at Spa a week later. Monza and Spa are probably the two toughest circuits when it comes to engines.