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Newman/Haas Racing : ADAMS

Newman/Haas Racing, (Chicago, IL) designs and races CHAMP series cars (INDY-style) for professional drivers Michael Andretti and Christian Fittipaldi. The company was founded by legends Carl Haas and Paul Newman in 1982 and today its cars compete in the CART FedEx Championship Series held at racetracks around the world.

Todd Bowland is a Newman/Haas race engineer who is responsible for the design and setting up of Fittipaldi's cars. The team has a team of six to eight engineers who are dedicated to every detail of each vehicle. "On race weekends, the teams attend to the cars and drivers. It's my responsibility to coordinate between the driver and the team to help accelerate the car's performance by varying component set ups such as shocks, springs, wing settings, and tires. For instance, we discovered that by lowering a race car's chassis to the thickness of a dime brings a five to six-mile per hour improvement in performance. Technology enables the us to reduce the number of variables and eliminate guesswork so that we can concentrate on subtleties to make every second of engineering effort count on a race weekend."

Challenges in the shop and at the track
Bowland says that determining optimal set up combinations is one of the toughest challenges in his position. "The number of options can be overwhelming," adds Bowland. "Just because Part A worked in one scenario doesn't necessarily mean that it will work in another. That's one of the advantages and reasons why we implemented ADAMS software. The technology simulates all the different variables on the computer and pin-points the ones that have the most potential."

Another important issue that causes Bowland and his team to rely ever increasingly more on ADAMS is the limited amount of real-time, on-the-track practice that's allowed prior to races. The pressure to reduce costs is the main reason behind this trend. For example, one day of on-track testing costs approximately $30,000. This cost includes the travel expenses, possible engine rebuilds per engine cost up to $30,000, sets of new tires costs thousands of dollars, etc. "It all adds up very quickly to a very expensive one-day of testing," notes Bowland.

Newman/Haas is limited to approximately 40 days all year for track testing. As a result, the company will spend well over $1 million in pre-race testing. "Consequently," adds Bowland, "we must rely more and more on our simulation programs to complement our experience. We must be much more prepared and confident with our cars before we even leave the garage.

"As a result of this trend," adds Bowland, "the use of in-house simulation proves beneficial given the limited actual time that is spent on the track for trial runs. "We depend on results from the virtual world to narrow down the issues that we believe will be beneficial on the race track."

Newman/Haas uses ADAMS software from Mechanical Dynamic's (Ann Arbor, MI) to model every element of its cars. ADAMS/Car Motorsport is a customized automotive toolkit for racing and commercial automobiles in which key subsystems are modeled such as suspension, engine, tires, and aerodynamics. The collection of tools customized for Newman/Haas consists of ADAMS/Solver for numerical processing, ADAMS/Tire for modeling how tires grip the road, ADAMS/View as the basic user interface, and the ADAMS/Driver collection of optimization algorithms, that models how an individual driver operates a car based on the model of the car and the physiological parameters of the virtual driver intended to drive it.

Bowland adds, "Newman/Haas has taken this tool and applied it at the race track more effectively than anyone else because we knew the advantages of investing in the technology. ADAMS can accurately simulate performance on a specific track with conditions selected by the operation engineers. We can change the suspension, front and rear wing settings, or virtually any element of the entire car and send it on a virtual lap around a specific track in virtual rain or shine to visualize exactly how the car will perform. There are an infinite number of permutations suspension and shock settings and springs that can be tried without expending resources on the track."

Specifically, Bowland and his team look for two different types of vehicle set-ups. One is the ultimate go-fast qualifying set up where the driver is really on edge and tries to get the last tenth of a second out of a car. In this scenario, the team looks for ultimate speed and grip, not necessarily how driveable the car is. "At the CART level, drivers are pros and can maneuver a car that is right on the edge of instability," adds Bowland. "On race day, we need a car that will withstand 500 miles without crashing. The other set up, called the qualifying set up, is one in which the car is virtually at the stage of crashing. So part of our work is determining two completely different types of set ups."

The optimal car set up is determined via many interactions among the team members. "Once we learn what the driver needs for the car to perform faster and better," says Bowland, "we turn to ADAMS for virtual testing. We also gather a lot of data on the car itself by attaching sensors to the vehicle. Part of our team analyzes the data gathered from the sensors. Using these combined efforts, we determine the best set up combinations." In addition, ADAMS/Driver and surveillance technology obtain track terrain data that helps form profiles of each track.

Bowland says that ADAMS is an integral part of their engineering processes. "Our business is winning car races. ADAMS helps us design and optimize each vehicle to perform better than the competition. The software is completely integrated into our whole process. We use it every day, on every test, and for every iteration. From the smallest change to completely redesigning a rear suspension, ADAMS is the tool of choice. We use for every aspect of our lives," adds Bowland.

He continues, "We would not consider any other simulation software. We know that Mechanical Dynamics has a great track record with auto industry. We did evaluate other products, however, there was no doubt in our minds about selecting ADAMS. It's the most comprehensive package out there."

Because ADAMS is customized to Newman/Haas' application, the product is easy to use. "To use the product," adds Bowland, "I don't have to know what constraints and markers are and I did not have to learn how to use the ADAMS solver. To me, using ADAMS just feels like I'm building a racecar in the computer. It's really fairly simple. It looks and feels like a typical Windows type of interface."

Author: Laura Carrabine

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Page last modified on May 5, 2000
Copyright 2000 by John Stark