Super Aguri shows off definitive bodywork
Super Aguri ran a brief shakedown test a Silverstone today (Tuesday) and in the processs gave us the first look at the car they will start the 2006 season with. They've made all the changes I identified in a previous posting. The surpsise is how extensive the changes are. When you consider that this is only an interim car, their fabricators and aerodynamicists have been very busy. PItpass once again has a gallery from the test (which also included MF1). The changes as far as I can tell from the photos are:-
- Front-wing and nose: The front-wing is raised the regulation 15cm above the reference plane. As I predicted (when I thought the changes would be minimal), they kept the front-wing as-is and shortened the mounting to the nosecone. Surprisingly they've got a new nosecone. The new one has a slight droop at the tip. It's hard to imagine that droop - still far above the actual wing and far forward of the flap (compare with the Williams) - has much effect on the efficiency of the wing itslef. Did they have to make new nosecones to comply with increased crash-test requirements? (I'll have to check on that). It seems a strange use of resources otherwise, given how simplistic the front-wing is by current F1 standards. I predict they will be very short on front downforce with no spoon section in the centre of the wing, and with no add-on wings like the Renault or a second flap like the McLaren.
- Bodywork between the front wheels is raised by 5cm. This not only looses the lowest part of the twin keels,
but also the small horizontal shelf at the bottom of them as well as a small turning vane mounted between that and the front of the main bargeboards. UPDATED: I've now seen photos of the car with the wheels removed and these parts are still there, just mounted higher.
- The rear wing is completely revised with the mainplane moving forward as per 2005 rule changes and the deeper endplates as per 2004 rule changes. There is a single flap also as per 2004 rules and the obligatory notch out of the endplate behind the flap. There are none of the now fashionable drag-reducing slots in the endplates ahead of the flap and the wing elements are two dimensional. This is to be expected - short on wind-tunnel time to fine-tune the interim bodywork and being short on front-end downforce anyway, the rear wing hasn't had the detailed design of other cars.
- The outter channels of the diffuser are now reduced in height as-per 2005 regulations. Although there aren't any photos of the rear of the car available (why is that, do photographers think nobody will be interested in the back or do they just get bored by the time the car has passed them?), you can now see daylight between the rear wheels and the central diffuser section from the side view.
- By far the biggest surprise is the revisions between the front and back of the car. The engine cover complies with the 2004 silhouette rule as expected. There is also a maximum-width airbox wing (not in some of the photos but it is in the autosport.com gallery).
- The sidepods are extensively revised as per contemporary trends. There is a small and somewhat inexplicable shoulder winglet at the top-outter leading edge of the sidepod, the sidepods are undercut quite significantly (compare with the definitive Toyota TF106B bodywork). The bodywork around the radiators is wrapped almost as tightly as many new 2006 cars and there is also a full array of winglets ahead of the rear wheels. Also featured is a large chimney. This was taped off for the Silverstone test due to the very cold weather here. If they can open that up for Bahrain it should leave them with enough cooling. The original Arrows bodywork didn't feature chimneys so I assume all cooling was from the rear - not possible with the tighter bodywork of the SA05.
In all then I'd have to say I'm surprised and impressed with the work Super Aguri have been able to accomplish in the short time available. While the front-wing is disappointing and the rear-wing not as developed as the competition (even at the back of the field), the central bodywork looks impressive. Whether it works as well as it looks is another thing entirely. The final Minardi - the PS05 - had some pretty contemporary bodywork last year and still struggled to beat a two year old Jordan (admittedly with a more powerful engine).
That Minardi suffered from a dire lack of wind-tunnel time and I expect the SA05 will be in the same position. It's not clear if Super Aguri received wind-tunnel models with the cars they bought from Paul Stoddart. If they didn't they surely wouldn't have spent the money to have one made and there probably wouldn't have been time to anyway. WIthout models all you can do is put the actual car in a full-size wind-tunnel (like the one at MIRA) and make up a few full-size parts and see how they work out. Thus, the large parts like the engine cover were likely designed "by eye" with the wings and winglets recieving the most development time.
I still think reliability will be the biggest concern for Super Aguri. Everyone expects them to be at the tail of the field with this car, so the most important thing will be to stay on track as long as possible to maximise their exposure (and to be fair, they will learn more as a team as well). With the strength of the Honda engine and the posibility that the new bodywork is effective, there is the slightest of chances that SA may outpace MF1, but it seems unlikely. Still, given the effort they have clearly put in to this car, I wish them all the best.