Swiss Energy Grand Prix 2015: Part 2 – training session

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Well, there we were. Our team was complete, we had a car and someone to finance our participation. All we needed now was a strategy and some equipment – sounds easy, but remember we had just returned from the WAVE! We had little more than a week to get things going, and to be quite honest this years WAVE hadn’t really been a vacation, which didn’t exactly help.

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this kind of illustrates how we felt when we came back

In any event, we ordered some karting gear, checked that everyone had a helmet and most of all, made sure we had proper charging equipment. We were able to engage crOhm as a sponsor, they were kind enough to lend us a portable 43 kW charging station over the weekend.

We’re grateful that crOhm was willing to help us out, please support them by checking out their website and of course buying their equipment if you need a charging station!

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Other than that, there really wasn’t much time for anything. we managed to test fast charging at the myStop station in Affoltern a few days before the race, only to find out that apparently both Zoé’s we had at hand were unwilling to charge at full power. Still, we collected a few interesting facts during that test which would be helpful for the race.

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our racing team, hard at work

just a few days later, we brought the car to be labeled properly. A printing company added our main sponsor’s label, Schweiz Strom, and by chance, the red logo came out really good looking on our white car.

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Schweiz Strom is a power label run by EBL, please visit their website to find out more.

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finally, the big day had arrived. We went off to Lignières on Friday morning. Technical inspection! The main rule was that the car had to be street legal in every respect. Neither slicks, nor removing seats would be allowed, let alone deeper modifications.

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there also was some idle time

When we arrived on site, we were seriously impressed. The field consisted of eleven teams in total, and the charging equipment people had brought with them was impressive. Immediately next to us, there were two Renault Zoés and… wait… they really brought a Terra 53 fast charger with them? That’s like bringing your RPG along when you need a pocket knife, you know, just in case.

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or bringing along an aircraft carrier in case your sailboat isn’t good enough

Of course we soon found out that our competitors were in fact a double team entered by Renault Suisse; they had a whole team of engineers and mechanics, plus six drivers with extensive experience. So by now it was clear that competition would be tough, things would be really interesting.

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To complete the field, a fourth Zoé would be competing with us, driven by a team of Tesla Club members and the club president, Stephan Schwarz. You might remember that Stephan too is one of our sponsors, he supported us by providing us with a car through his company. ABSS is a team of architects located in Volketswil near Zurich offering expert knowledge and extensive experience. Please check out their website for more information!

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Throughout a very hot day, we were checking our gear and the state of the car, we passed technical inspection and we walked around the track discussing lines and strategies. Finally, the big moment had arrived: the training session was about to begin!

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We had decided that the simplest way to determine a proper strategy was to measure consumption at different speeds – and so we did. All three of us had about 15 minutes of track time, and we chose every possible driving style between a 90 year old retired accountant and a fighter pilot on steroids. Needless to say, the latter was certainly more fun but the former no less challenging.

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As expected, energy consumption was anything but linear and we found out that the perceived advantage of fast laps with frequent fast charging wasn’t as big as we thought. The fact that there were basically just three short straights and otherwise mostly tight corners meant that one lap consisted mainly of heavy accelerating and heavy breaking with very little continuity.

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By putting lap times and energy consumption in relation, we found out what kind of average speed we wanted to aim for and managed to find what would be our optimum. There was, however, a major drawback: After the training session, we checked our car and found out that we had excessive tire wear on the front right tire.

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heavy wear, big chunks missing. That first groove on the left should be about one millimeter wide, not five to seven…

That wasn’t entirely surprising given the track conditions, but it was still bad news; extrapolating that kind of damage over twelve hours led to the conclusion that we wouldn’t survive just on one set of tires. We did in fact have two spares, but those were thought to be a last resort in case of a flat to be able to finish the race, not as expendables. Therefore, tire wear had a serious impact on our choice of strategy.

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Thankfully, our competitors from Renault Suisse had a big heart and were willing to share information about what kind of tire pressure they were using. To minimize consumption, we had pumped the tires to 3.4 bars but in retrospect that was too much for the tight corners we found on the track. We reduced pressure and went back to what our pit lane neighbors were recommending.

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slowly, the big moment was arriving. we spent most of saturday on site, checking once again that the car was in order and all our gear functional, and eagerly waited for the race to be on. At last, we were asked to place our cars on the grid for the start! the big moment had arrived.

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join us again for our next post, for a summary of our race night.

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