Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Virgin Racing's Nick Wirth: Development in the Digital Domain

Nick Wirth is a racing veteran with more than 20 years experience having held positions of aerodynamist, chief designer and even team owner. Wirth has also been a pioneer in forwading advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) technology. Simply CFD is the use of numerical methods and algorithms to solve and analyze problems that involve fluid flows. In the case of racing, primilarly we are talking about air.

His company, Wirth Research uses an unique approach to car design and development, part of a process they call Development in the Digital Domain. Since the late 1980's, he has chased the idea of an entirely digital development process for advanced engineering products but only until recently has there been computer systems and hardware, plus the refinement of advanced software simulation tools that have made this possible.

In addition to using CFD programs, which is standard operating procedure in F1 these days, they use virtual engineering technology developed within Wirth Research enabling simulated testing and vehicle development; allowing for a reduced need for costly and wasteful prototype manufacture. This is coupled with the use of a vehicle simulator.

If you have followed the American LeMans Series (ALMS) in the United States you know that Wirth has already produced the class-winning Acura LMP1 prototype using this system; and according to Wirth Research, the car is the first car to be developed using this all digital approach. However, if you have not seen it:


The 2010 Virgin racercar is due to hit the track in February with no windtunnel testing, and using the Wirth methods is most likely to be developed completely in the virtual world. It is safe to say that the use of these methods have allowed Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson to proclaim during Virgin Racing's launch that they will have the lowest budget in Formula One.

Just as everything with the Virgin brand, this will be a very serious and first class effort.


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