Ricardo has a long history of supporting our clients in the motorsport industry with the development of championship winning gearbox solutions. Our engineers understand that cost, reliability, and adaptability are essential for any motorsport transmission project, particularly when developing solutions for spec-racing series.
In this month’s instalment of our blog celebrating 50 years in the motorsport industry, we look back at our involvement with Italian race car manufacturer, Dallara Automobili. In the early 2000s, Ricardo created a bespoke gearbox for a new Dallara chassis which was to have two variations: one for racing on the ovals in the USA, and one for circuit racing in Europe and Japan.
In 2002, the current Indy Lights series was re-founded as a feeder series for the Indy Racing League. The Dallara IP2 chassis was created to meet the specification of a new single-seater race car for the series which was initially raced on ovals. Ricardo’s bespoke gearbox had a manual sequential gearshift and the option of a plate differential or spool. It was suited to an arduous and varied environment, which particularly important when the Indy Lights was extended to include road courses in 2005.
Concurrent to their involvement in the Indy Lights, Dallara Automobili became the exclusive chassis supplier for the Nissan World Series in 2002. A new version of the chassis and gearbox, the T02, was created.
Following highly successful launches of these two incredibly popular and competitive race championships, the chassis was developed to the T05 for the European market to accommodate Solution F’s Nismo based V6 engine, racing under the banner of World Series by Renault in the headline FR3.5 series event.
As the racing programmes developed an update to the chassis was introduced for the Dallara T12 to accommodate a new V8 engine and a gearbox update. This saw the addition of external starter and compressor drives. The car also had an aero upgrade which included a drag reduction system (DRS).
Whilst the European development was focussed on the FR3.5 chassis, development in both the USA and Japan saw new versions of engine and drivetrain for the Indy Lights and Super Formula based on the T12 transaxle upgrade.
Ricardo’s formula for series success
The Dallara transmission project was an important step into the supply of gearboxes to a complete series for Ricardo. It is important to provide reliable cutting-edge products to teams but cost and series support is also paramount to achieving success. A regular, reliable, and cost-effective supply of spares is critical for keeping within budget for the season.
To ensure this could be achieved, the gearbox is designed with adaptability in mind and built to a modular specification. All the gearbox variants use the same stressed casing design, mounted to the back of the engine oil tank, and supporting all the chassis loads from the suspension, crash structure and aero loads
The six-speed ratio set, including a reverse gear ratio, is located in front of the differential and is available with a few final drive options. A choice of differential option can also be specified. This flexibility in design allows the gearbox to be configured to suit the application, whether it be around the streets of Monaco with a semi-auto gearshift and a ramp and plate differential, or around the ovals in the USA with a manual gearshift and a locked differential or spool.
The Dallara chassis continues to run in series to this day. As of 2022, Dallara cars still run in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in the USA and Super Formula in Japan. Recently 12 gearboxes have been supplied to Dallara LLC in Indianapolis to support the AC20 chassis used in the Indy Autonomous Challenge.
Iterations or variations of the gearbox have also been supplied to Delta Motorsport for Grand Prix Masters, Lotus for the T125 programme, Rodin Cars for the Rodin FZed chassis, and in several individual single-seater and sportscar projects.
Steve Blevins, Head of Engineering for Ricardo’s Performance Products segment looks back on the success of the programme:
“It’s fantastic that we’re able to celebrate this gearbox as part of our 50-year retrospective. Coming straight after our success at Le Mans, and to be able to take some of that technology and apply it to our first series-supply project was a big step for us. This is especially true as the gearbox is still running in series around the world today. Long may it continue!”
Martin Starkey, Managing Director of Ricardo Performance Products, adds:
“It is a testament to both the quality of our engineering and the robustness of our manufacturing which means high quality, dependable products such as this are still racing at the highest levels of customer competition some 20 years after its debut. Nothing energises the team more than positive customer feedback for which we have received a great deal for this single seater transaxle.”
Join us for next month’s retrospective which takes us back to La Sarthe to focus on customer racing with one of the longest running, most successful transverse transaxles to race at Le Mans and other endurance events across the globe.