Behind the scenes: Competizioni GT engineering
Competizioni GT

Behind the scenes: Competizioni GT engineering

Maranello | 28 May 2020

The secret to keeping on winning is to dream about the next victory. Ferrari’s Competizioni GT department isn’t short on dreams and, consequently, wins. In a typical season Ferraris are involved in a long sequence of races. The GTE and GT3 versions of the 488 compete in over 25 championships, from the WEC World Championship to the Italian GT Championship, with more than 250 races held all around the world. These are two of the most successful Ferraris in history, as is clear from their statistics (current at the time of writing): the 488 GTE has competed in 72 races, claiming three world titles and one European, with 26 victories. The car has recorded 71 podium finishes, a rate of 98.61%. The 488 GT3 boasts even more impressive statistics given that it takes part in many series: 547 races, 69 championships won, 291 victories (53.20%) and 503 podiums (91.96%). To achieve these results, the Competizioni GT department has a team of technicians and engineers who are responsible for the design, development and servicing of the cars. This work starts in Maranello but takes place at circuits around the world where the battle with other manufacturers is tight and marked by continuous research and development.

It is not easy to design a racing car, but at Ferrari, there is plenty of scope to draw on the great technical heritage of the GT and Formula 1 worlds. Dialogue between departments, the sharing of technologies, solutions and experiences is the order of the day, also facilitated by the skills and experience of the people who design, plan and build the Prancing Horse’s closed-wheel cars and single-seaters. “Thanks to these experiences” – explains Davide Piccinini, Coordinator of Chassis and Gearbox Design – “we can quickly experiment with solutions that then prove successful on track. Obviously, we draw on the world of our road cars because it’s from there that we begin developing our model, but also on that of Scuderia Ferrari, both in terms of innovative materials and of the ideas or technologies that can guide development“.

Performance is at the heart of the race engineer’s world. The engineer is an ever more important figure because endurance racing is increasingly evolving into tight sprint races lasting over four hours, where every second can make the difference for the final victory. The Competizioni GT team also supports these experts, as Mauro Barbieri, Coordinator of Performance and Simulations, explains: “Our approach is to help teams exploit the car’s full potential not only in terms of performance but also of strategy. Having access to the data and experience gained with different teams in the various championships, we can support the team and suggest the best strategies to make the most of the car’s potential and thus maximise the result. Sometimes the race engineer on the pit wall only sees data for his car, while in the retrobox we have access to much more data and can enjoy more freedom and ease of dialogue. This allows us to suggest a strategy that may prove successful in the long or short term, depending on the contingencies. For example, we can advise a driver to gain a position on the track at the expense of tyre or fuel consumption, or to sacrifice pure performance to extend the length of the stint“.

A role that only appears easy, as Giuliano Salvi – Coordinator of Vehicle Testing and Track Operation – explains: “Motor racing is a unique sport. It is a team sport even though there are strong individual aspects. On the one hand, there are the engineers with their processes, ideas, and secrets. On the other are the drivers, with their strengths, driving styles and secrets. We need to create the right alchemy to make all these processes and different individualities come together in a single way of thinking which, necessarily, must be team focused. Our task is to align the knowledge in the team and between the teams, because our goal is for a Ferrari to be in first when they wave the chequered flag and only by all working together can we considerably increase the probability of success“.

In supporting customers who race Ferraris,” adds Barbieri, “we try to coordinate the development of the set-ups by working together with the teams, analysing the data and the solutions implemented, comparing them and coming up with an analysis to identify the most effective one. At this point we pass it around among the various teams to standardise performance, taking them to a higher level“.

In the world of WEC, Competizioni GT technicians and engineers also do intensive preparation work at Maranello ahead of the simulator phase. For example, electronics plays an important role in terms of performance and reliability, as Benedicte Prioul, Coordinator of Electronics and Controls, explains: “We perform intensive work in the office to prepare the new electronic strategies which are then calibrated on the track with the information we receive from the driver and the telemetric data“. These are continuously recorded by sensors and ECUs that must work perfectly and “this is why“, continues Benedicte, “on the track we carry out routine but essential operations, such as resetting the sensors, updating the ECUs with the latest software and checking the functioning of all the electronic components. These allow us to be sure that the data we receive from the car in real-time, is correct and allows us to dialogue with the driver sending him the information necessary to improve his performance or adopt behaviour that doesn’t stress the mechanics“.

Before arriving at the race circuit,” continues Salvi, “we also perform intense simulation activities to check the effectiveness of the solutions, packages or set-ups before the car’s wheels touch the track. The development work is constant despite the constraints of the Balance of Performance but thanks to the data analysis and the feedback collected by the teams it significantly improves the car’s performance or reliability“. This teamwork is synthesised in the simulator, as Barbieri outlines: “Normally we invest a lot of time in preparing individual events in the simulator, just as we do in developing the car and tyres. We simulate all aspects of a race and a car, such as the best track theory in terms of downforce or the effect of fuel weight on the set-up, race pace and tyre consumption, so that we can predict our level of performance against the competition“. This is why it is important to have access to very accurate simulation tools, as Nazzareno Ciccorossi, Performance and Simulations Engineer, explains: “Being certain that the simulation model corresponds as far as possible to reality saves us a lot of time and allows us to arrive with clear ideas about the work to be performed over the race weekend“.

All this work bears fruit, as we can see by the 488’s extraordinary figures. All the many victories are special but there is one in particular that has remained more vividly and intensely imprinted in the memory than others. Salvi explains: “The victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was fantastic for me because we didn’t achieve it by chance but rather it was the fruit of months of preparation with very clear coordination of energy and targets. We did everything necessary to be in with a chance of fighting for the final victory. On the track we were very well prepared and, although we weren’t the favourites, we managed to come away with a result. It was the most wonderful victory because many parts were specially developed and changed in various areas. The entire car was reworked a bit and developed uniformly. It’s not often that such a great effort yields the ultimate result. There are too many variables and, above all, in such a competitive edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with so many cars and constructors, it was hardly a foregone conclusion”.