West Surrey Racing

British Touring Race Team

Surrey, UK

A Place in History

Drew MacDonald is the Senior Engineer at West Surrey Racing, a company with a rich heritage in motorsports. Throughout its history WSR has won Formula 3 championships with iconic drivers who went on to win the prestigious Formula 1 world championship, and helped launch the careers of many more. Since moving into the British Touring Car Championship in 1996, WSR has remained one of the sport’s leading teams and most recently won the Driver’s title in 2014.

MacDonald is responsible for race performance on the track, the design of the car and, most importantly, continuing WSR’s storied history.

Full Throttle

Touring car racing involves stripping a stock road car right back to its bare chassis and then redesigning and rebuilding it as a high-performance race car. Before powerful computers, engineers would have to build trial parts and hope they worked. If they failed or didn’t quite fit, they simply had to start again. Today MacDonald and his team can digitally design and test parts in a virtual environment, but the process requires an incredibly powerful graphics card.

Precision engineering

The components in WSR’s cars are intricate and complex, with even small parts consisting of thousands – sometimes millions – of points, and the margin of error is often just fractions of millimetres. Because of this, only the most powerful graphics cards can handle the level of detail needed to effectively examine them. MacDonald uses what he considers the best computing solution on the market: an HP workstation powered by a Radeon™ Pro WX card. This consummate level of computing power means his team can quickly and effectively analyse parts in order to get them onto the track faster and, crucially, keep them a step ahead of the competition.

Built to order

These precision components are almost as complex to assemble as they are to design. Again, the incredibly powerful Radeon Pro WX is used by WSR to simplify the process. Traditionally designers had to produce drawings or instructions to guide the team through the process, but now an explodable 3D model can be used as an easy reference point. It cuts down production time and makes communication among the team easier.

CREATING CHAMPIONS

There is direct correlation between computing speed at the workshop and the speed on the track

Drew MacDonald

Pole position

Touring car racing is incredibly competitive. With 31 cars on the track, the difference between winning and being an also-ran can be as little as a 1,000th of a second. As an engineer, MacDonald is always thinking of what else can be developed to find those extra fractions of a second. Getting reliable data quickly is key to finding where improvements can be made. The raw power and speed of the Radeon Pro WX allows the team to quickly analyse a previously unattainable level of data taken from track testing and highlight deficiencies or unexpected results. WSR’s commitment to pursuing the most powerful technology is part of the reason WSR has stayed relevant at the upper echelons of racing for over three decades.

HOW WSR CREATED THE ART OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

What do you do for West Surrey Racing?

There’s three parts to my role for the team. The first is to look after the three cars in the workshop. Secondly, I give the mechanics the input they need to get on with their job. And finally, I’m responsible for the development of the car, to take it forward and to keep it ahead of the competition.

There are four ingredients in successful racing: a good driver, a good chassis, a good engine and a good team.

Dick Bennets, MD WSR

And how exactly do you stay ahead in touring car racing?

That’s the most important bit! We’re constantly trying to think of new ideas. We can see where the problems are with the car with the data we receive off the on-board logger. Then we go back and scratch our heads a little bit and start looking at areas to develop, whether it’s reducing the drag of the car or making it a better environment for the driver so they can focus on racing better.

I’m always trying to think of what else can be developed to find those extra 100th – or 1,000th – of a second. We’re always looking at tiny bits that you wouldn’t think could make a huge different.

How different are the final race cars from the originals?

People are always surprised by the amount of engineering detail that goes into touring cars. There’s very little of the original road car left. What starts as a bare shell from BMW then gets chopped to pieces. There’s thousands of different components just to hold parts of the car together that you wouldn’t have in a normal road car.

How precise does your work need to be?

Put it this way: in a road car, you have 5-10 mil tolerance on the components you build. In a touring car, the tolerance drops to half a millimetre, sometimes as small as microns. So, there’s quite a bit of involvement we need to get from a stock road car to a 100% bespoke race car.

Can you give us an example?

The gear knob on the car is quite a good example. When the drivers change gear, the gearbox actually switches the engine off momentarily. There’s a little switch that cuts the engine for 30 milliseconds. It’s a tiny but intricate part because you’ve got to make sure it doesn’t activate the switch too soon or you’ll damage the car. On top of all that it needs to be adjustable for different drivers!

That sounds like a lot of detail to keep track of…

It is. But the beauty about the modern day is we can use computers and CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems to design the parts and build parts virtually. We need to stay ahead of the competition so the most powerful solution on the market was the only option for us: an HP workstation powered by a Radeon™ Pro WX graphics card. It needs to be able to handle showing thousands of components, which all need to display together and make sure they fit. We even simulate critical things like the safety of the roll cage.

What’s the best part about what you do?

One of the best feelings is the first time a car you’ve designed and built is taken to the test facility and it just runs. It’s quite a proud moment. All those hours in the winter and late nights pay off the moment the engine fires up, the wheel turns and the car drives off.