Corsa Motorsports will take the next - and potentially biggest - step in the development of its LMP1 hybrid project when its Ginetta-Zytek prototype runs at Silverstone later today [Tuesday].
Sportscar veteran Johnny Mowlem -who expects to team up with the equally-experienced Stefan Johansson for the ground-breaking GZ09SH's race debut at next week's Larry H Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix - will give the car its first laps on home soil before heading to the United States.
“The car [with the hybrid system engaged] has not turned a wheel in Europe, so it's a lot of hope and faith,” Corsa team owner Steve Pruitt said, “Our engineers say everything is moving along well in getting the car put back together, but it has a lot of peculiar facets and unique things that haven't been tried.”
Like part of the 2009 F1 grid, the Corsa Ginetta-Zytek employs a Kinetic Energy Recovery System [KERS] that enables the collection and conversion of mechanical energy to electrical energy. The KERS captures the kinetic energy of motion usually dispelled as thermal energy under braking and converts it to electrical energy stored in the onboard lithium-ion battery system. An electric motor, capable of producing 35kw of additional power and fitted to the input shaft of the gearbox, is activated via a steering wheel-mounted button whenever there is need for additional power, and the stored energy is released from the battery, travelling through an inverter that changes the current from DC to AC and powering the electric motor.
Although the technology is in its infancy, it is believed that the system upon maturity can produce better power, fuel efficiency and a lower carbon footprint, but how the car performs and behaves with KERS engaged is still a big mystery to Pruitt.
“We still just don't know how [the captured energy] is going to be applied specifically," he admitted, "That's why I'm anxious to get Johnny's feedback. The project offers an interesting dynamic, and has a lot of potential and challenge, but it's frustrating on the same level. You have to go about it in logical steps.
“It is a very complicated and technical endeavour, much more than what we thought when we decided to do this about a year ago. Once we capture the energy and it's converted to the DC motor, it really circumvents the internal combustion engine. The general spirit of the rules results in developments that can be passed on to road-going technology.”
Mowlem and Corsa are no strangers, having finished third in the LMP1 class at last year's season-ending Monterey Sports Car Championships and, once the Silverstone shakedown is complete, both are scheduled fly out to the US. The Briton admits that he is keen to see the technology work, even if developing it means he is having to kerb his own racer's instinct.
“I think when you look around at the world we're living in, you can see that we are getting closer and closer to the need to find an alternative source of energy, and notice it as being on the top of most governmental and corporate wish lists,” he said, “I feel that hybrid and KERS technology is probably just one step on the road toward totally electric-powered vehicles.