Virgin Racing Launch CFD-designed VR-01


Virgin Racing has become the first of the new for 2010 teams to reveal its completed car, unveiling the VR-01.

While the planned online launch of the car fell foul to technical problems the first images of the car show a striking red and black design, highlighted by tribal print patterns, accompanied by drivers Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi.

The car is the first F1 challenger to be designed solely using solely Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) rather than using the normal, expensive large scale wind tunnel models.

The design in the brainchild of the team's Technical Director, Nick Wirth, one of the premier designers in the world with a proven record in CFD designed cars.

“Today is a very proud day for everyone involved with Virgin Racing,” said Wirth. “However on this occasion, where the car is the star, I want to pay tribute to all the amazing people at Wirth Research who deserve so much of the credit for the VR-01.”

“I have been fortunate to have worked with the very best designers in F1 and I am well aware of exactly what it takes to be successful in this sport. When you see what the existing teams have achieved using the conventional but proven design approach, it is unsurprising that there is a great deal of scepticism about our all-CFD approach. But we are competing in a sport that is undergoing significant change having come face to face with today's harsh economic realities.”

“Under resource restriction, convention will become too costly and necessity really will be the mother of invention. I have absolute belief in the digital design process and the opportunity to put the all-CFD approach to the test at the highest level – to demonstrate that this could be the way for the future of F1 – is very, very exciting.”

He went on to outline what the main considerations had been when designing the VR-01.

“We believe we have achieved a car that has first-class design integrity and which will benefit from a high degree of aerodynamic efficiency and stability. Reliability has been a major focus and all key areas comply with the FIA safety regulations and crash test requirements for the impact structures – the nose, monocoque, side and rear impact structures – which are particularly stringent in light of the increased fuel load.”

“I have always had the utmost confidence in Nick to design a good race car,” enthuses John Booth, team principal. “Just as he has the faith in the race team to make a good job of operating it. Having worked closely with the technical team over the past 10 months, I know that the VR-01 is the product of a very intensive and thorough design and development process and my excitement at seeing our first race car make its track debut later this week is shared by every single person involved with Virgin Racing.”

Fresh from the launch the car, fitted with the spec Cosworth engine being used by all four new teams, will head to Silverstone for two days of initial testing, the drivers' first actual testing after months of virtual testing in a simulator. The team will then join the rest of the F1 circus for the first winter test at Jerez, the team confident that car will feel the same to the one that Glock and di Grassi 'drove' in the simulator tests.

Even though the initial hard work has now been completed it remains clear that the team will continue with the CFD led approach.

“We are a serious racing team with serious ambitions, so we aren't going to try to run before we can walk,” reassures Wirth. “The starting point is to try to run reliably, safely and efficiently and be the best of the new teams. Then we will start to bring performance to the car through a continuous development programme in computer simulation.”

However, even Wirth concedes the limitations of CFD, planning to capitalise on experience that, among other things, includes designing the car that won the American Le Mans Series last year. “We fully expect to encounter issues along the way; CFD is an approximation – as is scale-model testing.”

“When you hit the track that you can really appreciate the effect of factors that are tricky to model with any technology such as the effect that the real stiffness of all bodywork components and joints has on the airflow for example. We've done all of this before on both closed and open-wheel cars, so I'm pretty confident in the accuracy of our predictions and looking forward to seeing how our starting configuration performs on the race track.”