Schaeffler Paravan - Steer-by-Wire is ready for the 24h endurance test at the Nürburgring
When the starting lights of the Nürburgring turn green on Saturday, 26 September 2020 at 3:30 pm, the longest endurance test to date will begin for the Space Drive System on board the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 #58: The ADAC TOTAL 24h Race Nürburgring is the next phase in the system's development following its deployment in sprint races.
The Nürburgring Nordschleife is considered the most difficult race track in the world for material and drivers. In the "Green Hell", the Space Drive System has to prove itself - twice around the clock - until the chequered flag falls on Sunday afternoon. A quartet of drivers with a wealth of Nordschleife expertise will be behind the wheel: Marvin Dienst (Lampertheim), Niklas Steinhaus (Schwelm), Kai Riemer (Filderstadt) and the 2011 VLN Endurance Champion Tim Scheerbarth (Dormagen) will take on the challenge.
For Schaeffler Paravan, this endurance test is the next logical step after Steer-by-Wire was successfully used in five race cars this year at various sprint races and test drives for more than 11,000 kilometres. So far, it has been installed in the Audi R8 LMS GT3, Mercedes-AMG GT3, Porsche 911 GT3 R, McLaren 570S GT4 as well as the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 without any technical problems and has been put to the test under real conditions on many race tracks. In GTC racing, the teams have already achieved numerous successes.
The Space Drive technology was approved by the German Motor Sport Federation (DMSB) in 2019 for the Audi R8 LMS GT3 as the first vehicle of its kind in the world and is now firmly anchored in the regulations of the series. Through the use of a real-time operating system, the responsiveness as well as the dynamics of the Space Drive System could be significantly increased. The tracking system has also been further optimised by new software features. In addition to the steering system, the force feedback steering wheel used is also being further developed. In addition, the diagnostic capability of the system was optimised by means of further sensor technology. The knowledge gained from the application flows directly into the further development of the system.
The use of the Space Drive System under the extreme conditions of racing has already given us many important impulses for the further development of the system. Through the optimisations, we have already been able to drive out important parameters.
"The use of the Space Drive System under the extreme conditions of racing has already given us many important impulses for the further development of the system. The optimisations have already enabled us to drive out important parameters," says Roland Arnold CEO of Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co.KG and founder of Paravan GmbH, which developed the technology from disabled mobility. "Testing the robustness and durability of the system over such a long distance is the next logical step after the successes of the last races. We hope that this will provide us with further important findings for large-scale production. In this way, we are creating an important basis for new mobility concepts for the future. Space Drive is already road-legal today and an important key technology for autonomous driving in Level 4 and 5."
About the race car
The Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 has been used very successfully by W&S Motorsport from Ofterdingen in the Nürburgring Endurance Series since this year. The race car has completed five endurance races of four or six hours without any technical problems and was able to achieve podium finishes. At the beginning of September, the vehicle was modified and is now in use with the Space Drive steering system - with no mechanical connection between the steering unit and the steering gear - from Schaeffler Paravan. The Cayman already successfully completed its first test run a fortnight ago at the GTC Race.
"As W&S Motorsport, we want to guarantee optimum use for the system, deliver a top team performance and thus contribute our part to the further development of the system," says W&S Motorsport Team Principal and Managing Director Daniel Schellhaas. "The assignment is something very special for us. We can make a significant contribution here to the further development of an important future technology and thus prove that the Space Drive technology from Schaeffler Paravan is already ready to withstand 24 hours under extreme conditions without any problems."
We want to show that the system can drive for 24 hours, or over 3,000 kilometres at a stretch, and that on the toughest track in the world. The Nordschleife is known for its pitfalls. Proving that is a great challenge and, if we manage it, also a huge achievement.
The system was implemented within a week. An achievement that was only possible as a team. A great team spirit developed between the W&S engineers and mechanics as well as the Schaeffler Paravan and PARAVAN team. After the complete integration of the Space Drive System, the first practical tests were carried out on the company's own test site as well as on the Mengen airfield.
"We want to show that the system can drive for 24 hours, or over 3,000 kilometres at a stretch, and that on the toughest track in the world. The Nordschleife is known for its pitfalls. Proving that is a big challenge and, if we succeed, also a huge achievement," says Axel Randolph, Head of Racing at Schaeffler Paravan Technologie.
Quotes from the drivers after the first race at the GTC Race on the Grand Prix circuit of the Nürburgring and before the ADAC TOTAL 24h Race
"The first feeling was not fundamentally different from the conventional steering. I felt comfortable straight away in free practice. It always motivates me when I can contribute to future developments," says Marvin Dienst.
"At first it feels a bit organic, like simracing, but in the race it quickly becomes apparent: there's not much difference!" reports Nordschleife specialist Kai Riemer after his first drive. Riemer is taking part in the 24h race for the 28th time - and yet this time it is a premiere for him as well. "In the 24h race we will certainly not drive as aggressively as you do in sprint races, for example. It will feel easier from the start. Our goal is to get the car over the distance, I'm very optimistic that we'll succeed."
"You can hardly tell the difference," Niklas Steinhaus agrees. "Then, when you are in your racing flow and driving at speed, you quickly forget that you don't have a mechanical connection at all. That gives you a safe feeling. If the data can be used in ten or even twenty years and if you have made a contribution to it, that makes me proud. With its heights, crests and dips, the Nordschleife is a special challenge." As an engineer for vehicle technology, he knows these special features.
"For me it is the first race with W&S Motorsport on the Nordschleife. The guys work very professionally and are extremely successful in the NLS," Tim Scheerbarth is pleased. For him it is the eleventh 24h race. "Of course, we want to generate as much data as possible on Space Drive and drive through without any problems. A good result on top would be super, of course."
The first feeling was not fundamentally different from the conventional steering. I immediately felt comfortable. It always motivates me when I can contribute to future developments.
The final preparations for the motorsport marathon are running right up to the last minute. On Monday of the race week, Michelin was still testing at full speed at the Hockenheimring. "Every day we spend on the race track gives us new insights. We are learning more and more about the system, especially with regard to the development of new components," summarises Axel Randolph, Head of Racing with regard to technology development.
24 hours are also a special challenge for the race engineers. Technical preparation is important so that all the data can be collected and processed. In contrast to other series, this data can already be transmitted live from the car to the pits during the race.
"This is the first time we are racing at the 24h race. For us, the primary goal is to drive the distance," says Klaus Graf, who himself has been a participant in the 24h race several times and is responsible for team coordination and strategy in the Schaeffler Paravan Racing Team. "That's what our strategy is designed around, the primary goal is to showcase the technology and demonstrate the longevity of Space Drive in competition. For the drivers, with a view to physical strain, we already expect advantages when steering."
The final preparations on site are on the team's schedule for Wednesday 23 September, before things get serious on the Nordschleife for the first time on Thursday. Here, the Space Drive System will have to face the demanding endurance test in Qualifying 1 as well as in the night qualifying. The big race itself will be exhausting due to the long night hours, and the Eifel weather forecaster has already predicted some rain.