Wellingborough [UK] – Thursday 4 December 2014: Having concluded the tenth FIA World Touring Car Championship season last month in Macau, RML has been evaluating the first year of the TC1 Cruze. Mark Way, Head of Chassis Engineering gives his insight into the performance this year, and reflects on key achievements:
Q: How would you sum up the first year of the TC1 – have the results been reflective of your expectations?
When you consider how little pre-season preparation we had and that all cars are being run by customers for the very first time then you have to consider the results as a success.
Q: How do you quantify the limited pre-season testing – did that provide disadvantage?
It cannot be underestimated. We would have liked more time to “design in” performance and more than just a few days of track time to optimise and learn the package. Testing during a race weekend is not ideal; you should only be tuning the car with known set up changes to optimise the car to the track on the day.
Q: Given how complex the new cars are, and that RML didn’t have a year to ‘run them in’, have you been impressed with the customer teams’ ability to run them?
I think it is a credit both to the design of the car and to the teams, how few technical issues we have had and how much progress with set up has been made.
Q: From an engineering perspective it must be difficult to design a car that you will not run first before releasing to customers – what challenges have you had to overcome?
Our normal design cycle would allow a single car to be built and tested. We would then iron out any reliability, operational and technical issues while continually adding performance updates. Only then do we sign off the car for production. For the launch of the RML Cruze TC1 we built 6 cars and had a minimum of 3 sets of spares committed before we had even turned a wheel. We had to manage this risk through the manufacturing process and work hard with our suppliers who were under immense pressure to include the engineering updates in all the sets of components they were manufacturing. To make this even more challenging, the first race was in Marrakech and some of the customers had significant damage.
Q: The Cruze has already claimed pole position, feature race wins, podiums & for ROAL Motorsport, the Yokohama Teams’ Trophy – are you surprised that the car emerged as the nearest competitor to Citroen?
Surprised – yes and delighted of course. It’s always in the back of your mind, what if we had a works program? I think we could have taken the challenge to Citroen.
Q: What are the key strengths of the Cruze – what makes it so competitive (having dominated WTCC in previous seasons as a TC2 car)?
It’s actually quite a big car and getting to the weight limit was a big design challenge even with the regulation changes. We carried over as many philosophies as were possible from the previous year’s car which is why the mechanical grip was good straight out the bag. The engine is carried over from the previous year’s car and has had no development although it’s performance is still strong and has continued its 100% reliability record.
Q: What would you consider a highlight/major milestone reached of the 2014 season for the Cruze?
We go racing to win races (and that is what history will remember) so of course the first race win with the new car by Gianni Morbidelli in Hungary was special, but I actually took a lot of satisfaction from the first Q2 result in Marrakech where we had three cars ahead of the works Hondas. Beijing was another highlight when Tom (Chilton) dominated from pole to win comfortably.
Q: What is next for 2015 – are there further upgrades, more testing planned, etc?
We have been working hard and have some performance upgrades planned. The teams are also co-ordinating their testing plans in February and we hope to take a role in supporting the engineering in these group tests.