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Behind the scenes of a Reiter Young Stars team

16 August 2017

Reiter Engineering provides students with a passion for motorsport and are studying a relevant degree the opportunity to work within an international GT competition and start their career on the motorsport ladder.

The KTM X-Bow GT4 is a pure-bred race car, from a company whose mantra is ‘Ready To Race’. Having proved its competitiveness with a world-renowned range of bikes that have won motorsport competitions the world over, most notably winning the Dakar Rally 16 consecutive times, KTM ventured into 4-wheel racing with the X-Bow. This was jointly developed by KTM and Reiter Engineering which are the title sponsors of the Reiter Young Stars (RYS) Cup along with SRO group.

The car is based on the ultralight, road-legal KTM X-Bow but unlike most race car versions of production cars, weight was added on rather than taken off that came in the form of extra bodywork. The car is primarily composed of a carbon fibre monocoque with a steel rear sub frame housing the powerplant, an Audi S3 TFSI 2-litre straight-four engine producing 320 bhp limited to 7200 rpm that has been revised for motorsport purposes, specifically for endurance races such as the Dubai 24 hours.

Weighing 1025 kg empty, the GT4 X-Bow yields a power-to-weight ratio of 312 bhp/tonne. This power is then transmitted through a hydraulically actuated and self-adjusting dry twin plate clutch to a 6-speed Holinger SF sequential gearbox transmitting power to the rear wheels.

Brake performance is provided by two-piece aluminium Reiter Engineering 6-pot and 4-pot brake callipers on the front and rear respectively, clamping on grooved Reiter Engineering steel discs.

Unsprung weight is reduced by using 18 inch OZ Racing cast magnesium alloy wheels with 260/660 and 300/680 Pirelli tyres on the front and rear of the car respectively.  WP Gas pressure dampers are utilised for both the front and rear suspension, providing 16-way adjustable rebound damping, compression high-speed and compression low-speed damping. Along with adjustments for the length of the shock absorber, these highly sophisticated dampers ensure the X-Bow is kept firmly glued to the track.

Spring rates between the front and rear of the car can be adjusted depending on track characteristics to 80/100, 120/120 and 160/140 N/mm respectively. Depending on driver feedback during free practice sessions, the front anti-roll bar can be disconnected or connected and adjusted to three different stiffness settings. The rear anti-roll bar can either be connected or disconnected. Furthermore the carbon fibre rear aerofoil can be adjusted to nine different settings depending on track characteristics.

While on track, the driver can adjust both the brake balance between the front and rear axles and the ABS system. The pit limiter and radio buttons located on the steering wheel ensure the car does not exceed the 50km/h speed limit while in the pit lane and allow the driver to communicate to the student race engineers while on track.

The balance of performance (BOP) permits all competitors to compete on equal ground which changes depending on which particular vehicle has an advantage each weekend. The BOP limits parameters such as the front and rear camber, minimum ride heights, vehicle curb weight and max engine RPM.

Qualifying and race strategies are discussed after assessing free practice performance. Photo by Joel Kernasenko

How we prepare the car/ what we adjust/do on track  

Preparation for each race weekend begins with determining the base setup that the team will run during free practices on track. Since the team has no previous experience racing or testing at each track during the season, we rely on reviewing on-board footage of other vehicles from previous events. We then determine the track characteristics and the corresponding setup three weeks prior to the event. Additionally, a session plan is created for the entire race weekend and although it is inevitably subject to change by incidents both on and off track, it helps break down the four days into smaller tasks that help the team stay focused which is also
given tasks to complete prior to each event by the senior engineers. This includes damper calculations or research which is graded towards the team score in the student Reiter Young Stars (RYS) competition.

While trackside the team adjusts the tyre pressures depending on the conditions. Ensuring the correct pressures and temperatures are maintained within the tyres is key to guaranteeing the performance of the car is kept at its optimum. Tyre temperatures and pressures are recorded during free practice, in order to gauge an understanding of pressures that should be set during qualifying and the race. Tyre wear is also monitored to confirm the life and safe operating limits of each one. Driver briefs and de-briefs utilise driver feedback to influence car setup. All adjustable parameters on the car can be altered within regulations by the student engineers and mechanics, allowing the handling of the car to better suit driver preference.

Qualifying and race strategies are discussed after assessing free practice performance. Telemetry and on-board footage is analysed to compare the driver’s performances, enabling continuous improvements on driver development. Data logging is carried out after every warm up and track session, supplementing the telemetry analysis for the engineers and drivers. From this, fuel calculations are carried out to provide a successful session and gain valuable points for the students in the RYS championship. During the race the pit stop window is communicated by the student engineers to the driver with race strategy, track performance and track conditions influencing the pit stop. The minimum pit stop time is calculated by the student race engineers, with RYS points awarded for a pit stop which is closest to the minimum pit stop time. Go Pros are managed by the students and documentation of the entire weekend is completed during and after the weekend.

The second round of RYS, which served as the third round of the GT4 season, saw the team travel to the famous Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. Photo by Joel Kernasenko

Resume of the season

RYS Team Kiska had an impressive start to the season with drivers  Lennart Marioneck and Jonathan Cecotto storming to victory at  Misano for the opening round of the GT4 European Series Northern Cup Championship. Unfortunately, contact with RYS Team KTM during Race 2 dropped the team which was sitting second overall at the time to sixth position once we had crossed the finish line.

The second round of RYS, which served as the third round of the GT4 season, saw the team travel to the famous Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. After unsettled weather the previous night, Saturday morning started wet. Although the rain ceased shortly before qualifying, our new driver Gottfried Pilz started his first stint in wet conditions. Following both sessions, RYS Team Kiska started P16 and P7 on the grid for race 1 and 2 with Pilz starting Race 1. After a dramatic session, Marioneck finished Race 1 fourth overall and the team placed second in the Silver category.

Race 2 was somewhat less dramatic with fewer accidents and safety cars. Pilz crossed the chequered flag in third position both overall and in class. Red Bull Ring saw RYS Team Kiska pick up valuable points with both Marioneck and the team second in the GT4 Series Northern Cup driver and team championships, despite not attending the second round of the series at Brands Hatch. RYS Team Kiska was hoping to follow up with another strong outing at Slovakiaring. Unfortunately politics intervened. After altering and tuning the suspension setup during free practices, the student engineers were confident that this would give the new Czech drivers the best performance possible in the car for qualifying.

Fortunately, the adjustments to the dampers and anti-rolls bars saw Erik Janis take pole position for Race 1 with the fastest lap of the weekend. Following a 10 minute interval Josef Záruba jumped in the car, bringing the car home in sixth position for the second race at a rather hot Slovakia Ring.

It seemed like the sun was shining on the Reiter paddock with the KTM X-Bow GT4 cars dominating the first five positions on the grid for Race 1. Unfortunately our excitement was soon crushed by a decision made by the GT4 stewards to disqualify all KTM X-BOW cars from both races due to high camber readings recorded at Parc Fermé, which was later found to incorrect due to damaged equipment. Despite this, all Reiter Young Star cars started from the back of the grid for both races.

Race 1 saw RYS Team Kiska climb from P23 to P10, the highest KTM finisher. Yet another decision disqualified the majority of the KTM cars from Race 1 as the cars were not compliant with the balance of performance which was changed just shy of two hours before the start of the race. Re-programming the engine limit on all eight cars was simply not possible in this time.

Parc Fermé opened 45 minutes before the start of the second race for those cars disqualified. After a struggle to prepare the car, RYS Team Kiska lined up P25 for the race. Unfortunately our luck had run out when a collision on the exit of the turn 1 of the first lap with #94 RYS Team Racecom, meant that both teams had to retire from the race. Despite all the hardship and trouble, our colleagues RYS Team KTM climbed from 23rd on the grid to take first overall.

RYS Team Kiska’s next event is at the famous circuit Zandvoort on the 19th and 20th of August. Where the Reiter Young Stars are hoping for some better luck and well needed points in the championship.

The opening race of the series at Misano was a triumphant one for the team. Photo by Joel Kernasenko

Outline of the team/ Uni 

Reiter Engineering provides students with a passion for motorsport and are studying a relevant degree the opportunity to work within an international GT competition and start their career on the motorsport ladder.

The Reiter Young Stars (RYS) Cup currently has eight teams from eight universities around Europe. Each team consists of two student race engineers, one managing/marketing student and two young drivers who race the KTM X-Bow GT4 car.

The drivers have direct contact with potential sponsors within the championship and have the opportunity to win two championships since Reiter Young Stars hold their own championship within the GT4 European Series Northern Cup. The winning drivers in the RYS competition are rewarded with a funded season in a Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo competing in the GT3 Blancpain sprint series with the support of SRO. Meanwhile the student RYS teams compete against one another in the RYS championship where they are scored on data analysis/debriefs, communication, regulation/rule book knowledge and documentation to name but a few.

As for RYS Team Kiska, we are a team of talented engineers from Queens University Belfast who are currently third in the GT4 European Series Northern Cup team championship. Queens University Belfast has had a long history if internal combustion engine research and has a successful year in motorsport with Queens Formula Racing (QFR) finishing seventh overall in the Formula Student competition at Silverstone, winning awards for best acceleration event and most efficient ICE.

Our management student Keith, studies a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and has previous experience working as a stress technologist on an Internship at Rolls-Royce Plc. Returning to Rolls-Royce, he is currently undertaking an internship within operational management this summer.

Steve, a previous graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University and a motorsport enthusiast, is studying a Masters in Aerospace Engineering with previous work experience in the railway, automotive and pharmaceutical sectors.

Joanne, our second engineer has a thirst for knowledge and experience that cannot be quenched, studies a Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Her previous experience includes working with Japan Tobacco International as a site service engineer involved with projects on Boilers, AHU’s and CHP plants.

The race at the Slovakiaring was spoilt by the stewards' decision to disqualify all the KTM X-Bows due to incorrect measurements in Parc Ferme. Photo by Joel Kernasenko

What we have learned from the programme so far 

Having very little experience in the world of race car setup and GT racing, the season so far has been eye opening. The team have not only learnt how suspension setup and tyre pressures alter the ride handling of the car, but also how to analyse the telemetry and on-board footage after each session to assist in driver development and suspension adjustment to achieve the perfect lap.

Travelling to and from some of the most famous circuits in Europe with Reiter Engineering and RYS Team Kiska has allowed the students to experience the exciting and thrilling world or motorsport, with very little sleep and lots of coffee.

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