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Reverse Engineering F1’s blast from the past

14 August 2020

One of the strengths of the Cosworth business is being able to take sixty years of automotive experience and ensure it has value and relevance in the modern day. Whether it’s a clean sheet hybrid project or reverse engineering motorsport classics, Cosworth’s in-house engineering expertise embraces any technical challenge.

In recent years Cosworth’s electronics division has been working closely with Williams Heritage, who manage the team’s collection of historic F1 cars. It has provided the technical knowhow and engineering solutions that have allowed some of the sport’s most iconic vehicles to take to the track once more, including the championship winning FW14B (1992), FW15 (1993) and FW19 (1997), as well as the multiple race-winning FW17 (1995).

Firstly, Cosworth had to reverse engineer the electronics on each of the cars – which feature a 3.0L or 3.5L Renault engine, revving to over 15,500RPM – to run with its latest specification engine control unit, the MQ12Di. When it is working on such celebrated cars, ones that steered Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Jacques Villeneuve to F1 title glory, it is important to uphold their integrity.

Using the Pi Autosim gave Cosworth a starting point with the calibration of the FW14B & FW15C. The process follows a meticulous path. Once the engine hardware is tested and reviewed, its team generates a base engine map, and proceeds to carry out a full engine calibration.

Once the engine calibration is complete, attention moves to the chassis integration.

Continuous Pit Lane checks and analysis
MQ12Di successfully running with the engine after reverse engineering the electronics

The work involves system integration with the hydraulic suspension and gearshift which is controlled by the Williams Vehicle Control Module (VCM). Cosworth worked alongside individuals who have been designing the VCMs for over 30 years, as well as team members who are now managing the current F1 electronics.

The outcome is a completely functioning car, including original dashes, displays and all switches, and some very happy customers. Cosworth saw first-hand the reaction that these renewed cars can elicit at a Williams Heritage customer event in Florida earlier this year, with plenty of interest in the work that had been carried out to bring these title winners back on track in a manner befitting their status in the F1 history books.

This is a project that has not only transformed incredibly successful Williams Heritage customer vehicles for the modern generations to enjoy, but also one that has showcased the breadth of capability of our electronics.

The Cosworth and Williams names are well known in motorsport, so are delighted that our collaboration can continue into a new era with very modern, cutting edge technology solutions.

For more on Cosworth’s electronics product range, click here.

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