If you’d like to check the behaviour of an engine, the results of an engine map, or conduct a ‘simple’ endurance test on the dyno, you need to go through the engine build department. Olivier Loret is the head of V8 engine build and development. He explains his world to us.
Olivier, what does your job entail ?
I look after a team whose role is to build engines that correspond to the needs of the test department. There is one type of engine that carries out gearbox tests, another type that is used to check out engine maps for different Grands Prix. Then there are also various engines that are tested to check performance or engines that are used for endurance tests. With regards the endurance engines, our role is to check batches of parts that will be used for future race engines.
It’s an important role, how do you carry out this validation process ?
The inspection department checks that a specific part conforms to the required specification. We then build the engine and test that part. Once we’ve done the endurance test, we take out the relevant part and get them checked by the reliability department. There are in fact two types of engine: one for the performance dynos and the other for endurance. After these stages the test department takes over the fully built engines. However, if it becomes necessary to update the engines to a new specification, that’s our responsibility.
Stock keeping must be complicated !
It is a bit like juggling. We don’t generally keep a lot of parts in stock so we make arrangements with other departments to make sure we have enough. We try to find the best solution to be able to build an engine to the required specification. The golden rule is that we must provide the right engine to be able to conduct the tests. We can trace over 4,000 parts on the engine, but around 50% of the parts are dealt with in batches, which is where the inspection work becomes very important.
How long does it take to build an engine ?
It takes two people approximately one week.
And how long to be able to make a change to the test engines?
It could be half a day, an hour…once we start to change something in the core of an engine, it is sometimes quicker and easier to build a completely new unit ! A lot depends on the plans we have, the workforce available and the needs of the test service. It is one thing to build an engine, another one to test it on the dyno afterwards.
Do things always run smoothly ?
Yes – you need to know when to take a step back to be able to be able to conform to the regulations. There are a lot fewer errors now that the engines are frozen. We specialise in checking batches of parts, and when the season restarts we focus on engine maps and gearbox testing.
How do you feel at the first fire up of an engine ?
There is always a little trepidation that there could be a human error. Even if there is typically zero error in this field, everyone is human so there is a little apprehension at this stage. However we normally have everything under control.
How do you prevent these errors ?
There are very precise documents that need filling in for every activity and there are also check lists. We work in parallel with another person so there will always be cross-checking between the pair to prevent oversights. To avoid any sort of problem, we try to involve everyone fully.
Are some parts re-used ?
Yes, there are some parts that have a fixed mileage, which is determined by the reliability department. Afer use, the part undergoes a restoration cycle; there is a visual inspection, on other parts there is a multi dimensional check and then something we call a crack test, which checks there are not any hairline fractures. There is also a magnetic test for all iron-based parts. If the part is deemed to be OK, then it will be brought back into the engine assembly department where it generally doesn’t stay very long!
Talk to us about the 2014 engines…
It’s actually really good. There are lots of new parts and technologies and we will need to change our procedures and how we build engines. Fundamentally, the engine will be completely different. We will have to be able to master this, but it will be a real pleasure to do so – it will take us out of the general routine as we haven’t seen a brand new engine since 2007!