McLaren’s plans for ‘su­per-tun­nel’ re­vealed

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

A new windtun­nel co­de­named ‘Project Boreas’ could pro­pel McLaren back to the front of the For­mula 1 grid – if they get per­mis­sion to build it

McLaren are qui­etly plan­ning to build a new windtun­nel fea­tur­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy as part of their long-term plan to be­come win­ners again. F1 Rac­ing un­der­stands that the windtun­nel, which will form part of a larger de­vel­op­ment on land ad­ja­cent to the ex­ist­ing McLaren Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre, could be co-funded by Honda, who are re­turn­ing to the sport as McLaren’s en­gine part­ners next year.

But the de­vel­op­ment plans de­pend not only on whether Honda de­cide to in­vest, but also on gain­ing per­mis­sion from lo­cal stake­hold­ers to build on the cho­sen green­field site – per­mis­sion that may not be forth­com­ing.

In 2011, McLaren an­nounced plans for an am­bi­tious new 60,000m2 build­ing, to be called the McLaren Ap­plied Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre, which would pro­vide a home for McLaren’s rapidly ex­pand­ing high-tech di­vi­sion – as well as ed­u­ca­tional out­reach fa­cil­i­ties for lo­cal schools and col­leges. Out­line plan­ning per­mis­sion was granted, but the project was put on ice when the lo­cal high­ways author­ity in­sisted on a num­ber of tough con­di­tions to mit­i­gate traf­fic im­pact, in­clud­ing a strict limit on ve­hi­cle move­ments in to and out of the site. If these ex­ceeded a ‘trig­ger point’ of 70 dur­ing peak hours, McLaren would have to fund a bus ser­vice run­ning be­tween Wok­ing and Chert­sey from 6.00am to 9.30pm daily for a min­i­mum of 20 years.

F1 Rac­ing un­der­stands that in­terim McLaren Rac­ing CEO Jonathan Neale has been charged with thaw­ing out the project and de­liv­er­ing the first phase, which will in­clude the new windtun­nel, within three years.

A lack of in­vest­ment in windtun­nel fa­cil­i­ties has come home to roost for sev­eral For­mula 1 teams in re­cent years since re­stric­tions on aero­dy­namic re­search were in­tro­duced, first vol­un­tar­ily as part of the Re­source Re­stric­tion Agree­ment, now as an el­e­ment of the FIA’s Sport­ing Reg­u­la­tions. Model size is capped at 60 per cent and hours of oper­a­tion are also limited in ad­di­tion to the num­ber of runs that can be per­formed.

Ad­vanced wind­tun­nels of­fer fea­tures such as con­tin­u­ous mo­tion sys­tems, where the an­gle of the model can be changed dur­ing the run with­out stop­ping, and par­ti­cle im­age ve­locime­try, where tiny bub­bles of oil are re­leased into the tun­nel and tracked with a laser. These fea­tures yield much more data per run. For this rea­son, both Fer­rari and McLaren are known to have used Toy­ota’s tun­nel in Cologne in pref­er­ence to their own be­cause it fea­tures such tech­nol­ogy.

The im­por­tance of the new tun­nel has been made clear in the plan­ning doc­u­ment McLaren’s con­sul­tants have lodged with the lo­cal coun­cil. It says: “The fa­cil­ity is crit­i­cal to the on-go­ing

de­vel­op­ment of the McLaren F1 rac­ing team and it will mark a sig­nif­i­cant step change for McLaren and their ca­pa­bil­i­ties within Wok­ing.”

The plans re­veal the scale and pro­file of the pro­posed windtun­nel build­ing, which lies at the western wing of what will ul­ti­mately be­come the McLaren Ap­plied Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre, along with a land­scap­ing scheme that will mit­i­gate its im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment. It will be con­nected to the ex­ist­ing MTC by a foot tun­nel un­der the A320, al­though McLaren boss Ron Den­nis is un­der­stood to favour a mech­a­nised trans­port so­lu­tion that in­sid­ers have dubbed the ‘Rono­rail’. The windtun­nel’s en­ergy con­sump­tion will be mit­i­gated by so­lar pan­els on the roof and a re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing sys­tem on the fan.

A team spokesman told F1 Rac­ing: “In or­der to keep pace with cur­rent tech­nol­ogy, we are con­stantly re­fin­ing the needs of our busi­ness.

“McLaren is in the fi­nal stages of ac­quir­ing additional land, the pur­chase of which will be com­pleted by the sum­mer. The plan­ning per­mis­sion you re­fer to is the first stage in a se­ries of phased fu­ture de­vel­op­ment plans.

“As with any large project planned far in ad­vance, these plans will be sub­ject to change and mod­i­fi­ca­tion as we progress over the next two to three years. We con­tinue to work with the lo­cal plan­ning author­ity and all in­ter­ested par­ties to en­sure that our on­go­ing pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with the lo­cal area continues.”

F1 Rac­ing un­der­stands the windtun­nel will be dis­cussed by Honda’s board and a de­ci­sion on whether to in­vest in it will be taken by July. If the project goes ahead, it could be op­er­a­tional by 2017. McLaren’s nearby road-car pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity took less than two years to build, de­spite one of the UK’s most se­vere win­ters on record.

Artist’s im­pres­sion of McLaren's orig­i­nal 2011 site de­vel­op­ment pro­posal 1 McLaren Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre 2 McLaren Pro­duc­tion Cen­tre 3 McLaren Ap­plied Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre

Prob­lems for But­ton in Bahrain (left) were in­dica­tive of the in­vest­ment McLaren ur­gently need to place in de­vel­op­ing new windtun­nel fa­cil­i­ties

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