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‘Car of the Future’ drives composites innovation

Valvoline GRM Volvo Polestar S60 V8 Supercar

The striking blue Valvoline GRM Volvo Polestar S60 won two races at the recent Phillip Island V8 Supercar Championship thanks to brilliant driving by Scott McLaughlin, clever pit tactics and some innovative composites technologies.

V8 Supercars launched the ‘Car of the Future’ in 2013, ending the Ford vs Holden era by opening the door to other car makers. The new specifications encouraged teams to build lighter, more economical and agile cars that are highly competitive, making racing even more interesting for its millions of fans.

The opportunity for innovation and to join forces with Volvo Car Australia after many years with Holden was enough for Garry Rogers, a veteran of 50 years in the sport, to put aside any thoughts of retirement.

The Melbourne-based Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) team of engineers, designers, metal and composite technicians set about designing and building two Volvo S60s to maximise racing performance within the strict rules of the sport.

For GRM’s composites manager Scott Compson and his team, the contract with Volvo and the ‘Car of the Future’ requirements opened opportunities to maximise the weight and aerodynamic advantages offered by innovative composites technologies. “We are in a lucky position to be able to do real-life trials of new and innovative products and processes without the regulatory restrictions that govern the aerospace industry. Suppliers approach us to test new products in the demanding motorsport environment that they want to bring to the market,” says Compson.

Using Kevlar, e-glass and a tailor-made hybrid glass aramid fabric that has superior impact and tear resistance, Mr Compson’s team designed and built new moulds, introducing composites materials to an increased number of components, including door skins, front bar, rear bar, wings, guards, induction and cooling ducting, door trims, impact absorption structures, switch housings, airbox and brake driver cooling system.

“V8 Supercars still don’t use composites, especially carbon fibre, to the same extent as Formula 1. It’s been a gradual increase as changes in FIA approved regulations allow,” says Compson.

“We try to get the advantage by using materials that are wear resistant, lightweight and have strength but flexibility. Each composite part is half the weight and lasts longer than the same component in metal. A lot of effort goes into layup design and material selection to maximise each component’s performance.”

The GRM design of the Volvo S60’s front bumper bar and aluminium and composite wings has proven critical to its performance. The GRM team designed and manufactured prototypes in various shapes and sizes for aerodynamic testing at the Royal Australian Air Force Base at East Sale before settling on the final combination.

The hard work over 12 months paid off with a brilliant debut for Volvo in the 2014 V8 Supercar series that has seen young driver Scott McLaughlin claim nine ARMOR ALL Pole Positions and four wins, upsetting the Holden/Ford dominance and creating massive spectator interest in the closely contested races.

Volvo Car Australia’s then Managing Director, Matt Braid said at the February 2014 launch: “As the first luxury car manufacturer to enter V8 Supercars with a factory team, we’re delighted to reveal our Volvo S60 race car to meet the challenge of the world’s toughest touring car series and strengthen the presence of the S60 model line – and Volvo brand – here in Australia.”

More information
Garry Rogers Motorsport
V8 Supercars