AUGUST 4, 2004
What is this torque transfer business?
During the Friday testing for the German Grand Prix Lucky Strike BAR Honda ran its spare car fitted with a software-controlled hydraulic system which allows torque transfer from one front wheel to the another. This meant that the car was able to corner much more smoothly (and therefore more quickly). The FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer examined the system and concluded that it was not in compliance with Article 11.1.3 of the 2004 FIA Formula 1 Technical Regulations and referred the question to the stewards of the meeting: Paul Gutjahr, Mumtaz Tahincioglu and Waltraud Wunsch.
Article 11.1.3 states that "any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of the brake system is forbidden". The stewards ruled that the BAR system was not acceptable but BAR has now appealed that decision in order to get a clearer picture of why the system is not allowed because there are implications in other systems in other areas of the car. It is not clear what BAR is trying to establish by its appeal but obviously it either has doubts about other systems being used on other cars or it has something clever which it wants to try out in the future. It is perhaps worth noting that for several years the Honda Prelude SH model has been fitted as standard with a system called the Active Torque Transfer System on which it seems the BAR system is based. The engineers at BAR and Honda may have some argument which they believe makes the system acceptable.
According to some other teams the FIA issued clarifications some years ago to cover such systems but as these are not written into the actual rules it is hard too know who has seen them and who has not seen them. This, of course, leads to important questions about the rules in F1 which are often deliberately vague and have been the subject of many clarifications in the past, none of which are available to the public.
This is in keeping with the current culture of secrecy which exists throughout the sport for no apparent reason. Why this is necessary is a mystery and adds nothing to the sport.
"The one thing about F1 that sets it apart is that it is regarded as the pinnacle of the sport from the technology view," said BAR boss David Richards in an interview last year. "This at odds with the entertainment that the public and the TV audience demand but we could kill the golden goose if we are not careful. This is where we have the two poles: on the one hand you have the argument that we should have total freedom and at the opposite extreme you have the smaller teams and Max Mosley who are saying nobody can afford it. Formula 1 has to be entertaining but without the image that the sport it is no good. Formula Ford is entertainment but it does not have the glamorous image. We have to be careful when going down the route of cost-saving and reducing technology that we do not lose the whole aura that is F1.
"If motorsport wishes to fulfil a role for motor manufacturers it has to be far more transparent about the way it is managed. It has to be far more disciplined in the way it sets its regulations and adheres to them and it has to listen to all these issues."
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