From the racetrack to the road
Before venturing into a technical discussion, Luigi Piero Ippolito, Head of Innovation at Magneti Marelli since 2011, reiterates an important concept: «the racetrack is not the road», just like «the motorist, even the best one, is not the racetrack driver».
We need to make this premise because when one tries to tell how much and what parts of the products and processes developed by Magneti Marelli for the world of motorsport end up on “regular” street cars, «there is a great risk of getting mixed up», underscores Mr. Ippolito, in charge of the Innovation area who supervises all research & development and innovation units of the Company’s business lines.
That being said, is it fair to say that Formula 1 represents a testing ground for cutting-edge technologies which are later applied to road cars?
Formula1, like the entire racing world, is governed by regulations. Each regulation entails different channels from the innovation standpoint. For example, the KERS, which prefigures hybrid engines, was first applied in Formula1.
The HERS, Heat Energy Recovery System, on the other hand, was developed for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is a long race, and was then transferred to Formula1 starting from the 2014 season due to a change in the regulations.
It is racing as a whole that provides interesting ideas for the development of technologies that can later be transferred to road cars, of course with the suitable adaptations.
What is the element that most represents the difference between the two areas?
Duration and costs. Any technology developed for Formula1 is always intended to provide the highest performance for a limited time.
If, on the other hand, the technology has to exceed the lifecycle of a traditional automobile, other considerations come into play. Which means that the innovation and research process also needs to be revised.
The second constraint has to do with costs: Formula1 gives top priority to the performance factors, and it uses precious metals and manual processes that are not possible in mass production. Generally speaking, a technology developed for the racetrack requires significant modifications before it can be made available for mass-produced cars.
Does it also happen the other way around? Technologies specifically developed for the road which are then adapted for the competitions?
Certainly. Next year’s racing engines will be featuring direct injection systems limited to 500 bar. For mass-produced vehicles, we are already working towards the goal of 600 bar, and we are doing it because road vehicles have to comply with stringent regulations on the subject of particulate emissions.
When the pressure exceeds 500 bar, the particulate is reduced. F1 does not have this kind of problem, but the innovation carried out on GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) injectors for mass-produced cars is an excellent starting point for racing applications as well.
How important is the focus on environmental sustainability when you are working on the innovation front?
Our range of innovative activities covers most of the technologies aimed at mitigating the environmental impact through a reduction in CO2 emissions.
The idea of Magneti Marelli’s Green Engagement is developed in different ways in the technological area. We develop many technologies suited to this purpose both because they improve the efficiency of the systems and because they allow a recovery of kinetic and thermal energy which would otherwise be lost.
Discover the Magneti Marelli's technologies at the service of the environment. Click here.
To you, as an engineer, is it more interesting to deal with a problem involving road cars or motorsport?
I love motorsport for the excitement that it generates and for the undeniable attraction that comes from striving for extreme performance, but personally I prefer to dedicate my energy to solving daily problems of everyday people who use their automobiles to move in traffic or on motorways and have to do so with the highest possible comfort and safety.
Luigi Piero Ippolito
Head of Innovation at Magneti Marelli
Key word: Convergece
Present since 1919, today to Magneti Marelli Motorsport represents a technological laboratory and an incubator for the development of new skills and technologies that also feed and inspire new solutions for mass production. An unusual combination until recent times, today high performance and environmental sustainability travel on tracks that are increasingly convergent, driven by the growing need to reduce costs, consumption and emissions.
An example is the KERS, the system for the recovery of kinetic energy under braking developed as from 2008 for Formula1 and then source of solutions also for systems and components intended for mass-produced hybrid and electric engines (moto-generators, electronic control systems, inverters, etc.). Vice versa, technologies developed for mass production can be adopted in Motorsport.
The most glaring example of this is the highpressure injection technology or GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection), already adopted for some time on mass-produced vehicles in order to reduce consumption/emissions, boost performance, downsize the engine and now also used on the racetrack as well as in rallies. This technological osmosis contributes to the evolution towards new frontiers in terms of efficiency, performance, safety, reduced consumption and emissions, up to alternative engine and electronics at the service of smart mobility.