Nerd's Eye View: The Dyson Mazda ALMS P1 Prototype

By Mike Kojima

I am old enough to have been around during what I consider to be the golden era of American road racing in the 80's.  In this time we saw the rise of IMSA with the outrageous GTP prototypes and the exotic sort of production based GTO and GTU cars.  SCCA had Trans Am and even CART Open wheelers were sporting awesome technology rivaling Formula One with closer, more exciting racing.  I was lucky enough to have been a fan during this time and later on in the decade a participant.

Fast forward to the present.  Interest in road racing in this country is at an all time low.  Open wheel racing has turned into an expensive spec class and spectators and TV coverage are down to almost nothing.  All anyone seems to care about is NASCAR which in itself does consist of really super high dollar and high tech spec cars as well.  For the tech nerd fan things seem to be looking grim.

There is hope on the horizon though, ALMS has the exotic Prototype cars reminiscent of years gone by, SCCA's World Challenge series is once again being populated by diverse and technically cool cars and Grand Am is getting stronger and more interesting every year.  In 2014 there will be an attempt to globally unify many of the World's racing classes so international competition of exotic road racing machinery may become possible.  The thing is, will the jaded instant gratification addicted American public ever embrace real racing again? God we hope so.

During the Long Beach race weekend we were lucky enough to be able to get a close look at one of the most sophisticated cars on the ALMS circuit, The Dyson Mazda P1 Prototype.  We hope that there will be a resurgence in interest in road racing and there will be more of these cars with fans and corporate sponsors behind them in the near future.  These machines are so much more interesting than NASCAR!

We managed to get in and shoot the car while it was down during an engine change.  The engine was damaged during practice and the team was scrambling to get the car back on the track.  Because of all the hustle we had to stay out of the way and most of our shots were quick snap shots and not all the pictures we would have liked.  The team's busyness also prevented us from asking much in the way of questions.
To replace the engine the entire rear of the car is removed.  In typical race car fashion the main part of the chassis is a carbon fiber monocoque tub that the engine and transaxle bolt to.  The transaxle supports the rear suspension with the engine serving as a stressed member.  The aero parts and some of the chassis load are supported by a steel tubular trellis assembly as well.  Here the crew has removed the bodywork, the transaxle and are about to remove the engine.
The engine is a called a Mazda MZR-R to give it some connection to a Mazda production motor.  It is a bespoke racing engine designed from a clean sheet of paper but it is loosely derived from an MZ series engine found in the CX-7 diesel as well as the Mazdaspeed 3 and 6.  A modified production engine was considered but it was decided to start from a clean sheet of paper due to the stressed member aspect of the chassis and the packaging issues that adding a drysump to a production engine might cause.
The engine is called the P70 by AER and supersedes the successful LMP 2 engine the P07.  Most notably the P70 is a very small and light engine, exceeding the performance of the P07 by about 10 percent while being significantly smaller and lighter.   The carbon intake manifold has two stages of injector, port injectors and shower injectors at the trumpets for charge cooling.  Charge cooling can be considerable as the car runs on bio ethanol race fuel.  Ethanol has double the latent heat of vaporization that gasoline does which makes for substantial charge cooling.
The AER P70 has a displacement just under 2000cc with a bore of 90mm and a stroke of 78.4. With advanced casting technology and FEA design being used to pare every bit of excess weight possible from the block and head, the P70 weighs in at a feathery 163 lbs!   This is the smallest and lightest engine currently being raced in sports prototypes in the world.  The P70 uses AER's in house ECU, the Life Racing F88 for controlling the fuel and firing the coil on plug ignition.  In this shot you can see the top part of the tubular steel support trellis over the engine.  The trellis takes a lot of load off of the block.  Old school race cars put all of the load through the engine but older engines were much beefier and the trellis is used to avoid cylinder and main distortion which could cause a loss of power or durability.


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Tuesday, May 07, 2013 4:04 AM
Excellent in-depth article Mike! Thanks for sharing.
I thought the expensive wood used on the splitter and other carbon parts is Balsa, but I could be wrong.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 6:27 AM
Nice piece to be sure. I'm sure you know this, but it's worth noting for some of the folks out there that the carbon structure are that thick because they're sandwiching aluminum honeycomb. Mulsanne's corner (mulsannescorner.com) has a lot of technical info on the Lolas and other recent vintage prototypes too, for those interested / who didn't know.

Really like the detail on the alternator/starter too, cute little detail.

Problem is with the ALMS/Grand Am "merger" for next year, P1 is going away entirely; they're too much faster than DP cars (well, many things are) which means no Audi or Toyota since they're playing for the top step at LeMans. Rumblings in the paddock and whatnot suggest that the performance difference between P2 and DP will be solved by slowing the P2s (apparently in meetings between the DP owners they decided they're not willing to spend anything to make the DP cars go faster) so I'm not sure where that leaves the ALMS spec GT cars that were also already faster than the DP cars, and close enough in speed to P2 where things were sometimes dangerous in terms of passing. Whole thing is looking grim.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 10:02 AM
I am nearly 100% sure that the area of the tub near the suspension pick up points is solid carbon, this is not a good place for honeycomb. I would expect to find honeycomb for the base of the keel and in large strips in the sides of the tub. Honeycomb is used in the structural parts of the body panels and splitter. It is not to easy to see in pictures but you can see it in person.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 10:10 AM
Old book I saw on Lola's ill fated mid-90s F1 attempt used tuffnol inserts where loads got fed in - I made an overgeneralization before, my fault.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 10:52 AM
Nice article Mike. This is what I'm talking about!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 11:41 AM
If you are interested, Khiem added some details about the TR30R turbo. I edited some confusion on the rear accessory drives and tanks.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 11:55 AM
Another note, we wrote about honeycomb being used in the body panels. It is also likely that the carbon around the root of the body mounts is most likely full thickness as this area is highly stressed, it must support the force generated by the diffusers and the rear wing. These forces are cantilevered with a moment arm several feet long and probably equate to several thousand pounds.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 12:01 PM
It's funny looking back at the evolution of prototypes in the ALMS era; LMP675/P2 started off with folded aluminum faced honeycomb panel tubs and now we're here.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 6:44 PM
Awesome article, thanks! Some of my best friends work on the team (lol you caught one of them on cam, he's the one putting the clutch on)

Here's a pic of the rear suspension when it's back together : http://i.imgur.com/VwDNCBJ.jpg

and the 20 car they ran last year : http://i.imgur.com/2NCsdev.jpg
Thursday, May 09, 2013 6:41 PM
I gotta ask does this car use an antilag system? Particularly a system which feeds fresh air directly to the exhaust plumbing?
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