Ceramics keep supersonic record challenger cool

Cooling a 135,000bhp, 1,000mph car poses critical challenges for safety and performance that now, just six months ahead of the first run, the Bloodhound team is looking to solve


As the build of Bloodhound SSC gains momentum and a planned UK test in Newquay is just months away, engineers are increasingly looking at the detail design challenges to help them push the car to 1,000mph and above. These include the issues of cooling the tightly-packaged Rocket engine together with ensuring the volatile HTP (High Test Peroxide) doesn’t decompose before it reaches the rocket chamber and in effect, become a bomb.

“We’ve got approximately 1,000 litres of HTP that has the equivalent explosive force of one stick of dynamite per litre if it reaches 40°C, and starts to decompose,” says Tony Parraman of the sponsorship liaison team. “Packaging dictates that our supercharged Jaguar engine, that we use to pump 900 litres in just 20 seconds, is sat next to the tank so preventing heat transfer is on our essential list.”

As a prime source of heat in proximity to the tank, the Bloodhound SSC team specified Zircotec’s ThermoHold® ceramic coating for the Jaguar exhaust. Plasma-sprayed at twice the speed of sound itself, the coating can reduce surface temperatures by at least 30 percent, ensuring even as heat builds up during the two runs needed for the record to be validated, the tank remains stable.

Zircotec Composite coating Bloodhound

Unlike previous record challenging cars, a large proportion of the Bloodhound front structure is composite. Chosen for its excellent strength/weight ratio, the drawback of composites is its poor resistance to temperature compared to metallic options. “We turned to Zircotec again,” adds Parraman. “We know that they have supplied heat resistant coatings to F1 teams for years, literally preventing the delamination of carbon fibre in high temperature environments, enabling the material to be used above its traditional melting point.” Zircotec proposed ThermoHold® for Composites, a zirconia-based coating that is applied at temperatures exceeding 10,000°C but in such a way that the substrate is unaffected. “Zircotec’s patented technology for protecting composites offers a huge benefit, allowing the use of lightweight materials in places where they are exposed to significant heat. Our engineers are not experts in thermal management and having Zircotec’s technical support is helping to ensure we only use the coating where it is needed, saving weight where we can,” adds Parraman. “We have used the coating on the composite upper chassis hoop, offering lightweight resistance that lowers surface temperatures by 100°C.”

Digging deeper into the Zircotec parts bin has seen Bloodhound pick ZircoFlex®. The proven hybrid aluminium/ceramic heatshield, just 0.3mm thick, is being applied around any areas of the vehicle where heat is expected and needs to be resisted. “With ZircoFlex® we can bend and mould it to shape, it’s lightweight and with self-adhesive backing, good for up to 500°C, we can use in lots of areas,” claims Parraman. “For example after a two minute run, the internal temp of the jet or rocket might be 3000°C but the externals are 200°C. We can manage that heat with ZircoFlex®, protecting wiring looms and composite panels.”

With ambient temperatures of 40°C expected in the South African desert, Zircotec is being relied upon to keep temperatures down during the critical time slot of one hour between the two runs. “We’ve got 60 minutes to turn the car ‘around,” adds Parraman. “We want to prevent heat soak during this time. It will help us work faster without the risk of getting burnt and if we need to change the rocket, it should speed up changeover time.”

The team will trial the car in South Africa, providing a real test of the thermal protection. “We plan to thermocouple the car and see where the heat issues are,” suggests Parraman. “It’s a one-off and we are pushing the boundaries so we don’t know all the answers. Once we do, we’ll be working with Zircotec to ensure that when we do get to Hakseen Pan in South Africa we are fully prepared to deal with the heat.”

Jordan selects Zircotec ceramic coating for Austin A40 Historic Touring Car

Performance and period look leads crack historic race team to pick Zircotec for its 1958 Austin A40


ceramic spray by hand Jordan Austin A40

A blend of increased performance coupled with a period look has led Mike Jordan to specify Zircotec’s ThermoHold® thermal barrier coating for its Austin A40 historic touring car. The ability to squeeze more performance from the 1293cc A Series engine and ensuring a more period look under the bonnet led Jordan to use Zircotec and follows the use on both the Ford GT40 he prepared and son Andrew’s BTCC MG6.

“Historic racing is very competitive and we are looking for every opportunity to get performance from the car,” says Mike Jordan. “The coating keeps heat levels down underbonnet and can offer a little bit extra performance. Every gain, especially when you only have 130bhp is worthwhile.”

Alongside the performance and surface temperature reductions of up to 33 percent, aesthetics also played a key role in Jordan’s selection. “When we built the car, we had a shiny stainless manifold that wasn’t really period,” adds Jordan. “Increasingly historic events want classic race cars to look as they did in period. Zircotec’s black ceramic coating looks right and is so much neater than wraps or exhaust bandages.”

ceramic spray by hand

Renowned for its high standards of preparation and with a string of successes, it’s unsurprising that the former British Touring Car racer’s outfit is already preparing more cars and planning to use Zircotec on the next car. “We’ve got a Lotus Cortina Touring Car coming next and we’ll be using Zircotec again on that.”

Demand sees further recruitment at Oxfordshire Porsche Specialist

Amy Plant joins Autofarm’s Projects Team to meet growing demand at Bicester business


BICESTER – Continuing growth at independent Porsche specialist Autofarm has led to the firm recruiting Amy Plant to work at the Bicester workshops.  Amy will work in the burgeoning Projects department that custom builds, restores and repairs all types of Porsche.

amy plant

“The rise in values of Porsches, coupled with more customers wanting a bespoke Autofarm 911 means Projects is our fastest growing area of the business,” says Autofarm’s co-owner Mikey Wastie. “After taking over Autofarm earlier this year, we have been putting in a structure to support the growth we are enjoying. Amy will ensure we retain the intimate service that long term restoration customers or those who are entrusting us to repair their treasured cars rightly demand.  Amy will provide regular updates on progress and be somebody they can easily reach to discuss any aspect. She will also increasingly be responsible for scheduling the growing diversity of projects we have. This week that ranges from a new Porsche 991 GT3 through to a 1973 Targa.”


Autofarm is also recruiting to bolster its Workshop department with further recruitment to be announced in the coming weeks.

Harris ‘flies’ on US Sprint Car Debut

Oxfordshire driver impresses locals with his speed but damage sustained during Kokomo event prevents Brit Tom Harris from completing his first full weekend of Sprint Car Racing

sprint car airborne

After exciting local Sprint Car observers and fellow drivers with the speed shown in his 875bhp Bob East car, Banbury’s Tom Harris suffered damage in the second round at the Kokomo Speedway that prevented him from completing the first weekend’s racing in the spectacular race series that sees cars topping 130mph on dirt. Harris had already made significant progress at his first meeting at Gas City on Friday evening, starting to get to grips with the nuances of a Sprint Car racing on dirt to reach the C-Main. With further running Harris had further closed the gap to the local front runners in early heats at the second meeting at Kokomo before running wide on Turn 4 pitched him into a roll, requiring repairs to the car.

“It was frustrating not to get all the racing in but it was incredible,” says Tom Harris. “You turn in at 130mph, no brakes, just roll off the throttle. There is nothing like it! You’ve got to respect the car but it is an awesome experience and we are already fixing it before we leave to be out again next month. We need to build up a spares package to prevent us from missing out on the track time to be more consistent.”

Running the car himself from the legendary Bob East workshops, Harris spent time with Jarett Andretti, great nephew of Mario Andretti who also raced a Beast Chassis during the weekend. “We have learnt a lot and met a lot people and everyone wants to help us make a success of this,” adds Harris. “The local crowd was superb, cheering us on track and off and they all wished us well with what we are doing. That was really cool and makes us more determined to come back in August. I’ve got to try and fit some testing in if the weather allows.”

Harris next plans to race at the end of August, returning to the Kokomo track.

Photo credit: Dave Merritt

Strakka Racing announces new FIA WEC LMP1 project

British team will expand its expertise in advanced manufacturing techniques to create Privateers’ LMP1 car for 2017 season


Strakka Racing will develop a new LMP1 car for the team to run in the Privateers’ category of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship. The car, the first to be designed in-house by the British team, will be built at its recently expanded facilities at Silverstone, to compete in the growing LMP1 Privateers’ category of the championship. The new car will draw upon advances in 3D printing and additive manufacturing that Strakka Racing has pioneered to shorten manufacturing lead times and reduce project costs, both of which are part of Strakka’s long-term business goals.

“The 2017 LMP2 regulation changes that restrict the number of chassis manufacturers meant we had to evaluate our current business strategy and seriously look at projects that would enable us to draw on the experiences we have from our LMP2 car,” says team principal Dan Walmsley. “After evaluating all the options, the LMP1 Privateers’ category now offers the best arena to create our own car, which we will use to showcase our growing knowledge of new design and manufacturing processes to build a cost effective car in the shortest timeframe. Strakka Racing is continuing to develop and this will be another step forward to becoming a true sustainable motorsports business.”

Strakka Racing will now start work on defining the architecture including selecting an engine partner. To accelerate development in time for a 2017 launch, the team’s 2015 S103 chassis will become a development mule for the new LMP1 car and hence the team will run a recently-acquired Gibson in 2015 specification in the remainder of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship. “We learnt our lesson in 2013 not to stop racing whilst we develop the new car,” adds Walmsley. “We were able to source a Gibson to use for the balance of 2015. It’s a competitive car that allows us to continue to race and use the S103 chassis for test and development work in parallel.”

“Strakka Racing, thanks to the unstinting support from the team members, our sponsors, technical partners and also the fans that fuel our enthusiasm to race, continues to grow and launch exciting programmes such as this new LMP1 car,” says team founder Nick Leventis. “Alongside this expansion and now designing our very first Strakka car in-house, we have been able to secure a car to continue to race. This is another significant step forward for Strakka Racing as it continues to grow.”

The team is planning to test the Gibson in late July ahead of the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Nürburgring. “We plan to have the car at the Nürburgring test at the end of July,” adds Leventis. “It’s going to be tight and it’s another car to learn but we have shown in the past 18 months that Strakka Racing is always ready for a new challenge!”

Falken Motorsports continues Nürburgring success with second place in VLN

Falken scorches to another podium in searing temperatures

Falken VLN Nürburgring2

Peter Dumbreck and Alexandre Imperatori defied temperatures well above 35°C to finish second at the fourth round of the VLN series this weekend.

After a light collision in qualifying necessitated replacing the steering rack during the session, Alexandre Imperatori grabbed sixth place on the grid in dying moments of the session.

Heat was a major issue during the race with cockpit temperatures reaching 70°C, as ambient temperatures exceeded 35°C. A flying opening stint from Alexandre Imperatori saw him snatch the lead on the opening lap. After six laps, shortened due to the high cockpit temperatures, he handed over to Dumbreck, who himself was also suffering with a wrist pain as a result of the practice incident.

As the track temperatures passed 50°C, Falken was able to secure fastest lap with an 8:12.920 minutes and after four hours’ racing the team got its second podium in as many races.

The weekend success follows Falken’s victory at Watkins Glen last weekend where the US team scored a class victory in its Porsche. The weekend also saw Falken’s drift teams win events in Sweden and the UK, culminating a successful week for the Japanese tyre manufacturer.


Falken VLN Nürburgring

Zircotec secures further volume OEM orders for motorcycle-specific exhaust coatings

Aesthetic and durability characteristics see ceramic finish selected over paint for two new special edition European market motorcycles.

bike exhaustPlasma-spray specialist Zircotec has secured a further two key orders for its Endurance Range ceramic coating developed for motorcycles. Applied using Zircotec’s proprietary process, the improved durability and aesthetic attributes have led to two orders of over 2,000 units, highlighting the increases in capacity the firm has achieved in the past 18 months.

“Motorcycle manufacturers have come to Zircotec seeking contemporary exhaust finishes that will last,” adds sales director Peter Whyman. “Enquiries from the sector are up threefold in the past year. Chrome can look dated and quickly tarnishes whilst paint can’t withstand the heat cycling experienced on exhausts. Our ceramic exhaust coating not only passes stringent OEM durability tests but we can offer a range of different colours and textures that complement today’s styling trends.  With surface temperature reductions of close to 25 percent and an extremely robust finish, our heat resistant coating has added appeal for motorcycle applications.”

manufacturing imageInvestment of over £250,000 in the last 18 months has enabled the Oxfordshire firm to expand capacity and handle the higher-volume demanded by OEMs, with batches of 500 parts per week regularly being processed for one motorcycle OEM. “Our flexible process means we can now handle OEM quantities, making it ideal for motorcycle manufacturers looking to offer differentiation, perhaps for a special edition or limited run,” adds Whyman.

The firm now offers four colours with the option of different textures providing something exclusive for OEMs needing a differentiator. “The range is expanding and we are able to create derivatives so OEMs can even have a bespoke finish for themselves.”

Tom Harris announces Sprint Car campaign in the US

Brit commits to Bob East chassis for multi race campaign through the summer


Leading British stock car driver Tom Harris will make his race debut in Sprint Cars, the US’ most prestigious short oval category this summer. Harris, 26, from Banbury, Oxfordshire, has purchased a front running Bob East chassis to tackle three events (Gas City, Jul 10th, Kokomo Jul 11th and Lawrenceburg Jul 12th) in the USAC Sprint Week in the Amsoil National Sprint Championship before returning in late July/August to compete in a further six events. The switch to US racing follows Harris’ successful debut in the lower Midget category in January and marks the first time in the modern era that a British driver has entered the Sprint Car category that regularly sees top drivers from NASCAR and Indycars.

“We talked at the start of the year about making the switch to racing in the US as the best way to progress my career. We’ve won pretty much everything we can here in the UK and had to stop talking about and just do it,” says Harris. “This is a major commitment from Tom Harris Motorsport and my supporters including J Davidson, Neil Stuchbury Motors R&C Metals, Carbody, PRG Utilities, Elan PR and Lucas Oils to make this happen. After working well with Bob East at the Chili Bowl, it was the right move to continue that relationship and we will run the car with a British crew from his workshop. There is a lot to learn but with Bob guiding us, we will get to grips with it quickly.”


Harris will return to the UK during the summer to qualify for the BriSCA F1 stock car World Final and will continue to support his UK customers but ultimately sees a brighter future in the US. “From the test in late 2014 and then the Chili Bowl, we’ve seen the huge opportunities available to forge a professional career in the US,” adds Harris. “We’ve reached the limit in what we can do build-wise with the cars in UK and we have won nearly every title as a driver or constructor. Now we move on and take on the best the rest of the world has to offer.”

Falken ZIEX ZE914 ECORUN tyre available for new Honda HR-V

The Honda HR-V will be rolling out across European showrooms this summer, with the option to order the new compact SUV equipped with Falken tyres.

Customers who prefer a sportier look for their Honda HR-V wheels can choose the ZIEX ZE914 ECORUN 225/45R18 91W as an option.

The Falken ZIEX ZE914 ECORUN provides excellent grip, low rolling noise, improved rolling resistance and excels with its sports performance and economy.

“We are very pleased that the Falken ZIEX ZE914 ECORUN is being made available as an option for the market introduction of the Honda HR-V. This is further proof of the high quality and performance of our tyres,” explained Christian Stolting, Key Account Manager OE at Falken Tyre Europe.

This cooperation with Honda HR-V is the first partnership between Falken Tyre Europe and Honda Access Europe. Initial batches of tyres will be available for delivery as of June 2015.


Superb maiden podium for Malja at Hungaroring

Fantastic start to round seven sets Strakka Racing’s Formula Renault 3.5 rookie on course for impressive top three result

Gustav MaljaSwedish ace Gustav Malja took Strakka Racing back to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series podium at the Hungaroring near Budapest this afternoon, Sunday, 14th June, with a tremendous drive during race two of the weekend.

Having secured an impressive top 10 points scoring result during round six on Saturday, 13th June, after battling through from 20th on the grid following issues in qualifying, Malja starred in round seven to secure his first silverware in the ultra-competitive series.

Team-mate Tio Ellinas ended the fourth race meeting of the season with a best result of sixth place in round seven, a good end to the event after a challenging run on Saturday. He departs Hungary eighth in the standings with Malja an improved 11th.

“It’s been quite a good weekend,” said Malja, “First quali was terrible, starting from the very back, but I raced well to get back into the points.”

“Today was much better starting P6 and the race was fantastic, taking my first podium in World Series by Renault. Thanks to the team for a great job with the car which was really stable all race.”

Tio EllinasStarting sixth on the grid for race two, Malja made a sensational start to leap into fourth at Turn One and after positioning his car perfectly on the exit, he was able to grab third shortly after.

Matching the race leader’s pace during the first few laps, Malja then settled into a rhythm in third place and remained there to his pit-stop at the end of lap 11.

After great work from the pit-crew, Malja was able to emerge back in third and although coming under some pressure from Jazeman Jaafar with 15 minutes to run, the Strakka racer was unflustered during the rest of the race to take a superb maiden podium.

Ellinas, beginning the race in eighth, held position off the start and after challenging Jaafar for seventh at Turn One, on lap two he was able to gain the place on the run into the next left-hander.

Setting his sights next on Roberto Merhi – who, of course, also competes in Formula One with Manor Grand Prix – Ellinas piled on the pressure and was certainly the quicker of the two.

Rather than risk losing time behind Merhi, Strakka pitted Ellinas at the end of lap eight and after the stops had played out he had jumped Merhi. The Cypriot was, though, still in seventh due to Jaafar moving back ahead during the pit visits.

Remaining in seventh all the way to the chequered flag on lap 27, Ellinas was then elevated into sixth place at the conclusion due to a 10 second penalty for Pietro Fantin.

Saturday’s race delivered a very strong showing from Malja who was determined to hit back from the car problem which prevented him from setting a representative lap in qualifying.

Making excellent progress from 20th on the grid, the Swede had risen into the top 12 by lap 10 and reeled off rapid lap times as he swarmed all over the back of Nyck De Vries’ car at mid-distance.

Giving the Dutchman plenty to think about lap after lap, Malja made the breakthrough on lap 23 when he pressured De Vries into a mistake at Turn One. He then completed his climb into the top 10 just before the finish to cap a superb drive.

Ellinas, meanwhile, encountered contrasting fortunes to those of his team-mate and eventually ended race one in 17th position after an unfortunate drive-through penalty.

Starting in 10th position, the Cypriot made a good getaway but contact led to a slip back to 20th place. Battling back through to 14th by lap 12, after the penalty he eventually finished in 17th.

Frustratingly for Strakka, and the drivers, the results weren’t at all representative of their pace – Ellinas lapped with a best time just 0.1 seconds shy of fastest lap with Malja only 0.2 seconds outside the ultimate pace.

Reflecting on a mixed weekend, Ellinas said: “Saturday was a shame, getting hit on the first lap, but today was better. Qualifying wasn’t where I should be, to be honest, but it was a good race with good pit-stops from the team and decent points.”

Next on the Formula Renault 3.5 Series calendar is a visit to the Red Bull Ring in Austria over the weekend 11th/12th July.