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07.02.2017

The Future of Shock Absorbers in Motorsports

Behind the scenes of research & development

With environmental issues having more and more impact on the automotive and motorsports industry, the external suppliers are also getting challenged – even in fields you reckoned without. “This is even true for the shock absorber industry and I have noticed a general change of mind in this business,” says Martin Flick, head of BILSTEINs motorsport department in Germany. “Some years ago, a cool tire burnout was a celebrated event. Now, many people ask themselves if such a behavior is unreasonable and symbolic for our disposition to destroy our environment.” Yet, what’s the meaning of this for the shock absorber industry?

One thing is for sure – as along as cars will have wheels, shock absorbers will be needed. In motorsports, the dampers might become even more important in the future. Martin Flick explains why: “The strategy to win a race and our thinking about performance will radically change. In this context, it may be much wiser to save or recuperate energy than to waste it by braking late or accelerate aggressively. It will be all about staying fast and not losing too much speed, especially in curves.” Thus, the shock absorber setup and associated new technologies will play a key role to reach this goal.

Regarding the weight of the unsprung masses there are two completely different approaches, which exert influence on the shock absorbers. On the one hand, electrical wheel hub motors can increase the weight with the result that the damper components and their setup have to be adapted. On the other hand, a conventional central electric engine may even shrink the weight of the unsprung masses as the motor can also assist the brake system, which can be made smaller and lighter as a result.

Be that as it may, BILSTEIN is technologically prepared for the racing cars of the future. The company could already gather some experience in the Formula E and other motorsport series with especially light or heavy vehicles. “From formula cars through race trucks to industrial facilities – we can handle nearly everything that needs a shock absorber,” Martin Flick confirms.

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