“From simulator to track, we’ve applied a new working methodology to deliver a fast and reliable hypercar,” explains Giuliano Salvi, Ferrari GT & Sports Race Cars Race & Testing Manager.
From the announcement in February 2021 of Ferrari’s return to the top endurance class up until its debut in the Hypercar class of the FIA World Endurance Championship on 17 March 2023, the 499P has passed through several development stages. It was a team effort involving over 30 engineers.
Two dates were crucial to the timeline: the Shakedown on 6 July 2022, and the race debut. “We can speak of three principal phases: on the simulator, the bench, and the track,” Salvi explains. “We developed the conceptual part of the 499P in the simulator. Then we began concurrent work on the bench, collecting and analysing every input from the simulator tests. When the car reached a certain level of maturity, we started work on the track.”
The choice of tracks. The test circuits were chosen according to their characteristics and to maximise the limited time available: Fiorano, Imola, Mugello and Vallelunga; plus Paul Ricard, Aragon and Portimão (three European tracks suitable for endurance tests). Portimão will also host a round of the WEC, as will Monza and Sebring. The two cars had covered a total of over 24,000 kilometres before March. “For the hypercar, after the vehicle’s homologation, there are a limited number of track tests. Therefore, we tried to use every opportunity to effectively integrate all the systems and improve the reliability level of the car’s components”.
The team. Continuous interaction between the digital and real ‘world’ made it possible to fine-tune the 499P’s various components, using two cars simultaneously and employing a team of 30 engineers. During development, track work accounts for about 70% of the effort, and the remaining 30% occurs in the simulator.
The first development phase focused on “electronic management” continues Salvi, “to coordinate the 800-volt hybrid system in a 4WD layout, comprising an electric engine at the front and an internal combustion engine at the rear. Having identified the problems, we solved them so the programme could be as continuous as possible.”
From digital to real. There are two main strands of development: one is about performance, and the other is about reliability. “When the programme starts, there are models – derived from digital simulation – that determine how the car should behave in reality,” Salvi continues. “Bringing virtual and real together is the ultimate development challenge.”
Simulator work makes it possible to multiply the calculation capacity and to model very different scenarios, which is crucial in developing performance. Then came the time for the first actual tests, which “we worked on using an innovative approach, a new methodology for us,” says Salvi. “After a test, we analyse each component, and if defects or problems are found, they are categorised. Once we have prioritised the categories, we address individual problems, modify parts, and improve the product-car – all of which help to improve reliability.”
A continuous process. When developing a hypercar, it is common to encounter critical issues that, once resolved, help to make up the wealth of experience you need during the championship. “The areas that proved most challenging were the electronics, the part related to the hybrid powertrain and the 4WD system,” Salvi explains, “but test after test, we improved their operation.” However, development doesn’t stop with the start of the FIA WEC. As with any new project, each kilometre covered provides essential information. “We will be out on the track whenever we have the chance, to continue our work on reliability development and improving our competitiveness.”