- Bosch Motorsport engineers in action at the ‘24 Hours of Le Mans’ on June 16th and 17th, 2012
- Telemetry systems give race teams track-side support
- Bosch Motorsport supplies optimised production technology and customised products for motor racing
“Night. Two headlights in the distance. Coming closer. A race car speeds toward us. The scream of an engine shatters the silence. Two red-hot brake discs light up the darkness. Sparks fly. Just out of the hairpin, the vehicle accelerates once more. Ear-splitting noise. And then it’s gone again.”
This is a scene that is repeated more than 10,000 times during a race – day and night, 24 hours long. It is a sight that fascinates racing enthusiasts again and again, but the Bosch engineer at his screen is concerned with other things. His attention is fully focused on data, curves, lines, figures, and measurements.
The ‘24 Hours of Le Mans’ is the world’s best known endurance race. 56 race cars take to the start. They are racing for victory, glory, and honour. On June 16th and 17th of this year, drivers and equipment will be pushed to their limits for the 80th time. For the engineers from Bosch Engineering GmbH, based in Abstatt near Stuttgart in southern Germany, the race also means 24 hours of pure adrenaline and the climax of a year’s work. Over roughly 14 kilometres, the legendary Le Mans race runs from the French city of Le Mans to the neighbouring village of Mulsanne and back, partly on normal roads. Following a first section with the world-famous Dunlop bridge and the Hunaudieres straight, the world’s longest, the Mulsanne hairpin marks the halfway stage. The return stage then follows, a difficult stretch with many bends. When it crossed the finish line in 2011, the winning car had covered this distance 354 times.
For a year now, Bosch Motorsport’s engineers and developers have been preparing for this endurance classic. When the race is over, they all start again. The offices, workshops, and laboratories immediately start preparing for next year’s race. Bosch Motorsport supplies roughly half the vehicles on the starting grid in Le Mans with highly complex racing technology, including control units, injection technology, sensors, displays, and wiring harnesses. All of them developed, built, and tested for the world’s toughest race. Bosch staff are at hand to provide additional support for the large teams of automakers such as Audi Sport and Corvette. In their pits, they also rely on support from their Bosch colleagues.
At the track side in Le Mans, you will also find Bosch engineers who do not work directly in the major automakers’ pits. But the work they do is practically priceless for them. They take up their position on the notorious Mulsanne hairpin, and are responsible for a technology that does not have any tangible form. It can only be seen. Their job is to ensure that the computers and screens in the pits are fed with figures, data, and facts. In the trade, this transmission of data between race car and pit is known as telemetry. “Hardly anyone has heard of the work we do. But without it, the pit teams would often find themselves staring at an empty screen,” says Bernd Nottebom, a motorsports engineer at Bosch Motorsport. Nottebom and his colleagues supply these data in the form of curves, measurements, and tables. The information they provide about the race cars’ engines and chassis are like stock prices. Without stock prices, it is difficult to decide whether to buy or sell stock. But if this information is known, the teams can answer important questions and make their decisions: When do we need to refuel? What is fuel consumption like? Are all systems working properly?
The race cars send a constant stream of information to the pit. If the pit is too far away, the data will not reach it. On long-distance circuits like Le Mans, this is a problem. This is why Nottebom and his colleagues work in Mulsanne, sending the important data the teams need for their decisions to the pits via encrypted airmail, as it were. “On the Mulsanne curve, we capture the vehicle data, filter and amplify them, and transmit them seven kilometres to the control rooms in the pits,” says Nottebom, who has been a race enthusiast for many years. “For us, this is not the ’24 Hours of Le Mans’, but the 24 Hours on the Mulsanne hairpin.”
Bosch Motorsport is part of Bosch Engineering GmbH, a Bosch subsidiary that specialises in engineering services. It can look back on 111 years of participation in the world of motor racing. As early as 1901, Bosch technology first helped racing drivers to victory.