Duxford Air Museum. On most days the runway is home to the sounds of the aircraft, but on Thursday 17th May 2012 this sound was replaced by the Renault Sport RS27 V8 engine in the back of the Caterham F1 CT01 as they conducted straight line aerodynamic tests. I headed along to see what Caterham were doing & here are my thoughts on the day.
Straight line aero tests, it does not sound the most exciting of things for an F1 team to do, especially with the likes of the Monaco Grand Prix next up on the calendar, but it is a necessary task for the likes of Caterham (& Force India who were running at Kemble Air Force Base) to understand their car.
On driving duties for Caterham was Rodolfo Gonzalez, driving for Caterham in GP2, this is a good way to become familiar with a Formula 1 car especially with limited running available for young drivers.
The day started out with simple runs up and down the runway, and the sound of the Renault V8 drew a crowd with many people standing by the barriers next to the garage tent (myself included) to snap a photo of the car or to just get up close to current generation Formula 1 machinery.
Caterham were using a lot of flow viz at various points on the car over the course of the day, starting with the front wing endplates, on each run flow viz was used on other sections of the car including the front wing flaps, turning vanes, sidepods, exhaust exits & the rear wing & diffuser with the car doing one run up and down the runway each time.
There was quite limited running in the morning, leading to a 2 hour gap around midday while the car sat in the tent, I would like to credit Caterham & Performance Director John Iley who approached us watching fans to inform us that this was due to the wind picking up, but would be running regularly were this to calm down & that their plan for the day was to catalogue the car. This cataloging of the car was to run at various ride heights & collect data on how the car reacts at each ride height adjustment.
After that long break, the car was back out every 10 minutes or so with flow viz being applied to different sections of the car on each run. On completing a run with flow viz applied to the underside of the front wing, they mechanics then removed the wing so that the flow patterns could be photographed to then be analysed.
The running continued throughout the afternoon, only halting when any aircraft were passing by or landing, & for the fans that turned up, it was a good chance to get up close to current F1 machinery. For something that might seem insignificant, it was a serious exercise for Caterham & the data they would have gathered from this run will go on to help them over the course of the season.
As for me, I enjoyed the day that consisted of over 6 hours standing in the same area, camera in hand & snapping away at the car, seeing how an F1 team conducts an aero test & getting to hear the sound of a Renault V8 (which by far drowned out the sound of any aircraft engines running).
P.S. the next time I head up to Duxford it will be to actually take a look at the aircraft.