Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Virgin’s CFD Experiment Loses Momentum 

After two disappointing seasons, Virgin Racing parts ways with technical director Nick Wirth.

Several news sources, including AUTOSPORT, are reporting that Virgin Racing has cut ties with technical director Nick Wirth. The split came about after two disappointing seasons using car designs based on Wirth's pure CFD strategy. During the first six races of the current season, the racing team has not started any higher than the tenth row.

Virgin Racing 2011 racecarNick Wirth joined Virgin Racing in early 2010, just ahead of the team's first season, intent on building a better race car exclusively through the use of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software. The first car to come out of the partnership was designed without the use of expensive wind tunnels, but the car fell short of expectations. A too-small fuel tank and other problems led to a last-place finish in the 2010 Constructors' Championship.

Established F1 teams, such as McLaren and Ferrari, use a combination of CFD simulation and real-world wind tunnel testing. However, wind tunnels are very expensive to build and run, even compared to the most high-end CFD software. In a statement to AUTOSPORT, Marussia Virgin CEO Andy Webb affirmed his commitment to CFD, but left the door open to other methods:

"We maintain our absolute belief in CFD (computational fluid dynamics) as a technology, especially since it continues to become more cost-effective with every year. Naturally, we will continue to use every means at our disposal to improve the aerodynamics of our car with immediate effect.
Looking ahead, we will now be pursuing an alternative technical path and look forward to announcing our plans in more detail over the coming weeks."

As for that "alternative technical path," according to AUTOSPORT, wind tunnel testing will soon join computer modeling in the company's design toolbox.

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