Dallara Racecars Speed Innovation Through Simulation

Check out the following post from my colleague Simone Bonino, who recently sat down with Luca Pignacca of Dallara Automobili to discuss the ways technology impacts the world of racecar design and manufacturing.


Luca Pignacca of Dallara Automobili

In the past, when the auto industry has sought innovation, it often turned to those who design and build racecars.  The extreme, all-out demands of racing require quick-thinking, new approaches to vehicle design and new ways to incorporate safety, performance and endurance. As the industry looks to the future, engineers in the racing community continue to spark advancements in weight savings and efficiency—and HyperWorks is one of their principal tools.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Luca Pignacca of Dallara Automobili, the famed Italian manufacturer that designs, builds and supports some of the world’s most competitive racecars. Luca noted that Dallara employs 180 people, including 80 mechanical and aerospace engineers.  The reasons they all are so committed to innovation became clear in a single observation that Luca made: “We are a racing company. We have to win races every weekend. So we must be competitive to win or we don’t make a profit.”

Our conversation was tempered by the fact that, just a few weeks earlier, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon had died in a terrible pileup at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the last race of the old IR L cars.  Wheldon previously had been testing a new 2012 chassis for IndyCar which, by the way, has been designed with higher safety standards. This tragedy again demonstrated how dangerous the sport of car racing can be and the importance of engineering cars that are not only lighter but also safer.

In 1994, the average Formula 1 monocoque (the cockpit and driver’s “survival cell”) weighed 35 kilos, but today it weighs 65 kilos, primarily because of the safety systems that have been added. So doing everything possible to reduce excess weight is crucial to winning and surviving.

Luca noted that at one point engineers carried out hand calculations, but now finite-element analysis programs are essential. According to Luca, “The level of complexity of analysis and professionalism we required was so high that we needed tools that were really special and professional, not only for the normal designer, but for an FE specialist.”

Dallara relies on the HyperWorks RADIOSS solver for simulations and deploys OptiStruct to minimize the weight of the racecar structure while maximizing the efficiency of components.

“Mechanical designers in racing have to provide a reliable and light structure that doesn’t break and that optimizes structures,” Luca said. “That’s also true for normal road cars. Weight reduction is fundamental for fuel savings and reduction of pollution, and that is why we want to get better and better on lightweight structure design and manufacturing.  It’s the future of the auto industry.”

With companies like Dallara accelerating the move to lighter, more efficient high-performance vehicles, the auto industry certainly has a great model on which to draw for future innovation.

Tony Norton
Tony Norton

About Tony Norton

Tony leads the Americas based Altair ProductDesign teams in the delivery of early concept (industrial design, design exploration, testing & prototyping) and advanced simulation driven design (cutting-edge modeling, optimization, methods development & automation) to our customers. Before joining Altair UK in 1996, he worked at both Ford Motor Company and GEC-Marconi Avionics. He moved to Michigan in 1999 to join Altair US, and holds a Bachelors degree from The University of Hertfordshire in England.