Bonneville Speed Week 2016 Conquering the White Flats Ultimate Challenge to hit 450km/h

Here is Honda’s project team that challenged the Bonneville Speed Week, held at Bonneville, Utah, USA. The young 16-member team in their 20's or 30's developed the"S-Dream" racing car to reach 450km/h. They had only a year. Their story covers two continents: their preparation in Japan, and their challenge in the USA.

Honda's challenge

In May 2015, Honda decided to compete in the Bonneville Speed Week. Honda associates were encouraged to join the project team, and 16 mainly young members were chosen from over 100 applicants. The goal was to set a new 500cc to 700cc speed record powered by a mini-vehicle engine. Honda had no experience in land speed record machines, and had to design and prepare one from scratch within a year. It was no easy task.

Bonneville Speed Week 2016 Conquering the White Flats Ultimate Challenge to hit 450km/h

The Venue

Speed Challenge on the Salt Flats

The Bonneville Speed Week

Over 600 two- and four-wheeled racing machines compete in the world's largest competition of its kind to set land speed records, held at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA. A 5 mile (approximately 8 km) track on the dried salt lake is used for the competition.

Bonneville Speed Week 2016 Conquering the White Flats Ultimate Challenge to hit 450km/h

FIA World Land Speed Records By Invitation Only

FIA World Land Speed Records

Competition held at Bonneville to set world record speeds. The event is held in September (Bonneville Speed Week is held in August). As opposed to Speed Week which in which any team can participate, FIA World Land Speed Records are competed by invitation to a very few participants with a high chance of setting a new record. Another difference with Speed Week is the requirement to make a round trip within 1 hour.

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Preparation in Japan / The Car
Fumbling Start for the Project

1
Speed Challenge with Safety First Priority

The "Bonneville Speed Challenge" project aimed to achieve a speed record exceeding 450km/h powered by a mini-vehicle engine, while maintaining safety as the top priority. At speeds exceeding 400km/h, even the slightest mistake could spell disaster. And, it was the first time for Honda to develop a streamliner, a four-wheeled machine aimed specifically at breaking speed records: the Honda S-Dream Streamliner. The team had only one year to complete the machine, and participate in the Bonneville Speed Week event. For the project team consisting mainly on young members, this was an extremely challenging task.

Engineers' Comments

Takashi Sakai

Takashi SakaiProject Leader, Chassis Development Chief Engineer

"Page 1 of the regulations state how perilous this competition is, and 90 percent of the rules concern safety. The team thoroughly discussed safety issues."

Masataka Usami

Masataka UsamiChassis and Vehicle Dynamics

"The first thing I did was to study the regulations, and then gathered information and closely analyzed the other teams. I paid close attention to teams that had been in an accident, to see what improvements they made the following year, so we could be forearmed with accident models and the performance we needed to deal with them."

Project team consisting of 16 young engineers

Project team consisting of 16 young engineers

2
Salt: Racing on the Unknown

When developing a racing machine, design depends heavily on the environment it will race in, such as the type of surface and weather conditions. Racing machine design can be optimized to a degree by limiting the environment to, say, a race track, which in turn allows the machine to perform far better than a mass-produced vehicle. Bonneville Speed Week is raced on a salt pan, a surface which is a largely unknown environment for the teams, making optimization and performance maximization treacherous. The team planned on visiting Bonneville, the venue for the race, in the hope of studying the track, but the event in 2015 was cancelled due to bad weather. Access to the area was restricted due to environmental preservation concerns, and the team was not allowed to inspect the track surface. Instead, the team thoroughly studied historical attempts, and would themselves aim to achieve a world record with a versatile machine that could be set to a wide range of environmental conditions.

Surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats

Surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats

Engineers' Comments

Takashi Sakai

Takashi SakaiProject Leader, Chassis Development Chief Engineer

"Engineering is a cycle of predicting, designing, building, testing and feedback. Since the surface was completely unknown, and we were aiming to reach speeds Honda had never experienced, we had difficulties even with the first stage, making predictions."

Masataka Usami

Masataka UsamiChassis and Vehicle Dynamics

"We analyzed the correlations between speed, time, corrective steering amount, lateral shift amount, and lateral acceleration, by studying onboard camera footage from other teams' previous attempts. This down-to-earth analysis allowed us to be as scientific as possible in predicting how a vehicle could drive on an unknown surface at outlandish speeds. For example, we could scientifically predict the surface's friction coefficient (μ) for forward and lateral acceleration from our analysis, and were able to design vehicle dynamics required for the unknown surface environment."

3
Completely Different to a Mass-produced Vehicle

The steering system lacked a standard steering wheel found in mass-produced vehicles, instead being replaced by two newly designed levers. This system was designed and built from scratch, as it not only lowered the risk of the driver being injured by the steering column, but improved flexibility in layout design and onsite setting. The driver's seat posture was also designed to minimize frontal projected area. Weight-factors such as driver position, engine, coolant and fire extinguisher were positioned as low as possible to lower the center of gravity and maximize the capsize threshold. The chassis was structured to be as rigid as possible while in accordance with the regulations, and requisites to protect the driver in case of an accident were identified and applied in the design.

Newly-designed steering system

Newly-designed steering system

Frame Layout for the Fastest Speed

Frame Layout for the Fastest Speed

Engineers' Comments

Takashi Sakai

Takashi SakaiProject Leader, Chassis Development Chief Engineer

"My hobby is designing aircraft. I designed the double-lever steering system based on link geometry I had previously designed for an aircraft."

Masataka Usami

Masataka UsamiChassis and Vehicle Dynamics

"To make sure the completely new machine we designed from scratch could stably drive over an unknown surface at unknown speeds, we had to consider motion equations taking even tire strength into account, from the aerodynamics of the complete vehicle based around its steering system. From modal analysis for prior accidents and onboard camera footage analysis from other teams, we were able to determine theoretical conditions where the vehicle would not spin regardless of turbulence and where the steering system and entire vehicle would not resonate, and the team spent every day, every night, all day long discussing how to design and build the steering system within the limited time we had. When designing the steering system, one of the major components of the S-Dream, I would state my desires from a performance perspective, and other members would provide a solution from a design perspective. This positive loop was the best environment an engineer could hope for."

The Results
Keisuke Tsuta / Large Project Leader, S-Dream Development

"After one year of preparation, the team set new FIA records, for the 1 mile at 261.875mph (421.446km/h)*1, and 1 kilometer at 261.966mph (421.595km/h)*2. We set the fastest speeds. And unofficially, we hit 267.998mph (431.476km/h) on an outward run. The members who had repeatedly faced the threat of the project being shut down were so happy after the race, they were in tears. The experiences gained through overcoming crises and succeeding, are invaluable. We are also proud that there were no accidents. I believe these experiences will contribute to Honda's unique way of creating vehicles."

*1 Average speed over 1 mile beginning 5 to 6 miles from the starting point, covered twice (once in each direction)
*2 Average speed over 500 meters in each direction (1km total) of the 5.5 mile point from the starting point, covered twice (once in each direction)

Experience gained through the project will contribute to future car development

Experience gained through the project will contribute to future car development

Photo Gallery

* Click on photo to enlarge

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