|Subjecting to Severe Tests at Nurburgring
|The team spent an entire month at the Suzuka
Circuit in the early stages of D-development, where they conducted numerous evaluations
using their test car. Then in February 1989, the team had an opportunity to ask
famed F-1 driver, the late Ayrton Sennawho had come to Japan in order to
test a McLaren F-1 machineto drive their car.
Im not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car, but I feel its a little fragile, said Senna, referring to the cars apparent lack of rigidity. And even though the car was designed for a level of rigidity equaling that of a Porsche or Ferrari, Senna was able to sense slight differences that would have been well beyond range of the typical driver. But based on that comment, the team raised its objectives for rigidity in April, turning again to the test car in order to ensure their target was met.
The chosen test site was to be West Germanys famed Nurburgring high-speed race course. It was a memorable location for Honda, the site of the companys F-1 debut. The circuit had an overall length of 20.8 km, over 200 blind corners, and a 300-meter change in elevation. It was an extremely difficult circuit for cars and drivers alike, for whom extreme skills were needed to maneuver through steep ascending and descending sections of track lined with dense plantings of trees. So, it was believed that the course would reveal problems they couldnt see in Japan. To them there was no better environment in which to test what they hoped would become the worlds finest sportscar.
Thanks to the assistance of Honda R&D Europe (HRE), the team was able to secure an office and garage in Müllenbach, a town located just two kilometers from the circuit. With their new workshop set up, it was to be the first time a Japanese automaker would conduct long-term testing at an overseas location.
The course offered an immediate venue for the series of tests the team had devised in order to increase their cars rigidity. They knew that on an extremely difficult course such as Nurburgring even a slight delay in the vehicles response to input would obliterate the marriage of interaction between car and driver, and thus rob the latter of the ability to accelerate appropriately. And what they learned was that the bodys poor rigidity had everything to do with the failure of that relationship.
It was an iron-clad rule for any overseas test that in the event of an issue that couldnt be fully conveyed to the staff in Japan, the team on-site must tackle the issue independently. So, in West Germany the design engineers in charge of the vehicles various components took turns sitting in the front passenger seat, evaluating the cars performance along with the test driver. If any problem was found, a solution would be devised on the spot. It was a distinct departure from the norm, but the team knew it was the only way to build the worlds best car.
The test data taken on site was immediately sent back to the R&D Center in Japan, where the numbers were fed into a computer for analysis. It was in this stage that the optimal shape was determined in order to maximize rigidity and minimize weight.
Accordingly, the cars rigidity was increased by 50 percent as compared to the figure in place immediately before the West German tests. And so, after eight long months of effort, they had at last achieved the levels of dynamic performance and comfort demanded for a world-class sportscar. The team had arrived at the consummate integration between man and machine.
The 81st Chicago Auto Show held in February 1989 saw throngs of media and consumers surrounding a bright-red sportscar--Hondas new NS-X (Note: the NS-X was actually introduced as an Acura brand car, the upscale sales channel in the U.S.). The development code name, NS-X represented new, sportscar and unknown world, X being the mathematical symbol for an unknown value. It was the prototype for a new offering that Honda believed would captivate driving enthusiasts around the world.
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