Ahead of the competition: measurement technology from Kistler is the key to vehicle optimization for the Emil Frey Racing team

Hard on the heels of their dual triumph in the 2019 GT Open series (in both the Teams' and Drivers' Championships), the Emil Frey Racing team is lining up for the highly competitive GT World Challenge Europe in 2020. Also on board for the tests: a vehicle dynamics sensor from Kistler that delivers valuable data on driving behavior and tire performance – critical factors in optimizing vehicle setup.

GT3: motorsport that's in a class of its own! Stylish super-sports cars based on production models, from Bentleys to Toyotas, battle it out in races over short and long distances to determine the best combination of drivers (two or three, depending on the race) and vehicles. At the heart of the action: the Emil Frey Racing team, which scored a dual victory in the 2019 GT Open series – and this year, they are competing in the GT World Challenge Europe, dubbed the "Champions League" of GT3 motorsport. This Swiss motorsport team is part of the Emil Frey Group, which opened its first car workshop in Zurich back in 1924 and has since grown into a pan-European corporation with over 22,000 employees. The company can look back on a long tradition in motorsport: its founder, Emil Frey, was already a successful competitor in motorcycle Grand Prix contests during the 1930s, and he went on to drive in rallies and classic car races. 

Melissa Blaschi, Head of Marketing & Events at Emil Frey Racing, tells the story: "The Emil Frey Group has always used motorsport as a way of projecting and demonstrating its capabilities in a competitive environment. Our GT3 presence began in 2011 with the Jaguar that we developed ourselves in conjunction with external partners. Then in 2015, we began collaborating with Lexus: as well as participating in the Blancpain series, we also competed in long-distance races at the Nürburgring (the VLN series). After the homologation for the Jaguar expired at the end of 2018 and we were unable to reach agreement with Lexus at the end of the season, the next step was our working partnership with Lamborghini – which has proven very successful so far!"

One success after another thanks to the new vehicle

Emil Frey Racing is currently represented by two Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo cars in the GT World Challenge Europe, a fiercely contested event that attracts over 50 vehicles from 11 different manufacturers. The season got off to a delayed start due to the pandemic and the number of races was cut from ten to eight. Nevertheless, Emil Frey was the best Lamborghini team at the season opener in Imola, pulling ahead of the previous year's overall series winner. Emil Frey Racing marked their return to the most competitive of the world's GT3 racing series by celebrating victories and pole positions, establishing them as one of the top teams.

Technical & Operations Director Jürg Flach joined Emil Frey Racing in May 2014. He explains the background: "The Balance of Performance provision in the regulations guarantees a certain degree of parity. Depending on the distance, the aim is to ensure that aerodynamics, engine power and weight produce more or less balanced performance for each of the 11 manufacturers. Of course, it's not always possible to achieve 100% parity but – for example – it means that 30 vehicles are within one second of each other in the qualifying session. That's very different from Formula 1, where one team is sometimes a whole second ahead of all the others."

Most of the intensive vehicle testing and optimization work takes place before the season, because not much time is left during or between races and no testing is allowed on circuits where racing has yet to take place. "Our vehicle is relatively new, and we've also switched tire manufacturers – from Michelin to Pirelli – so we wanted to analyze and optimize the car's driving behavior from scratch. That gave us the idea of working with a vehicle dynamics sensor, which is rather unusual for a GT3 team – after all, we're not vehicle or tire manufacturers," Flach continues.

Emil Frey Racing began using the Correvit S-Motion sensor from Kistler early in 2020 to acquire information about driving behavior and traction, especially in relation to tire performance. The Correvit S-Motion is easy to install on the vehicle. It captures optical contact-free and slip-free measurements of longitudinal and transverse speed as well as side-slip angle; pitch and roll movements are also acquired with high precision.

Precise measurement data makes all the difference

"The data acquired via the sensors has helped us greatly with the vehicle setup in relation to the new tires," Flach points out. "For instance, the regulations state that the camber on the rear axle must not exceed a specified value, and that represents a limiting factor in the case of the Lamborghini mid-engine concept. The measurement results gave us a better understanding of the tire characteristics, so we were able to significantly improve vehicle stability on the rear axle. The question here is this: which side-slip angles allow us to achieve maximum tire grip, both longitudinally and transversely? At the end of the day, physical parameters such as these make all the difference."

The Correvit S-Motion was installed at the rear of the vehicle in a central position close to the transmission, and it communicates directly with the control. Kistler was also able to provide on-site support for the integration thanks to the short distances between the two company sites. Axel Gantz, Sales Engineer at Kistler, explains his view of the project: "One critical advantage here was the overall height, which can be twice as high for S-Motion as compared to the SFII model, for instance. The aim was also to find a position with the maximum possible protection. Dynamic events during a race sometimes push the sensor to its load limits – which also means that the protective glass lenses need to be replaced quite frequently. But up to now, this sensor has proven to be successful, and of course we're very pleased about that."

Technology and team spirit: the critical interaction

As Flach notes, Emil Frey Racing is not just a team that takes part in competitions: they also work continuously on improvements between races. Apart from the technical aspects, however, team dynamics and organization are factors that should not be underestimated: "We've been on the road together for many years now, so we get along harmoniously with one another. On action-packed race weekends, our 22 team members are supported by dedicated freelancers – communication among us has to be good, and we have to act just like any well-coordinated sports team if we are to achieve good results."

As far as the collaboration with Kistler is concerned, Flach's verdict is altogether positive: "We've worked together quickly and smoothly – we know and respect each other. Although we aren't actually allowed to use the Correvit sensor on racing weekends, it performed its functions fully during the tests, and we'll be using it again after the season (or perhaps earlier) to identify additional potential and tease out a couple of extra percentage points."

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