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McLaren abandons ride height system

NEWS STORY
13/04/2010

In the wake of the FIA's warning to teams regarding devices which alter the ride height on cars, McLaren's engineering director Paddy Lowe has revealed that the Woking team has abandoned its plans for such a system.

Last month, McLaren boss, Martin Whitmarsh, pointed the finger at a number of rival teams, including Red Bull, suggesting they were breaking the rules. "There's evidence there are ride-height control systems which many people thought weren't permissible," he told the BBC.

"Red Bull and some other cars are able to run lower in qualifying than you would expect if they're then going to fill the car with fuel afterwards," he added. "As you can imagine, we're working quite hard on those systems now. The original rulings suggested such systems wouldn't be allowed on cars but we're seeing some cars which seem to have them. We've got to have them fitted as soon as we can, hopefully by China we'll have something on the car."

Last week, the FIA sent out a clear warning, telling teams: "Any system, device or procedure, the purpose and/or the effect of which is to change the set up of the suspension whilst the car is under parc ferme conditions will be deemed to contravene Article 34.5 of the F1 Sporting Regulations," it read, adding that; "any self levelling damper system is likely to contravene (article) 3.15 of the technical regulations."

Speaking in a phone-in press conference this morning, Lowe revealed that while his team had been working on such a device, it had now opted to shelve the project.

"We became aware of a different way of interpreting it, which we hadn't historically thought to be the normal interpretation, and we were reacting to that," he said. "Now that the FIA has taken a fresh view of it and drawn a line, that we think is closer to the historical line, we're reacting to that too and we've had to change some of the things we were doing.

"We got the feeling we were rather late to the game," he continued. "But we absolutely don't know who's been doing what and whether indeed anyone has been racing anything in the nature of ride height-control systems. We had things we were working on but they have now been suspended."

Lowe revealed that while active systems are banned, teams are allowed to manually adjust the ride height during pit stops in the race, but not beforehand.

"There is what you can do to the car between qualifying and the race and there's what you can do during the race," said Lowe. "In parc ferme, there's quite a clear ruling that says any adjustment to the suspension would require you to start from the pit lane. This was originally intended to stop people changing springs, ride heights and that sort of thing.

"This has got a bit tricky because you can design suspensions that self adjust during that period and there are all sorts of physical techniques you could use to do that. If you can imagine a suspension that without any human intervention it changes its set-up then I think there is a perspective that would say I haven't touched it so it's no different.

"I think what the FIA have now clarified that I think makes things very plain and straightforward is that if even if you don't touch it, if effectively you've programmed it to change then you've effectively made a change in set-up.

"What you can do during the race has also been clarified by the FIA. There are systems that can be relaxed which control ride height during a race, a bit like active suspension, but without using external power. Such systems were captured going back to 1993 by that same interpretation, they are no different to active suspension, even if they don't use external power. During a pit stop you can adjust the ride height but you cannot adjust it on the grid."

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