Honda Performance Development Team Wins Louis Schwitzer Award at Indianapolis
Designed to reduce the potential for pit fires and injuries resulting from drivers leaving their pit boxes with refueling equipment still attached – a cause of such fires in the past – the Refueling Safety Interlock System was created by a team at HPD led by Roger Griffiths, Jim Goodloe, Marcelo Martinelli and Robert Bell.
HPD engineers also won the Schwitzer award in 2004 for their efforts in developing the very successful Honda HI4R-A IndyCar Series engine, which went on to power the Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and series champion Tony Kanaan.
The Honda Refueling Safety Interlock System includes a fuel-probe sensor and corresponding electronics in the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and Gearbox Control Unit (GCU). The system prevents first gear from being engaged by the "paddle shift" system while the refueling hose is still attached to the car in the pit lane.
"Every year, as a result of human error or mechanical malfunction, there are instances of drivers leaving their pit boxes with the refueling hose is still attached to the car," said Griffiths, technical director at HPD. "All of these incidents create the potential for a fire in the pits and injuries to the driver, crew members, or others in the pit-lane area. The HPD system has been in development since 2009 for use in both the IZOD IndyCar Series and endurance sports-car racing. It was introduced by INDYCAR as a mandatory safety improvement at the start of this season."
At the heart of the system is a new fuel-probe electronic sensor, installed in the refueling "buckeye" – or inlet valve – on an IndyCar chassis. When the sensor detects a the presence of the the pit-lane refueling nozzle in the buckeye, software in the Engine Control Unit signals the Gearbox Control Unit to place, or hold, the transmission in neutral, and prevents the driver from driving off before the refueling hose is detached from the car.
The software specified by HPD for the Honda Refueling Safety Interlock System also provides several strategies for overriding the system should a sensor failure occur during a race. However, the teams cannot override the system to gain any perceived competitive advantage without detection by HPD and IndyCar officials.
HPD discovered through rigorous bench and vehicle testing that several modifications to the off-the-shelf sensor were required to assure its survival in the harsh operating environment of an IndyCar. HPD replaces all of the sensor's wire leads and resolders all joints. They also add heat-resistant shrink-wrap to the soldered joints and thermal insulation and a motorsports connector to the leads, along with a fuse to eliminate electrical shorts. To date, the reworked sensors have achieved 2,500 competition miles without failure.
In addition to providing every team in the IZOD IndyCar Series with this important safety device, HPD has offered to provide its design, free of charge, to other racing series that request the device. The only prerequisite is that the gearbox must be equipped with an electronic paddle-shift mechanism to interface with the system.
The Louis Schwitzer Award, presented by engineers to engineers, recognizes individuals with the courage and conviction to explore and develop new concepts in motorsports technology for use in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. The award has been presented annually since 1967 by the Indiana Section of SAE International in honor of early racing pioneer and past Indiana Section Chairman Louis Schwitzer. Award sponsor BorgWarner provides a $10,000 cash prize to the winner. In addition, the winner's name is added to the permanent trophy on display in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
Honda has been a fixture in North American open-wheel racing since 1994, and has played an active role in the growth of the IZOD IndyCar Series – as both a Manufacturers' Championship competitor and single engine supplier – since joining the series in 2003.
The company scored its first Indianapolis 500 victory in 2004 with Rice; Manufacturers' Championships in 2004 & '05; and became engine supplier to the entire IZOD IndyCar Series in 2006. Honda has supplied racing engines to the entire 33-car Indianapolis 500 starting field every year since 2006, and for a record five consecutive years, there has not been a single engine failure in the '500'. The 2010 Indianapolis 500 marked Honda's 100th race win as a manufacturer and engine supplier in IZOD IndyCar Series competition.
Honda Performance Development (HPD) is the Honda racing company within North America. Founded in 1993, and located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for high-performance Honda racing cars and engines. HPD is the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series and spearheaded championship-winning efforts in the 2009-2010 American Le Mans Series, 2010 Le Mans Series and the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans.