Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe
Opinion

The challenges and opportunities facing gearbox manufacturing

OPINION: Hewland is one of motorsport’s leading transmission suppliers, and its MD is well-placed to explain how it’s responding to fast-changing industry trends

Dennis Hauger, MP Motorsport leads the field at the start

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Engineering

Our experts' guide on how you can become a better racing driver

Formula 2 launched its all-new 2024 machinery late last year and, while the visually striking aerodynamic changes dominated the headlines, it was all change under the bodywork too. This included a new six-speed longitudinal Hewland sequential gearbox, replacing the previous iteration which had been used since 2018.

One challenge in developing this latest product was the FIA crash regulations, which necessitated a substantially different design in terms of the case and strength. The rear impact tests, for example, were increased substantially. But the general architecture of the gearbox is well-proven.

That’s the key for motorsport gearboxes; it’s all about reliability and cost-per-mile ownership. F2 is a bit more simplified with respect to the architecture compared to Formula 1, but it does the job for a single-make series of being a competitive and a really high-performance product.

Ownership of the vehicle is important to consider when it comes to GT racing, as OEMs have to sell as many of the vehicles as they can. The focus on delivering a competitive but cost-effective product that is reliable is amplified here. As a supplier, we need to ensure that we’re not the point of failure, ending someone’s race.

To achieve this with the new Lotus Emira GT4, the gearbox is more aligned to a TCR-type product. There’s slightly higher torque with the GT4 and, since the engine is at the back, certain changes have been made. There’s a bespoke casing to mount to its Toyota V6 and slight differences around internal wires; it’s on a similar theme to our high-torque touring car gearboxes that we’ve used previously.

There’s naturally a differentiator with having the sequential gearbox from the perspectives of product sales and performance. It’s a balancing act to provide a quality product while meeting the category’s cost requirements through efficient design and manufacturing.

New Emira GT4 that made its debut in British GT earlier this month features Hewland transmission that seeks to combine performance with cost-effectiveness

New Emira GT4 that made its debut in British GT earlier this month features Hewland transmission that seeks to combine performance with cost-effectiveness

Photo by: JEP

The skillsets we’ve acquired through motorsport have enabled Hewland to work on other areas such as aerospace, and we’re able to apply our learning about the new interior techniques back to the motorsport and automotive sectors while ensuring quality standards. Every customer is pushing the boundaries on service, and we’re continually having to raise our level.

Looking to the future, while AI is an area of industry focus it’s a little soon to adopt in our core processes, as safety-critical parts require a loop of validation before being used in any new product. That said, we’ve started using it in 3D-printed structures that a human would normally design.

PLUS: How motorsport is embracing the opportunities of AI

But there are a number of elements involving automation we’re proactively engaged in. One is a more efficient manufacturing system, which will help with reducing material waste and energy consumption from a sustainability perspective.

At a base level, the goal of supporting our customers by making products as efficiently and reliably as possible hasn’t changed all that much since Hewland started out in 1957

The opportunities and challenges we face are constantly changing, but aren’t so dissimilar from the ones facing motorsport generally. The key challenge is to ensure relevance for larger OEMs that keeps them involved and developing innovative cars. Those manufacturers that aren’t involved with combustion racing might be doing electric or hydrogen, where the technology and development involved is no less great.

From a transmission perspective, the complexity may change as electrification increases and more road-relevant categories come on-stream. But at a base level, the goal of supporting our customers by making products as efficiently and reliably as possible hasn’t changed all that much since Hewland started out in 1957.

It’s a great end-to-end story continuing to be involved in the highest categories of motorsport. Motorsport is ever-changing and we look forward to the next 60-plus years of having transmissions that are leading grids across the world.

Keeping manufacturers engaged with motorsport is an ongoing challenge for key suppliers like Hewland

Keeping manufacturers engaged with motorsport is an ongoing challenge for key suppliers like Hewland

Photo by: Hide Ishiura

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Top five roles on Motorsport Jobs this week
Next article How data plays a role in every area of modern motorsport

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe