Why electronics are key to managing modern engines in motorsport

In modern motorsport, electronics have become king. Where there once were mechanics and technicians fettling a car for laptime, the modern-day equivalent features data and software engineers crunching the numbers to run the engine, brakes and other components in the most efficient way possible

Why electronics are key to managing modern engines in motorsport

That, allied to the expansion of telemetry with numerous different sensors monitoring everything from a driver's inputs to component temperatures, means that selecting, installing the right electronic devices for the job has become a key factor between winning and losing.

In both DTM and Super GT500, which ran to Class 1 regulations in the 2020 season, Bosch Motorsport supplies numerous electronic components to all teams running in both categories. This includes the engine management systems, valves and fuel pumps that influence the operation of the powertrains, along with various other ancillary electronics that control sensors, braking, driver displays and all things in between. Bosch has been a partner of DTM since its rebirth in the year 2000 and, since the implementation of a common ruleset between the two series has also linked up with Japan's Super GT500 series.

Bosch's catalogue of parts is common to both series, and both make use of its MS 7.4 engine control unit within. With the possibility to control engines of up to 12 cylinders, the system can work flexibly with both low- and high-pressure injection systems within gasoline-powered engines. Under Class 1 Super GT500 makes use of two-litre inline-four turbocharged engines, based on those commercially available within road cars, and the engine management systems can be programmed to maximise the engine's performance for any given scenario.

This is possible through the ECU's internal amplifiers for injection and ignition, and must be able to work at full load to manage the functions of the engine. It also works with each of the sensors on board the car in tandem, so that any issues can be fed back to the ECU and dealt with accordingly.

The MS 7.4 can be used to govern the application of the throttle electronically, which engineers can tweak through their engine mapping work; the system also allows for functionality with traction control, launch control and management of the turbocharger on board the car. Weighing 1610 g, the unit works across an array of temperatures - from -20 degrees C to 85 degrees - and has four connectors. In addition the ECU manages up to 41 different analog inputs.

All of the electronics are developed in-house at Bosch, and the hardware is first defined by the design and layout of the internal circuit boards to manage all of the inputs and outputs necessary. The set-up has to handle everything from data processing, signal filtering to remove any anomalous results generated by noise, along with voltage stabilisers to ensure the ECU is producing the most accurate results possible. It also makes use of a platform module, also developed by Bosch, to manage external components and processors produced elsewhere. The mounting and final testing is then executed inhouse at Bosch Motorsport.

The exterior of the ECU is produced from milled aluminium and features an array of fins to ensure that the product does not require any external cooling. This ensures that it can work within the correct temperature range and does not expose any of the internal components to a higher concentration of heat.

Throughout its development, the ECU has become smaller and lighter, while also featuring more modern components to remain relevant in the highly competitive arena of international motorsport. It is also part of a complete eco-system consisting of components, configuration tools and data analytics that can all be used to boost performance. This includes for example the DDU 10 display unit for use within the car's cockpit. The graphical display unit offers readouts for the information a driver may require, and also features a data logger which can be operated with Bosch's analysis tool WinDarab, making it a useful tool for drivers and race engineers alike.

Altogether, this provides a basis for the data to be analysed and calibrated according to the engineers' needs.

Over the past 25 to 30 years, motorsport has transitioned from a pursuit led by mechanical tinkering and manual changes to a highly specialised endeavour in which data is king. And if you have the right electronics on board delivering the right numbers to an engineer's laptop, you have everything you need to go out and win races.

To find out more about Bosch's race-winning technology you can visit www.bosch-motorsport.com or follow on Instagram @boschmotorsport

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