The Reynard 02S / DBA / Zytek 04S Story

dailysportscar.comThe Zytek 04S was the only car to offer a serious challenge to Audi supremacy at Le Mans and in the LMES in 2004. Alan Lis spoke to Kieron Salter (right), who is a director of the racing car design consultancy KW Motorsport, about the early days of the project. Along with his business partner Will Phillips, Kieron played a key role in the original design and build of the car, when it was known as the Reynard 02S, and believes that its challenge to the Audis might have happened sooner.

You were head of Special Projects at Reynard, the division that designed and built the Reynard 2KQ and later the 02S. How did Will Phillips get involved?
“Will was brought on board in 2000, with Nigel Stroud, to increase the technical resource for the 2KQ project, so that we could tackle the problems with the first version of that car. Will ran the R&D programme for the evolution of the 2KQ into the 2KQLM. Five cars ran at Le Mans in 2000 and Will race engineered the Johansson-Matthews car himself. Further changes were introduced for 2001 with the 01Q, but by then we were already working on the concept of the 02S – a process that had started at Le Mans in 2000.

“Everything that had been learned from the design, build and running of the 2KQ and its 01Q derivative would benefit the design of the 02S, for project which Will was the chief designer.

“Of the nine 2KQs built in total, two comprised a very interesting project for the ROC team, which proposed to run them with 2-litre turbocharged Volkswagen engines, in the LMP675 category. The 2KQ was never able to get down to the minimum class weight of 675 kgs because it was originally designed as an LMP900 chassis, but because it was an aerodynamically advanced and sophisticated car, it was very successful and won the LMP675 class in 2001, 2002 and 2003. In the first year the ROC cars didn’t finish the race but they did qualify ahead of some of the LMP900 runners and put the other LMP675 runners outside the minimum qualifying time for the class, which made a few people think.

“MG then recognised the potential (of the 675 class) and commissioned a car from Lola that was specifically designed to fully exploit the premise that an LMP675 car built down to the weight limit would easily be competitive with an LMP900 car. We (Reynard) had also come to this conclusion with the ROC project, and began laying down plans (during the 2000 Le Mans race meeting) for a purpose designed and built Reynard LMP675 chassis. However our car was not commissioned until early 2001, by which time the MG-Lolas were already being built - and would run at Le Mans that year.”

Wasn’t the 02S also designed to be used in LMP900?
dailysportscar.com“Yes, for the 02S we decided to reverse the approach taken with the 2KQ, and build an LMP675 car that could also be raced in the LMP900 class. So with that in mind the 02S was specified to meet the LMP900 crash test criteria. That immediately set our design team a challenge, because the MG was being built purely as a 675 and only being crash tested on that basis. That meant that it could benefit from having a lighter chassis, as the crash test for that class was more lenient, because of the lower minimum weight limit. We compromised a bit with the 02S in having a heavier chassis, but we believed that it would give the car a greater market in 2002. It was designed so that a customer could put a Judd V10 in it and run it as an LMP900. We knew that aerodynamically it was going to be far superior to anything else available, or at least that was our intention.

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“The first sketchy wind tunnel programme for 02S began early in 2001. We went through lots of iterations on narrower bodywork, to see if reduced frontal area was going to be a route to take, and various bodywork configurations to determine how the air would flow over and through the body.

“In September 2001 the first 02S chassis passed its crash tests as both an LMP675 and LMP900 and was homologated for those classes. Then at the end of 2001 the rate of progress of the build began to slow down and on a couple of occasions stopped altogether.”

Why was that?
“At that time there were still no confirmed customers, because no one really knew what to expect of the car. The premature delivery of the 2KQ, with its initial problems, made people nervous and gave that car a pretty bad reputation. It hadn’t won any races or shown any real potential. Also people were not sure what was going to happen with the class rules in the future, and the MG-Lola was already out in the market, had proved to be pretty successful and had already taken some of LMP675 market. On top of all that, Reynard as a company was really struggling at that time. The ChampCar market, which had been such an important revenue stream in the past, was in decline.

“So the decision was taken to slow the build programme, with the aim of easing Reynard’s financial commitment. The investment needed to design and build a sports prototype is well over £1 million.

“Initially we intended to run the first chassis in conjunction with the ROC team, using Reynard engineers, purely as a test car to ensure that there were no problems like those we’d had with the first 2KQ. We wanted to make sure that the car was absolutely right before it was made available to customers. That work was to involve a small test and R&D programme, but at that time Reynard simply didn’t have the money to do even that, so it never happened in the way we intended. Instead the build of the first car continued very slowly, until in March 2002 Reynard went into receivership.”

How near was the car to completion?
“At that time the first chassis was probably 75% complete: everything was ready except the major bodywork components, which were the last bits to be made because of the pattern making needed for them. The crash tests had been passed, there were three complete sets of suspension and there were gearboxes designed and manufactured. We’d commissioned the all new gearbox from Ricardo, based on their knowledge and experience gained from their work with Audi. Ricardo was obviously a very good partner to be with. The Audi gearbox is a longitudinal design, but we commissioned a transverse gearbox for the 02S. It was a fully pneumatic paddle shift unit, that was both light in weight and capable of accepting the power and torque of an LMP900 engine. At that time only the Audi R8s were using a pneumatic shift system.”

dailysportscar.comIf I recall correctly the 02S project was offered for sale as a separate entity?
“That’s right and fortunately, soon after Reynard went into receivership, the 02S project was purchased by a company called International Racing Management. They completed the build of the first car, with the assistance of Zytek. Myself and Will were retained by IRM to see the project through to the completion of the first chassis, so we continued to work out of part of the old Reynard factory in Brackley.

"By July 2002 we were able to resume building the car, whereas before we had been doing so with the same group of engineers who had been involved before Reynard called in the receivers. We did the final engineering and design work that was needed, coordinated the build, finished off the pattern work and built the car, all in a fairly short period of time.

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Was it always intended that the first car would have a Zytek engine?
“The original 02S was to have been a Lehmann Volkswagen-engined car for ROC, but that never happened either, as ROC had problems of its own and didn’t appear to have VW’s full support. We were also working on designing an engine installation for an all new four cylinder turbocharged engine that was being built by another manufacturer, specifically for the 02S. That had some interesting features that would have allowed the car to have a very low rear deck height.

“Unlike the MG, the 02S had been designed from the outset as a customer car, one that was able to accept a range of different engines, provided they were racing engines. A large undeveloped stock block V8 would have been a problem, but anything from a turbocharged four cylinder engine up to a V10 engine would have been possible, with minor bodywork changes. That meant that it was easy to fit the Zytek V8. Bill Gibson, who owns Zytek, had been in contact with us at Reynard for quite some time during the 02S project. We knew he had what was potentially a very good engine, and he could see the potential of the 02S. When the Lehmann VW deal fell through we started installation work on the 3.4-litre Zytek V8. Of course, with Zytek’s increased input into the 02S project after Reynard went into receivership, we were obviously going to continue with that installation for the first chassis.

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“The first complete car was shaken down on September 19 2002, then inspected by the ACO. We did static testing and rig testing overnight, before it did a track test at Snetterton. From there it went to Japan and then directly to Atlanta, where it was entered in the Petit Le Mans on October 12. Before that race it had about half a day of reasonable testing, but at Road Atlanta it performed well and everyone was quite happy with it. The car demonstrated that it had enormous aerodynamic advantage over other cars. In that race it was running as an LMP675, so the air restrictors on the engine meant that it did have as much power as the Audis, and it was also on narrower Dunlop tyres, not the wider LMP 900 Michelins. Having said that, the Dunlop tyres worked really well with the car in Atlanta and we were right on the pace. The car was able to show that it had potential. It wasn’t reliable enough at that time to finish the race, but in the rain with Casper Elgard, who hadn’t driven much in practice, the car was the fastest on the track.

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"What stopped the car was very simple: a water pipe cracked, a part worth just a few pounds, but it was enough to put the car out of the race. That was unfortunate but the potential of the car was proven, and John Nielsen went on to run the car, renamed as the DBA 03S, with success in the FIA Championship in 2003. Unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to run a car in the ALMS for a full season.

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Does International Racing Management still own the car design?
“Yes they do but they didn’t - and still don’t - have a facility for manufacturing or engineering. IRM own the project and as I understand it have a technical partnership with Zytek, which was licensed to build the two Zytek 04S derivative cars that have raced this year.

dailysportscar.comDo you feel that the design is now fulfilling its potential?
“Yes, the three teams that have been running the cars have done a fantastic job. But I can’t help thinking that if the Reynard 02S had been raced and developed through 2002, it could have offered a real challenge to the Audis in 2002 and 2003, as well as 2004 and beyond. Of course that’s impossible to prove, but I believe it’s one of the best sportscars designed to, what are now, the old sportscar regulations. It was the last car completed that was designed to those regulations and its performances in 2004 as the Zytek 04S and the DBA 03S prove that it would have been the fastest customer car available.

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dailysportscar.com“If we could have finished the car and completed the test programme as planned in 2001, it could have raced throughout 2002 and 2003. I suspect if we had been able to do that, there would be a lot more of them being raced today, and perhaps the Audis would not be as dominant.

"As it is there are three racing, or able to race, now. The original DBA is owned by Creation Sportif, there’s the factory Zytek car and the second car built by Zytek for Jota. I really believe that the car could have changed people’s expectations of LMP675s.”

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Since the completion of the 02S project for IRM, KWM has been involved with the development of the first LMP1 regulation chassis, the Nasamax DM139 - and now its development for 2005.

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