Test-ons, Race-ons: Didier Perrin Forme GP3 Bataillons


In this exclusive interview Didier Perrin, GP2 and GP3 Series Technical Director, reveals why some of the current drivers are on his shortlist, why you don’t mess with vortex generators and who is going to win the title in 2016. Enjoy!

iberianmph.com: Here we are again and you’re ready to entertain us. We spotted a trendy low nose on the new car, tell us all about it.

DP: This season is the first year of a new three-year cycle and we introduced a completely new car, featuring a bespoke new engine designed from scratch and dedicated to GP2 and GP3. When we designed the new car, we wanted it to be at the latest F1 practical standards, so the chassis and the car itself are matching F1 2010 safety standards, plus the nose that is matching F1 2015 safety standards. We made sure that the front impact and rear impact (safety structures) were able to match the latest F1 standards in the process of designing the car, 2015 standards at the time. It explains the very long nose which is very similar to last year’s F1 cars and with the tip of the nose sitting very low.

iberianmph.com: The nose looks nice.

DP: Good if you like it!

iberianmph.com: Going to back to the engine, you mentioned GP2 and GP3 at the same time?

DP: Well, it’s the same principle because we signed a contract with Mecachrome and now both GP2 and GP3 will feature a Mecachrome engine. Obviously GP2 and GP3 engines are not the same. One is delivering 400 HP and the other is delivering 600 HP. This bespoke GP3 engine has been designed from scratch and it’s a pure racing engine, it’s not derived, y’know, from a road car or a sports car like the former AER engine was.

iberianmph.com: We think the fans will also enjoy the stylish air intakes for the engine on top of the sidepods.

DP: It’s due to the architecture of the engine as the exhausts are on top of the engine, then the air intakes are on the sides of the engine, it was the simplest solution for us to have two sidepod air intakes instead of one on top of the engine.

iberianmph.com: It reminded us of 1980s F1 designs in a way. Very stylish, aye.

DP: It’s a change, for sure, it’s something new. As we started with a white sheet of paper, we had all the freedom to do that. It was easier to use this particular approach than having air intake on top.

iberianmph.com: We suspect it’s a totally new chassis as well in 2016?

DP: Yes, it is a totally new chassis made to accommodate taller drivers. With the previous car, we had difficulties with accommodating drivers taller than 180 cm. The funny thing is we made the chassis longer to accommodate taller drivers and we never so many short drivers as in 2016! And now we’re having to move the position of the pedals because of all the short guys! Jokes aside, the new chassis has a higher level of safety standards, as I mentioned previously, in the headrest area, front impact and side impact, it’s longer so it can accommodate taller drivers and it can accommodate some more ballast.

iberianmph.com: We noticed lap times are getting faster?

DP: The car overall will be slightly faster than its predecessor despite the fact that it was not our main target. We thought that the positioning of the GP3 car and the series was good, that’s why the new engine is delivering the same amount of power as the previous engine and the overall performance of the car is very similar to the older model. In fact, the car will be probably slightly quicker, but honestly it was not one of our targets. One of our targets was to make the car able to overtake better than its predecessor, this is way more important than the pure lap time performance in a one-make single-seater series. But this will be visible only after a couple of races. When I say after a couple of races, it’s because we always start the season in Barcelona and it’s the worst track for overtaking. Please do not make any judgements on the ability of these new cars to provide a good show based on Barcelona because it’s not the most representative track for overtaking. You’d need to wait a little bit; although I’m sure that with all the aerodynamic and CFD studies we’ve carried out to make that car able to overtake better and in an easier way than before, we really hope that the entertainment during the races will be better.

iberianmph.com: What about the Pirelli tyres?

DP: The tyres are very similar to 2015. We picked up compounds to get some degradation, but not too much or very little, which is difficult: you know where you will race, you know the granulometry, the abrasion of the tarmac – but you never know at what temperature you will race. A difference of 10 or 15 degrees in track or air temperature can make a huge impact on tyre performance. It’s a parameter we do not have under control and it’s always a bit tricky when we decide which compound shall we use and where in order to pick up the right one because we don’t know race day temperatures.

iberianmph.com: Your front wings are elegant and relatively simple, we can’t spot vortex generators or anything like that. What’s your take on the downforce?

DP: Well, the front wing has a tremendously important role to play in the overtaking possibility of the car because we need to maintain downforce while we’re following another car and it’s extremely important to get a good flow around front wheels. Having said that, the other constraint we have is to make the series affordable. As you can imagine, the front wing is also the most vulnerable part of the car, that’s why we had to think twice before adding ten vortex generators, three top flaps. It would be good to have a very aggressive looking car, an extremely performing car, but if no one can afford it then it’s not a good idea. Everything is a bit of a compromise: it’s a compromise between efficiency and overtaking efficiency and the cost of this vulnerable part.

iberianmph.com: Just a quick one – who is going to win the title? You?

DP: GP3 Series! I can predict that every race will be won by a GP3 car. I’ll be on the podium at every race. Some people say I’m always last, but no, I’m always winning the races.

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