MINI Made Safer for WRC

MINI cars are not meant to fly.

MINI cars are not meant to fly.

But look at this:

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Yes, that certainly qualifies as flying. But this is a MINI John Cooper Works WRC engineered by Prodrive for the 2011 World Rally Championship (WRC).

And what they’ve done develop a new roll cage that helps keep the driver safe.

Prodrive engineers were actually working on the design of an “ideal” rally car before landing the MINI WRC program. They were working with a generic vehicle model. Using a parametric model they were able to adjust the parameters, such as weight distribution and body stiffness. They formulated an “ideal” vehicle, including the body and roll cage. Turns out that the MINI Countryman was a good match with what they developed in software.

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“The difficulties of making an actual car without compromising the safety gains made on the virtual car were considerable,” said Paul Eastman, Prodrive head of rally engineering. “But because we knew just how good it could be theoretically, we kept working at it to find a way to make it feasible for manufacture without losing safety performance or compromising weight.”

Through extensive finite element analysis and physical tests (they paid particular attention to weld points) they designed a new roll cage that provided the safety and performance required. “The breakthrough came from completely revising the side-impact protection bars, routing them farther away from each crew member and subtly changing their shape. In an impact this brings the structure into play much sooner, allowing software materials to be specified to safely accelerate the driver and passenger over a longer period of time.”

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An additional benefit to the design, which includes curved door beams that enhance safety, is that the roll change design provides a bit more roominess for the crew.