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Akrapovic Exhausts

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Litchfield Dyno Facility

As many of you who visited us through 2014, or follow us on Facebook will know, we have been busy improving our facilities to allow us to offer an improved range of services.  The centre piece of these changes has been the installation of a top-of-the-range chassis dynamometer.

We are delighted to announce that after months of work we installed the UK’s first 4WD MAHA MSR Dynamometer.  This German made, state of the art dyno is the most advanced on the market and was originally designed for some of the largest manufacturers of cars and sports cars.

     

Not a simple choice

We had resisted buying our own dyno over the years until the reality of safety concerns on local roads, ever increasing power levels and the pace of our development work created a necessity for a dynamometer at Litchfield.  Choosing the correct dyno should have been an easy task, considering we have used every type and brand over the years.  If only this was the case…

Initially we discounted the new Maha system simply due to cost. Our former site housed the cheaper LPS3000 which worked well, but this was the older twin roller design with unlinked axles, creating unnecessary strain on the transmissions and centre differentials of many of the current models in which we specialise.  In addition, we had plenty of experience with using Ecutek’s Maha Land and Sea dyno with our own GT-R, although this also uses an unlinked twin roller setup.

We also explored a number of the American dynos which are significantly more cost effective. If we had wanted to produce headline numbers or run dyno days then these dynamometers probably would have been perfect for our needs. 

We also looked at the Australian manufacturer Dyno Dynamics that has become a popular choice amongst many tuners in the UK.   Like the American models this type of dyno is designed to measure power at the wheels and then uses a fixed multiplier to calculate the flywheel figure that many of our UK customers demand.  However it is not a calculation method we have ever really agreed with and these types of dynos are also unlinked.

After much consideration we flew to the US and spoke with Superflow who, in our view, make the best of the American (directly linked roller) dynos. They use a mechanical transmission system to synchronise the front and rear roller sets and we know of a number of tuners who are very happy with them.  We came very close to ordering one of these, especially as we already had a Superflow engine dyno on order.

Just before pulling the trigger we thought we should re-examine our options. We decided to take up Maha’s offer to visit their factory and test the MSR500 system in person.  We drove our GT-R to their facility in Germany to directly test their claims with a known car.

It quickly became clear that their knowledge, experience and the advantages of their electric motor drive system made them the ideal choice for cars with a complex 4wd system, like the Nissan GT-R. The ability to add additional modules to suit our development program had also negated our concerns about the initial higher cost.

During testing we were amazed at the consistency and repeatability of the runs.  Maha did a number of different power runs as they demonstrated the software and the dyno’s control of the power between the front and rear axles. Just prior to breaking for lunch, we did a run on low boost which produced 893.4 bhp. Once we had finished and returned to the dyno, the run was repeated and the car produced 893.7 bhp, we were impressed!

The Maha MSR500 dyno equipment we were considering was the same as that installed at Porsche, VAG group, Toyota Motorsport and BMW M Power, amongst others.  The key distinction over the other modern dynos mentioned above is that they don’t directly link their front and rear rollers. The MSR500 does couple the front and rear rollers but, uniquely, it is done by driving them with motors. The electric motors are very quickly and accurately controlled, capable of generating huge torque. This makes them ideal for ensuring, when necessary, that the rollers are rotating at the same speed but not necessarily with the same applied force. The dyno can therefore cope with any change in axle torque loading as the car shuffles power fore and aft, varying the assistance of the electric motors attached to each axle.  This is especially useful on some of the Haldex 4WD systems which have the axles spinning at subtly different speeds.  

We have learnt, over the years that coping with quick variations in torque is vital with all wheel drive cars as advanced as the Nissan GT-R. Additionally, the drive motors allows the un-driven wheels of 2WD vehicles to be rotated at the speed of the rear wheels, preventing error codes generated by advanced ABS modules. The motors also allow the vehicle to be run on the dyno without the engine running – useful for testing drivetrain components under very precisely controlled and restricted loads.

Dyno Cell

We were acutely aware that the performance of the dyno cell surrounding the dynamometer is every bit as important as the dyno hardware itself, if the readings derived from the dyno are to be considered useful and accurate.  With this in mind, we conducted considerable research to ensure we could achieve the best possible set-up.

We have paid particular attention to the cell design, not only to manage all aspects of reducing heat-soak, but also to create the movement of as much air mass as possible.  Rather than simply increasing air pressure on the front of the car, it is the air mass passing through the cell that is crucial in simulating real world conditions. 

We have previously used dynos with apparently powerful fans placed in front of the car. Once the air flow hit the radiator/intercooler it loses a lot of its energy, almost stalling and not removing the hot air away from the front of the car.  There was also virtually no airflow under the car, where a significant amount of the heat would be retained.

  

Speaking to MRT (one of Australia’s largest tuning firms) about the problem and using the excellent Dynapack at Advanced Motorsport in Silverstone gave us a fascinating insight into what could be done with the correct management of air. We decided early on in the design process that the test cell should not have a front-mounted forward blowing fan. Instead we would use a rear-mounted extraction fan and shape the room to move the air continually though and around the car.

The driving-force for the airflow through the room is a massive variable-speed fan mounted in its own sound proof room.  This fan is capable of moving a huge amount of air, far exceeding Maha’s recommendations, with its bell mouth entrance and low roof height keeps the air flow high at all times.

Air is fed into the cell just in front of the car’s radiator by an adjustable duct.  This is shaped to flow air underneath the car and some over the top of the bonnet.  There are additional ducts at the top of the doors to encourage airflow along the roof of the cell directing any exhaust gases toward the extraction the fan.

In front of the dyno is a large room which features a massive roof-mounted ducting mated to four evenly spaced grills. Theses have been sized to ensure the test cell is fed with ample cold air with little to no restriction.  On the entrance wall there are also additional vents to allow fresh directional airflow despite the closed external door.

The Maha dyno has its own weather station allowing us to make sure that the temperature is correct and that there is no artificial pressure drop within the room which could cause inaccurate measurements.   So far we have only needed to run the fan at 65% capacity even with our most extreme 1,000+bhp GT-Rs.  Additional directional fans were purchased for cooling specific areas of the engine bay or for use with mid and rear engine cars. This means that we can do multiple pulls on the dyno using any high-powered car and still have an intake manifold (on the GT-R) that is cool to the touch.

Uniquely in the UK, our dyno has triple retarders installed allowing it to safely handle well over 1,800bhp with ease. These retarders then create further heat energy that needs to be controlled.   In anticipation of this, we installed a bespoke underground cooling system which feeds the huge retarders and motors with fresh air to aid their consistency.  We have also chosen to take Maha’s optional high grip Ni/Cr coated roller set to minimise wheel spin on even the highest output cars.

Once the cell was completely finished and operational we had further days of intensive training with MAHA Germany’s chief engineer, Michael Plainies.  It was great to hear that Michael considered our dyno cell to be the best of this type he had seen. Very satisfying considering his years of installation experience all around the world and a testament to the hard work our team has put in.

  

Noise Control

When we designed the dyno cell we wanted to make sure that the generated noise from the car and dyno was contained and did not affect the work within the workshop or customers in the waiting area.

The brief was to be able to hold a normal conversation directly next to the room without having to raise your voice to be heard. To achieve this the cell uses a combination of sound proofing materials, solid construction and air gaps to contain the worst of the noise and vibration.  The customer waiting area is also fully insulated and sealed to help reduce noise further.

The brief was to be able to hold a normal conversation directly next to the room without having to raise your voice to be heard. To achieve this the cell uses a combination of sound proofing materials, solid construction and air gaps to contain the worst of the noise and vibration.  The customer waiting area is also fully insulated and sealed to help reduce noise further.

A large blast-proof triple glazed window was placed on one side of the room so customers can view their cars being run from the comfort of the waiting room sofas.  The dyno computer can also be displayed on one of three wide screen monitors in the waiting area for instant power measurements.

Inside the dyno cell we have installed four HD cameras which allow the operator to watch the car from all angles from a separate 42” monitor. Additionally a massive 62” LCD monitor shows all the vital information to the dyno operator.

For safety there is full-time voice and computer communication available between the operator and the office where the dyno is also visible in real time from the HD cameras.

Customer Benefits

The new dyno set-up has been engineered from the outset to provide us with empirical testing and repeatable development of all our new tuning packages. It will improve lead times and give our technicians and engineers the ability to immediately test any new ideas. Better yet, each and every road-car tuning package can be finely calibrated on the day of the customer’s visit, with provable ‘before and after’ dyno data to back up the car’s performance.

The dyno also has many additional uses that people may not have considered, such as running in the new engines and gearboxes we have built.  Components can be broken in in a tightly controlled environment - the car can be gently run through the gears over a pre-set road course with varying resistance levels.  They can be carefully monitored throughout, making sure each build is performing as expected at every stage, without the risk of accidental damage from stone-chips or worse and without even getting the car dirty!

It is not just the engine performance the MSR enables us to monitor. Because we can monitor the torque requirements and drag characteristics of each axle independently we can make sure the transmission and, in particular, the 4WD centre clutch is performing as expected.

Emissions Testing & Fuel Consumption

Being able to accurately measure tail pipe emissions doesn’t sound interesting but it is very useful in fully understanding how an engine is performing.  It’s all very well telling our customers that we have improved their fuel consumption or emission level for each of our stage packages, but now we will be able to quantify these improvements.

On some of our recent testing of our Stage 4 cars we have made significant improvements in Hydrocarbon levels (unburnt fuel) which on a long cruise will help fuel consumption.  You will not see these changes in a normal power test graph or on an ECU log but you will notice it in the saving in fuel over time.   If we can burn the fuel more efficiently then it will also help us to produce more power for the same boost levels and we will shortly be releasing new Stage map updates that take advantage of this.

     

Timed Acceleration Runs

2 repeat runs at 1 bar (1&2) followed by 2 runs around 1.2bar (3&4)

Another great feature to help us quantify an improvement is the ability to time acceleration between various points.  The dyno can calculate how quickly the car will now accelerate from 30-130mph in 5th or 20-70mph in 3rd, all with real-world load applied to the car.  Not only does the dyno record these times but it can display them as a league table. This table then gets constantly updated each time the car passes through these two points.  If, for example, we wanted to improve the power between 5,000rpm-6,000rpm we can set this as a timed window and accelerate through with the benefit of not having to start loading the car up from low rpms. This avoids creating unnecessary heat build-up and enables us to just plant the throttle from the same point making the runs consistent.  This is a great tool for us to get the calibration close during live mapping sessions.