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The class of metallic materials known as superalloys have been developed over several decades primarily to meet the needs of the aero engine industry, in particular their requirement for materials that can operate reliably at high temperatures. Despite a genuine desire in the aerospace industry to limit their use because of cost, they remain stubbornly unbeatable in terms of performance by less expensive alloys. There are some very obvious applications of superalloys in motorsport,...

Titanium crankshafts

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It is said that humble pie is never a pleasant dish to eat. However, on this occasion, eat it I must. Only last year, in an article for RET-Monitor on the subject of crankshafts, I asked the question "Why Not Titanium?". The reasons given in the article as to why titanium crankshafts are not used are certainly valid. Titanium's low elastic modulus compared to steel means that, in order to be sufficiently stiff, a titanium crankshaft must be larger in section, and this means...

Aluminium-silicon alloys

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Although cast iron has enjoyed something of a resurgence since the advent of compacted graphite iron (CGI) in passenger cars, in racing it is an anachronism, a throw-back to much earlier times. It is usually used for large structural castings only where regulation mandates it. Otherwise, aluminium is the material of choice. Aluminium combines low mass and reasonable strength, and it finds use for pistons and all sorts of other components. The specific modulus or specific stiffness of...


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The main constituent parts of a modern race engine are very similar to those we would have found in their ancestors of 40-50 years ago. Unless dictated otherwise by rules, we are likely to find aluminium structural castings, aluminium pistons, steel camshafts and a steel crankshaft. The Ford-Cosworth DFV Formula One engine conceived in the 1960s differs little in these respects from its descendant, the Cosworth CA2010 Formula One engine. However, although other engines might differ from...


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There are a wide range of materials used in the racing powertrain, but although much progress has been made since man started motor racing more than a century ago, the vast majority of a modern race engine and transmission is still made of metal. However, this has been slowly changing for some time. Currently there are few applications of composites in race engines, although development is limited in many cases by regulation. In the past decade we have seen various engines sporting...