More than four years ago, Ford Performance opened its Technical Center in Concord, North Carolina, as part of the company’s mission to bring the essence of the goal-oriented, rapid-fire development needed on race programs to its new vehicle development. Today that mission is ongoing, but the tools keep getting better.
“The mission of Ford Performance is to transfer innovations from racetracks to the driveways of new Ford vehicle owners,” Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance, explained. “The tech center and this new driving simulator are two of the most important steps we have taken to help our mainstream engineering partners make sure the next Edge or F-150 is great to drive — even if you don’t check the performance model box.”
Those improvements include the addition of 3D technology the existing racing simulator and production-vehicle simulator. In the case of the simulator, it allowed the Ford GT to test on racetracks before the car was event completed.
“I’ve used the simulator a lot and have gotten used to the normal vision, so I was quite apprehensive when they told me we are going 3D,” said Richard Westbrook, driver of the No. 67 IMSA Ford GT, who will be vying to capture a championship next month. “It really is a step up in terms of reality. With all the hard work at the Ford Performance tech center, we now have something we can really rely on to give us a good car when we roll it off the truck in real life.”
Another way the company uses the virtual world to improve its real-word vehicles is by using computerized simulations to develop its aerodynamics. These tools have become so advanced that Ford Performance was able to build 2019 NHRA Funny Car bodies right from the computer model without ever creating a prototype. The company’s performance arm also utilizes supercomputer modeling of race and regular tires, which reduces wear and increases performance.
In all, these high-tech tools not only allow the company to create faster race cars, but develop its street vehicles more efficiently. Not only does that save money, but it also hastens the entire product-development cycle.