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Delivering a High-Performance Vehicle Engine Testing Facility

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Published on Oct 28, 2014

In this much-anticipated video documentary, see how Sierra helped Honda technical partner, Mugen, build a new high-performance vehicle testing facility for a wide variety of racing engines from World Touring Car to Le Mans to Formula 1.

The challenge was daunting; transform a former printer assembly building into a cutting-edge engine test center capable of precision tuning engines that exceed 15,000 rpm at 130 decibels. Sierra broke ground June 2013 and delivered a fully operational facility within eight months.

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[Abridged Video Transcription]

Whether it’s flow or vehicle engine testing, precision measurement and control has always been the core focus for Sierra. In 2014, Sierra built one of the most advanced engine test facilities in the world.

Winning is the lightning force of passion for motor sports. One more horsepower determines who's going to win the next race. All of the behind-the-scenes activity build up to this one moment. And it's when they turn the engine on and does it work?

Enabled by Sierra's test facility development skills, Mugen's new test cells are capable of precision tuning a wide variety of Honda racing engines, from world touring car, to Le Mans, to Formula 1.

In 2012, Mugen moved to Milton Keynes, where they could build a state-of-the-art engine testing facility. Based on their depth of experience, Sierra was hired to design, build, and outfit Mugen's test cells and Martin Hird, managing director of Sierra's automotive test division was brought in to shepherd the project.

CAD drawings were developed by Sierra to pre-visualize the test cells. The simple portal frame of the Mugen facility wasn't initially intended for test cell operations. So significant construction modifications were required.

When you undertake a project of this type, particularly when you're dealing with Formula 1 engines, you've got to consider the particular challenges that they bring. They tend to be very noisy engines. And we're talking around 138 db of noise. Where typically, majority of petrol cars will be around 110 to 112. We used block work regimes, double-skimmed, which gave us a high level of acoustic barrier.

No two facilities are the same size. Test cells are different size. Facilities are different size. So it's not just about the test cell itself. It's about how you house all the infrastructure that's required to support the testing of such applications that we're talking about today. We've gone from sort of a steady state type application to a test facility now that can do track simulation. It can re-create the conditions of track circuits around the world. Not just in terms of circuit, but also in terms of ambient conditions because we've employed a car that gives us pressure, temperature, and humidity control, to very close tolerance.

While Sierra's combustion air handling unit was positioned outside of the test cell, Sierra precision fuel-metering hardware was mounted on the inside wall of the new test cell.

The important part of the testing process is removing the variability. And a key element of that is conditioning the fuel that the engine sees. You've got the exhaust tube, and then you've just got a shroud on the outside. So we've created a range of fuel conditioning or fuel metering products that actually eliminate that and provide the client with very precise condition of temperature for the fuel.

But long before one of Mugen's high-performance engines is ready for the test cell, it must clear hundreds of hurdles and development, beginning with computer modeling of the engine parts at the design stage, followed by precision, prototype machining.

Test cell completed, Sierra transient Dyno and remaining testing hardware installed, Mugen's precision built engine is delivered to the test bed, where critical engine data will be gathered through Sierra's innovative plug-and-play H-frame, surrounding the back of the engine.

With motor sports, it's such a competitive field. Every team out there has a great engine. Every team out there is looking for that little extra bit of horsepower, is looking to do a simulation in their test cell that's better than the other's. What we focus on is precision measurement control of the test facility so that when the engine gets out to the race track, it wins.

Sierra's CADET V14 test automation software controls all systems in and out of the test cell and provides crucial feedback. The benefit from equipment like that is the accuracy of the data we get, which simulate exactly how the engine behave in the car.

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