Xtrac, the UK-based motorsport transmission specialist, will discuss its cutting edge technology with members of both houses of Parliament this evening at a prominent motorsport industry event being held at the House of Lords. A key theme for discussion will be the broader application of its engineering skills to other industry sectors. Examples of Xtrac driveline components will be included in a prominent ‘display of motorsport excellence’ set out in the Royal Courtyard within the Houses of Parliament.
“The UK benefits considerably from its multi-million pound motorsport industry, which exemplifies the rapid technical innovation we need to help tackle the problem of energy efficiency,” says Xtrac managing director Peter Digby also a recent past chairman of the Motorsport Industry Association. “Many of the technical solutions we develop for motorsport can be applied to the automotive mainstream and other transport sectors and especially the defence industry where we’re already making excellent progress.”
Some of the most important business leaders in motorsport, from around the world, will be attending the annual event, which is organised by the MIA and hosted by its president Lord Astor of Hever, who has been appointed as a Minister of Defence in the new coalition government. The MIA’s summer reception is regarded as the most prestigious social gathering on the international motorsport business calendar and will be attended by over 300 invited VIP guests.
Xtrac, which employs 235 professional engineers and technicians at its factory, close to Newbury in Berkshire, which forms part of the UK Motorsport Valley, is not only transferring technology to the defence sector as part of the MIA’s motorsport-to-defence initiative, but has also been successful at pursuing growth by securing projects in the aerospace, automotive, hybrid vehicle and marine industries.
“The low-to-medium production volumes in most of these sectors is well within our manufacturing capability and in the high volume automotive industry there are important niche segments as well as a need for prototype parts for vehicle test and development,” says Digby. “Our designs are optimised for maximum efficiency and minimum whole life costs providing high added value to our customers; the last thing that a top racing team needs is a low cost part with poor reliability that will cost them dear in the long run. It’s the same, for example, for a military vehicle when the cost of a breakdown while on patrol is not only measured in downtime and expensive repair costs, but potentially lost lives. “
Within the defence industry, Xtrac has recently applied its engineering skills to design new and more robust front and rear axles that improve the mobility of all-terrain military vehicles. Xtrac was able to apply highly relevant motorsport experience to these projects; the company is a long-established supplier of gearboxes for Dakar rally-raid vehicles competing in arguably the world’s toughest off-road endurance event requiring characteristics similar to military vehicles.
Xtrac has also developed an all-new two speed transfer case for the Supacat SPV400, which is bidding in a competitive tender to win a UK Ministry of Defence contract for a Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) urgently needed in Afghanistan and being procured under a MoD Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR). Xtrac forms part of a chain of over 30 British manufacturers backing the all-British, all-new Supacat SPV400 bid to win the multi-million pound contract, which could lead to major additional export sales with other defence forces. Approximately a third of the companies involved are members of the MIA.
Xtrac’s renowned pace of development and ability to pursue speedy solutions has also helped it win significant business in the marine industry. The highly innovative Axis Drive by Caudwell Marine features a unique gear system designed and manufactured by Xtrac. And with the increasing focus on energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions in road cars, Xtrac has applied many of the engineering techniques learnt in motor racing to design suitable transmission systems and has produced more than 100 prototype gearboxes for hybrid and electric vehicle development.
“It’s not just about designing a highly efficient and reliable transmission, but making it as lightweight and compact as possible; the space available to house the traction motor, batteries and power electronics is at a real premium in hybrid electric vehicles,” says Digby. “Essentially this requires the same set of skills as packaging components into the tight spaces of a race car – something our industry is very good at.”
“As well as our technology pedigree another major attraction to clients is our exceptional ability to meet unremitting deadlines repeated each race weekend. Here, our ace card is that virtually all of our employees are highly motivated shareholders in our award winning Employee Benefit Trust share scheme, which is how we maintain our competitive edge.”
Within motorsport itself, Xtrac has been involved in energy efficient initiatives since 2001 and has played a key role in designing, developing and integrating a mechanical KERS system for F1 with partners Flybrid and Torotrak. Xtrac is also an active partner in a project to develop the flywheel hybrid system for road cars, where its key role is to manufacture the toroidal continuously variable transmission (CVT) between the flywheel and the vehicle powertrain.
Established for 26 years, Xtrac is a world leader in the design and manufacture of gearboxes, differentials and driveline components, which are used throughout motorsport and in particular within F1, IndyCar, Touring Car, Rallying, Rally Raid, GRAND-AM and many forms of sportscar racing including a major involvement in the Le Mans 24 hours, Daytona 24 hour and Sebring 12 hour races. Its world-class technical capabilities extend to research programmes in the development of new steels and new manufacturing processes, and as well as its fundamental design skills, Xtrac is highly proficient in gearbox analysis, simulation and rig testing, metallurgy, heat treatment and high precision manufacturing.