We spoke to Ferodo Racing to learn of cross-overs between the world of motorsport and the ultra-competitive aftermarket for brake components.
Engines racing, hearts pounding and knuckles clenched white. The smell of hot oil, clutch and brake pads fills the nostrils as drivers battle for the perfect line. The M25 is a fearsome place. As unlikely as it may sound for anybody accustomed to the cut-and-thrust nature of rush-hour London, there’s a proving ground that provides even more arduous conditions for the development of OE components: motorsport. In one vital area – braking – it is a world that has, in various forms and across a myriad of championships, been dominated by Ferodo since the company provided stopping power for the Parry-Thomas world land speed record of 1926. We spoke to Ferodo Racing to find out how much cross-over exists between brake friction technologies destined for road or race.
“In a way, motorsport is more straightforward,” explained Edward Little, technical manager, Ferodo Racing, Federal-Mogul Motorparts EMEA. “Teams are looking to stop as quickly and repeatedly as possible, with consumables lasting – as a worst- case scenario – for as long as the most demanding stage, race or conditions require. Vehicle manufacturers on the other hand, must consider the expectation for longer life-cycles of up to 60,000 km, ever more stringent NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels and efficiency – including the environmental impact of friction materials. If you were to fit true race-derived pads and discs to a mass-produced car, there would be a global outcry as their characteristics are simply not suitable for road use.”
“Very high-performance road pads can be used for light racing but use of race pads on the road would quickly wear OE-specification discs, not to mention be too noisy and offer compromised performance at low temperatures. Race pads are designed to withstand extremes, with an optimal operating temperature above what you would normally expect to attain in road conditions,” said Little. “Development of road and race friction materials is similar, relying on processes that determine the optimal blend of ferrous metals, carbons and ceramics, and abrasives such as silicon carbide and alumina. The search for new options is continuous. For race applications, dynamometer testing and simulation of race conditions follows – from hot to cold, or fast and slow, for example. If a product is achieving encouraging results then it is progressed to more rigorous trials and, ultimately, the greatest test: trials with race teams.”
Little explains that while the cross-over between road and race is less than you may expect, there are distinct similarities and synergistic benefits to be felt. For example, the ability to carry out high performance testing for the most extreme track- biased road car compounds, or accelerated development of components for niche manufacturers of high performance vehicles. In the past, the demanding nature of race pads has led to easy detachment from the metal backing plate. The development of mechanical methods to replace the adhesives are now benefitting road cars; a significantly reduced chance of detachment has led to far safer pads in all road conditions.
The bedding-in process is equally important for both applications and is an area that Ferodo Racing thinks could evolve in future. “Pads ‘remember’ the way they have been thermally processed for motorsport use – the performance of the microstructure is determined by it,” concluded Little. “If pads were taken straight out onto the track then performance would be inadequate, and this is the task carried out by ‘bedding-in’ new pads for road use. Although it’s currently a costly consideration, in the future we could see a scenario where aftermarket pads have undergone a similar thermal processing to provide a true ‘ready to go’ option.”
Quick to evolve and fast to stop, the world of brake friction material development is a complex one. If one thing is clear, it’s that the diversity of Ferodo’s capability and expertise is ready for track or commuter hack.