As announced earlier this week, today we are publishing the exclusive “making of” of Xray’s first ever formula kit, the X1. Designer Martin Hudy will go into deep as he explains the challenges of creating a competitive yet user-friendly formula car.
With the success of the X12 and X10 platforms and the increasing popularity of these types of pan classes, the next logical move for our R&D team was to design an F1 car. This class has enjoyed serious increases in popularity, due in large parts to the appeal of the F1 car design as well as the simplicity of these cars which makes them very exciting and fun to race.
The project code assigned to this car was X1, and we started to work on this car for the first time over one year ago. We have worked hard and diligently to create the final design.
Before we started work on the X1, we had to take many things – and factory processes – into the consideration. The main performance and handling characteristics of the pan cars comes from the rear suspension. There are various types of suspensions and configurations used on modern pan cars, so one of the first decisions was which type of rear suspension was best to use. With early stage prototypes, we did not want to give up on any of the suspension and so we tested both “side tube” and “side shock” alternatives to gain experience and knowledge of the influences of these alternatives on the handling of the X1.
With our experiences from the X12 and X10, we had a clear focus that we wanted the X1 to be a blend of no-compromise racing car for high-level racing while also being simple to set up so that beginners new to the class would not be lost. To make the car fully competitive with maximum performance for top-level racing, we needed to have maximum set-up possibilities; however, we also had a clear idea on how to make them very easy & straightforward to understand and adjust. We knew we wanted to have fully-adjustable geometry including camber, caster, track width, roll centre, bump steer, toe-in, Ackermann, and of course weight balance adjustment. Even with a simple pan car design, every one of these set-up features has a significant influence on handling and as such we wanted to have them all fully integrated.
One of the main complaints about the majority of F1 race cars was how fragile they were. From the very beginning of the project, we had a clear goal to follow the legendary and coveted Xray reliability and unbeatable durability to make the X1 the strongest and most reliable F1 car in the class. The strength comes not only from the design but especially from the materials used, and the X1 features only the finest materials that have been in use in other XRAY cars: legendary Hudy Spring Steel, Swiss 7075 T6 aluminium, self-formulated super-strong composite parts, and custom-made high-grade graphite materials … all the finest materials that can be found on all Xray cars, no compromises taken.
Thanks to the high-tech materials used, we could afford to design the parts to be as light as possible to make the X1 one of the lightest cars on the market – which of course helps the performance of the car.
With a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve, which suspension to use, what materials to use, and what set-up possibilities to integrate, we could start with the real work. This project has been very special to me personally, and it has been very different from all other projects as for the first time we split responsibility between three persons: Francesco Martini, Jan Ratheisky, and myself.
Francesco has been very active and helpful with his input on R&D on previous cars – especially with the T4 – but this time Franci was even more deeply involved so we could better use his creative ideas. Franci is highly professional and has a good sense for the smallest details and technical imagination which is exactly what is needed for R&D. That, coupled with his passion for F1, made it an easy decision to have him take over the project. Franci was responsible for the main design inputs and first prototypes testing, and also giving further direction.
He did all the work at home in Italy, and we stayed in daily contact. I have integrated all the ideas and changes into the 3D models which we discussed and then further evolved. After some parts were designed, I made rapid prototypes which were sent to Franci for testing and then I collected data and feedback to make further progress. During the entire year, we had opportunity to work on the project at real races; there is nothing better than real life testing to compare your car to the rest on the market.
Last year we were fortunate to have Jan Ratheisky join our team. Jan was very excited when we offered him the opportunity to test our X1 and be part of the R&D team. We could not be happier, having one of the world’s best formula racers and ETS Formula champion racing and testing our car. We were pretty much assured that if Jan liked the X1 and was faster with it than other cars, then we were doing something right. Working with Jan was very positive and effective, and immediately we started to make more progress.
But at the same time, Jan made me work harder as he constantly had requirements for something else … a different “this” … a changed “that” … sometimes it was only to slightly modify a small thing and other times it was to make a completely new part. With my workload and attention spent on several projects simultaneously, at some points it was a challenge (to say the least) to keep my head above water with the changes and improvements made by Franci and Jan. They worked fast and I had to work even faster to give them what they asked for.
Staring with our X10 car with an aftermarket F1 conversion kit, it did not take long to start exchanging parts for F1-specific parts. After several months we had different prototypes built, ready for some serious and real world race testing. Of course some of the parts which were expected to be made from composite could not be made in the early prototype stages since there were still a lot of changes going on, and I did not want to invest huge resources into moulds which at the end would require updates or might not even be used at all. As such, all the composite parts were either milled or created with 3D printing, but of course only where there was no requirement for absolute reliability.
After some of the first private tests at home tracks as well at our factory track, we were fairly satisfied with the first results and testing and we were confident enough to give it a try at the most competitive race series – the ETS. Any time we race a prototype for the first time at a real major race with full competition, I am always nervous and excited at the same time. This time it was not only me but also Franci and Jan were even a little bit scared but I also saw their thrill in their eyes.
As such it made me a little more comfortable as this time the responsibility was not only on my shoulders but split a little more evenly between us. Good fortune was with us, and everything went well without any problems. Jan won the race, so we were extremely happy and satisfied for our very first debut. Of course we kept everything as confidential as possible, since we were still in the very early stages of development, and did not want to attract too much unwanted attention to ourselves and our new car.
From the first real test we knew we still needed to work on a lot of different chassis designs, especially focusing on getting the proper flex to give more predictable handling for the average driver while still having enough cornering speed and steering response in chicanes. We also wanted to improve the front suspension to make it easier to make set-up changes – in the end we did this in the very clever way while still keeping the extreme rigidity of the suspension to make it greatly resilient in hard crashes.
Jan was also not yet satisfied with the handling consistency in corners, and Franci commented on the same thing along with making the car more predictable on corner entry and mid-corner. Both of these improvement comments were based on real racing experience, and we incorporated the changes in a very smart and easy way – by installing steering backstops which made the car much more consistent and predictable in corners.
The rear suspension did not require any changes throughout the design. From the very first tests until the final production design, the rear suspension has worked flawlessly.
Since the first real track test at ETS, the next steps were more and more testing by Jan and Franci, turning feedback into new 3D models which were discussed & confirmed, creating drawings and production programs which were uploaded via internal network to CNC-machines, and then producing in-house samples to send over for testing or brought to the next races. After we confirmed the final design of each part individually, I created the final production drawings, and approved the production.
During the last few months we had some internal meetings as well, especially before we confirmed parts for the complicated moulds. Before the Summer we had a final design of the car ready with all details fine-tuned. With a few days left before the ETS finale at our home track, I wanted to be sure that Jan and Franci would run the final design cars. With extra effort behind our computer screens, we quickly prepared several final production programs for the CNC machines and within a few days we produced several pre-production cars.
When Franci and Jan arrived, they got the cars in parts and I kept them busy building and preparing everything for the race. The final spec car worked very well, and all the incorporated changes had the desired effects so we all were very satisfied with the overall final design. Since Summer, the production lines and machines have been very busy producing new 2015-spec cars including the XB8E, X12, T4, XB4, and XB8. So despite the final design of the X1 being approved since Summer, the car’s mass production had to wait until there was availability in the production schedule.
These days, production is running fully and the last parts which were awaiting final production are all the graphite parts which had to wait until all the new moulds were completed so all the tolerances could be transferred and adjusted to the final shapes of the parts. The mould of the front wing was just finished this past Monday, so we used the time with Franci – who came for private testing before the ETS season opening race – to double check all the composite parts, adjust the graphite parts accordingly, as well as make final changes to the body and front spoiler for proper fit.
All the aluminium parts – which are produced on CNC lathes – are almost finished, and the bulkheads are also being finished in production. You can enjoy the photos from production running at this moment … it is an exciting moment for every designer to see his ideas turned into real pieces. I was happy to see Franci getting so excited by all the final parts coming together.
I am very happy and very proud for both Franci and Jan who have been an enormous help with the X1 project, and I give them both a great big “Thank you”!. Now is the time for our designers to make all the photos and presentation so the rest of you can enjoy the results of our work. I am confident that you will enjoy the X1, and even more sure that customers will love the car, the formula which had some of greatest prototypes ever, winning the world’s most competitive racing series ETS. Now you can race the same formula which Jan Ratheisky used to take home the ETS 2014 season overall champion title.