We caught up with Paul O’Connell recently, a driver in Ireland taking the racing scene by storm in his awesome Red Bull liveried Dallara World Series Nissan V6 single seater race car. Being a long time Suspension Secrets follower he was keen to share some technical information on his extremely competitive car as well as having a good chat about some of the more fun and interesting sections of the car.
What is the history behind your car?
My car was an ex Carlin Motorsport chassis that was most recently used as a spare tub for Sebastian Vettel and Mikahil Aleshin when they were competing in the World Series as part of the Red Bull junior team.
Have you had any podiums in the car?
I’ve had 8 podiums in this car. 7 wins and a 2nd place. I’ve also won two outright lap records in this car.
What made you decide upon this car as the car of choice for racing?
I figured that this car was the biggest and fastest car I could drive and be able to run and work on my own with minimal extra help. It has an excellent electronic package with Life racing ECU and paddle shift. It also has a very reliable engine and gearbox package. The Nissan AER 3.4 V6 makes about 450bhp, lots of torque and revs to 8800rpm. The Ricardo gearbox is excellent and could handle more power if needed too.
What championships do you compete in?
I compete in Formula Boss Ireland. Formula Boss is open to every type of open top winged single seater; from Formula 3, Formula Renault, Hill Climb cars and F1 cars including sports cars also.
Basically if it’s open topped, fast and loud it’s eligible! The technical refs are open too so as long as the car is deemed safe you are free to modify your car.
How many years have you owned the car?
I’ve only owned this car since last winter. I had an F3 car that I managed to win the championship with last year that I sold to help pay for it.
Take us through a day of racing this car….it must be pretty high maintenance?
A typical day of racing is…getting up early 5-6am Friday morning. Drive to the track for 8-9am. Unload the car and all the gear. Jacks, tools, fuel, wheels and tyres etc. and turn on the preheater to warm the engine to 65C and let it soak for 20-30 mins. Next I turn over the engine to help warm the oil in the dry sump tank; fuel the car for the stint of laps needed, roughly 0.8-0.9 litres per 51-52 second lap in Mondello.
Finally I check the tyre pressures, wheel torques and then when ready it’s time to go and drive the beast! The first lap is very tricky to warm the tyres, as we don’t use tyre warmers, so it’s a balance of going fast to warm them while trying not to spin or crash on cold tyres. After each stint in the car I return to the garage and record and check tyre temperatures and pressures as fast as possible to help inform any setup changes.
We pump all the fuel out after each trip to the garage and refuel for the next stint. Spanner check the car, check fluids and any evidence of leaks and work on any issues that may have arisen.
After races I load up the car and all the tools and spares and return to the workshop where it’s all cleaned and checked over in preparation for the next race weekend. Usually there is not much to do. Maybe inspect the clutch and possibly re-shim the plates every 3-4 weekends. Oil and filter change every 3-4 weekends also.
Have you competed in any other forms of racing with any other cars?
I have also competed in Hill Climb events both here in Ireland and also in Europe. I managed to win the Irish Hill Climb Championship in an old 1979 Delta Formula Ford 2000 that I put a 292bhp Ford warrior engine into. That was a great car, a bit fragile and very little driver protection but I won the overall Irish Championship in 2007, 2008 and 2009. I’ve also managed to do at least one European event every year. The Saint Guoeno Hill Climb is a favourite for the Irish. In 2018 I organised a team of 4 cars to take part in the FIA Hill Climb Masters event in Gubbio, Italy. This has to be one of the highlights of my career where I drove my little 2.0 litre F302 Dallara to 33rd overall against the best Hill Climb drivers and cars in Europe.
How much power does the car have?
My Dallara World Series has 450bhp produced from the Nissan V6.
What is the 0-60 time of the car?
0-60 is done in 2.5 seconds but traction is a major problem!
What is the top speed of the car?
Top speed at the moment is 168mph.
What engine is used in the car?
The engine is an Advanced Engine Research AER P14 based on a Nissan VQ 3.4 V6.
How much does the car weigh?
The car weighs 650kgs without fuel and driver
How much aero downforce is created by your aero package on the car?
The aero on my car is made for high speed tracks. It’s a very slippery car. The problem is that the tracks I race on are very slow average speeds. It does have two large ground effect tunnels built into the floors which help massively over 100mph. It can follow another car really well. F1 could do with taking a leaf out of this design philosophy!
What is the weight distribution like?
Weight distribution is pretty good. It has a long wheelbase so it’s around 55% rear and 45% front mass which gives the car a nice balance and feel.
How does the car feel to drive?
The car is quite long but the rear tyres are relatively narrow at 300mm so it’s pretty stable all the way until it’s not and suddenly snaps out! The more I’ve gotten used to it the more I can live with it stepping out. Low speed traction is an issue on slow corners so that is something I had to adapt my driving style to suit.
What is your favourite circuit to drive the car on?
My favourite circuit so far to drive on was Bishopscourt race circuit in Co Down. I was the first car to do an over 100mph average lap time and broke the lap record by a couple of seconds. I didn’t have enough experience to really get the last couple of per cent out of it yet so I’m looking forward to returning there to try again and go even faster!
Now Let’s Talk Suspension
What brand of suspension is on your car?
My car uses Koni 4 way adjustable suspension all round. They adjust high speed bump, high speed rebound, low speed bump and low speed rebound helping to fine tune them for different circuits around the world. They are excellent shocks and are commonly used at this level of motorsport.
What format of suspension system does your car have?
The suspension system is a double wishbone set up front and rear. The springs and shocks are connected to the uprights via pushrods and use a bell crank rocker system to activate the dampers and springs. This format is very commonly used within single seater race cars for its multiple benefits and advantages.
What are the main benefits of your style of suspension system?
The main benefits of the double wishbone push rod suspension set up are that it keeps the mass down outboard of the chassis improving the centre of gravity position to improve handling. The system also allows the dampers to be mounted in a location of choosing when designing the chassis so they can be put in a n easy to access location that also sits correctly to help with the aerodynamic design of the car. All components are also easily replaceable in the event of a crash and parts are easy to spanner check and make adjustments to due to the ease of access with the dampers and springs being mounted at the top centre of the car under the bodywork. Also moving the dampers under the bodywork and just having the thin aerodynamic wishbones and pushrods in the air flow also reduces drag and promotes clean air to run through the car, increasing the top speed.
Do you use any data to analyse your suspension or driving style?
I’m only really starting to use data to analyse my driving at the moment. I feel like I should be driving consistently to my limit first and then start taking data to make changes. However, I do log tyre temperatures and pressures after each outing to help fine tune the suspension set up of the car.
What anti-roll bars is the car using?
There are anti roll bars front and rear. The front suspension is a Mono-shock system so the anti-roll system is a stack of Belleville washers that can be changed to give more or less roll across of the front axle. The rear is a double blade type adjustable anti roll bar so provides analogue adjustment of the rear axle which really helps to fine tune the lateral load transfer at the back. I’ve used this alot to tune the balance of the car.
What areas of geometry are available to adjust on the front and rear suspension systems?
The suspension can adjust camber caster and toe which is plenty of adjustment in this car due to the designed anti-squat, king pin and scrub radius settings being very nice to drive.
What are the uprights made from and what points of adjustment do they offer?
The front uprights are alloy which helps to keep the unsprung mass of the front assembly down. The rear uprights are made from steel.
What is the current geometry set up of the car?
The current setup is a lot of front camber set at -2.5 degrees; rear camber is less at -1 degree. Toe out on front slightly to aid turn in response and toe in on rear slightly to increase traction and improve cornering stability. I’m on the Dallara recommended anti squat settings. The Dallara manual is excellent to read and the base settings they recommend are pretty good.
What tyres are you using and do you have different compounds for different occasions?
I’ve been running on Avon A11 tyres to date. 250/660/13 front and 300/660/13 rear. I am experimenting with Pirelli super soft race tyres at the moment also.
What is your favourite area of the car personally?
My favourite part of the car is the driving experience. The turn in is excellent, it’s a big dramatic car to drive, it looks great and it has been very reliable. Lots of work to keep on top of it but an awesome driving experience.
We would like to once again congratulate Paul O’Connell on winning the 2019 Irish Formula Boss Championship! Check out the raw on board footage of Paul in action below and listen to the pure sound of this beast!