Electronic Specifier Editor Joe Bush talks to Peter Dent, Lemo (UK) MD about the key role the company plays in the motorsport industry.
Over the last few years factors such as safety and the need for increased weight distribution has seen the number of sensors used in the motorsport industry increase exponentially. As a consequence, the demands placed on the humble connector within this performance- driven environment, have also heightened considerably.
The UK is a hotbed of innovation within motorsport and is the home of many current Formula One teams such as McLaren and Williams, while teams such as Red Bull Racing, Mercedes and Lotus are also based in England. With that in mind, motorsport is a key market for Lemo (UK) and drives much of the Worthing-based company’s connector innovation. The company’s F Series connectors have been widely adopted in Formula One since their 1995 launch, and are also incorporated within the Rebellion endurance racing team.
Peter Dent, Lemo (UK) MD, commented: “What developed off the back of innovation in Formula One was our original F Series which has evolved into our next generation of connectors - the M Series - which is a very small connector with enhanced features to meet the needs of the motorsport industry.”
The M series connectors are lightweight triple-start ratchet coupling type connectors that, although designed with the motorsport industry in mind, are also well suited for avionics, aerospace, military, security and heavy duty applications. The LEMO manufacturing programme has been extended to almost 40 series divided into seven product families with specific mating and environmental characteristics.
Each series includes a variety of plug, socket and coupler models, available in contact configurations adapted to all round cables. Watertight models are also available. As LEMO connectors are screened and designed to guarantee very low resistance to shell electrical continuity, they are particularly adapted to applications where electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) is important.
The M Series is made of high strength aluminium, and as such is one of the lightest and most compact of the LEMO product line. A one-grip ratchet screw system enables quick and secure coupling of the connectors. The arctic grip makes it easy to manipulate the connector while wearing gloves or when the connector is located in a difficult to access area – making them well suited for the pit lane environment.
Dent added: “We’ve invested significantly in very top-end motorsport connectors. We’ve packed in high density, small connectors as there are more sensors on the cars now than there were a few years ago, and we’ve added features to improve reliability under vibration so you don’t get unlocking.
“Obviously reliability is a key factor – teams don’t want a product that’s going to fail in a race so we need to supply them with a product which has proven reliability in harsh environments where there are high levels of vibration and corrosion - it’s over the short space of time that the race exists, but these products are being pushed to the limit. So reliability and longevity are paramount .”
Since its conception in 2012, Formula E has gained significant traction in the popularity stakes with motorsport fans and is also very much an R&D hub for the development of electric vehicle technology. The Formula E championship is currently contested by ten teams with two drivers each. Racing generally takes place on temporary city-centre street circuits which are approximately 1.2 to 2.1 miles long.
The race itself lasts for approximately 50 minutes with drivers making one mandatory pit stop to change cars. Tire changes, unless caused by a puncture or damage, are not permitted during this pit stop. In race mode the maximum power is restricted to 170kW.
What is capturing the imagination of fans is the interactive nature of the race, with fans being able to get much closer to the drivers and the cars than they are able to do in Formula One. For each race, fans can vote for their favourite driver via various social media channels to give them an extra power boost. Voting starts about two weeks prior to an event and is also open during the opening six minutes of the race. The three winning Fanboost drivers each receive an extra 100kJ of energy to be used in a power window between 180kW and 200kW.
With its history and experience in the industry, it was a natural progression for Lemo to become involved in the newest motorsport incarnation, and is now playing a key role in Formula E as a sponsor of current champion racing team Renault e.dams. At this elite level of racing every gram on the car counts, so the lightweight nature of the M Series has been integral to the team’s success as Alain Prost, Co-founder of Renault e.dams and former Formula One world champion explained. “Today, one cannot be successful on his own. With such new cutting edge technology, every single detail counts. We need to call upon the best specialists in order to progress.”
Speaking earlier this year around the partnership with Renault e.dams, Alexandre Pesci, Lemo CEO said: “Having known Alain and Nico Prost (Alain’s son and current Renault e.dams driver) for some time and wanting to expand our exposure into more motorsport categories, it was only natural for Lemo to choose Renault e.dams as a partner. Given the impact that Formula E has had since its inception, it is a great platform for us to explore new products, materials and cable technology. We look forward to how the partnership may develop in the future.”
“Obviously, we’d like to thank Lemo for their support and trust,” continued Prost. “They are a well-known and respected brand with a passion for motor racing, which made them the perfect choice for us. This partnership will allow us to progress and help us become even more competitive.”