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19,000 RPM BMW Formula One engine


June 4, 2004

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When it comes to horsepower produced by the internal combustion engine, the most fascinating game of all is Formula One. And while Ferrari has dominated the F1 scene of late thanks to a dream team of sponsors, engineers, managers and perhaps the best F1 driver of a generation, there have been some stand-out performances by other teams in this, the most expensive sport in history.

Throughout 2002, the horsepower meisters have been the Williams BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. When the car and tyres have been "working", they have shown remarkable speed. Montoya in particular has dominated the qualifying sessions and has taken pole position more often than Michael Schumacher thanks to the ongoing development of the BMW V10.

BMW recently released details of the development of the motor, which had its debut race around Albert Park at the beginning of the 2000 season, marking BMW's return to F1. In that race, the red line was set at 17,000. For those with an engineering bent, horsepower is directly proportional to RPM, so the more revs, the more horses.

Since BMW's F1 comeback, engine speed, and hence power output, has been steadily increasing. From 17,000 rpm at the start of the 2000 season, to 18,000rpm at the start of 2001, to 18,500 at the start of 2002), all the way to an incredible 19,000 rpm at the recent Italian GP.

During Saturday's qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the BMW ten-cylinder units of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were measured at 19,050 revs. BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said after qualifying, "for an engineer it is thrilling to see figures which not so long ago were considered unattainable, suddenly becoming reality."

For those with a technical bent, consider these awesome statistics; 19,000rpm (revolutions per minute) means 9,500 ignitions per minute per cylinder. That translates to 158 ignitions per second for each cylinder, or one ignition every six thousandth of a second. The fuel/air mixture is drawn into the cylinder, compressed by the piston and ignited by the spark plug; then the flame front travels through the entire combustion chamber, the combustion gas expands and, by means of the pistons, provides the engine's power before being discharged through the exhaust ports. All this happens 158 times a second in each of the 10 cylinders. Warning- don't try this at home!

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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