Cyber Motorsports Event News


 

Cyber Motorsports Chats with Doc Bundy

While at Thursday's Practice Day

by Earl Cook

October 8, 1998


Sparky and crew at Scutineering

Sparky and Crew

The Panoz Q9 Hybrid is a revolutionary racer in that it has an electric motor and battery system in addition to its gas-powered 6-liter Ford V-8. The system has been developed by Zytek Systems Limited in the United Kingdom.

Doc Bundy, from Gainesville, Georgia is well-known to sports car racing fans in the southeast. Doc at one time was an instructor at the Road Atlanta Racing School. He has driven many cars at the track including the Porsche 962 and Corvette GTP. Doc has been involved with the Panoz racing program from its inception and was a driver when the Panoz GTR-1 was introduced at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1997. At the Petit Le Mans, Bundy will be driving the Panoz Q9, affectionately known as "Sparky". We had a fun and lively conversation with Doc standing next to Sparky at its paddock. The paddock did not seem that different from 'normal paddocks' except that there were large ducts venting the battery and fans blowing on the car.


Cyber: Please tell me about Sparky.

Doc: Sparky is a hybrid... it is gas and electric. You can see inside (pointing inside the Panoz Q9 Hybrid) that the passenger compartment has the big battery in it. The battery is quite big and it is the controller of the electrics and determines how much electricity we can use. The biggest thing we are dealing with right now is the battery temperature. We have a very small window in which we can get an electric boost. So, right now, we are playing to see how much we can use and keep from overheating the battery. (earlier, Doc had said that the Georgia temperatures were warmer than where the testing in England had been occurring so they were automatically working with a smaller window).

This car has lots of switches in it and we have a lot of options we can do. So, if we are overheating the battery, we can go to a non-electric setting where the electric motor is cut out to give the battery a chance to recover itself. The car is a lot slower in this mode because it is used to counting on the electrics... so it is a tradeoff. And the other thing is too much boost where we use it to long and drain the battery, then it starts cutting power because it doesn't have enough juice.

So, we have to for a regen so that the electric motor itself operates like a generator and charges the battery back up. When we do that, it really makes the car slow because the we are working against the gas motor.

Cyber: So, does the gas motor power the electric motor during the regen?

Doc: In a way it is because it is driving the wheels because the electric motor is turned into a generator and it is attempting to hold the wheels back. In normal operation, we use about 70% of the circuit with power-assist... straightaways mainly. On the other parts of the circuit, during braking, we are regenning. Actually, it works out that about 28% of the time, we are regenning the battery. That's our normal operation. What happens, if you watch us sometime, you will see us wiggling coming into the corner after we are on the brakes. That is the regen cycle trying to slow the rear wheels. It is like braking with a hand brake. It is a trick to drive and you just gotta know what is going on to counter this and we just step on a tiny bit of gas to balance to car.

Cyber: So it keeps you busy?

Doc: Yes, it is a bit busier to drive. It is impressive in that it works. Our big disadvantage with the current car system is that the current car was designed for a different set of parameters and we are asking it to do something entirely different. We have added nearly 300 lbs. more to it, so the boost that we get is not enough to overcome the weight. Right now, that is why we are not quicker. And, if Don (Panoz) wants to continue on with a second generation car that is designed around the system, so it can be at minimum weight, if we can be more effective in cooling our batteries since it is the controller right now, and if we can address these things... then we will do well. It has more promise for the future than I thought it did before I drove it.

We did a lot of testing this past week where we ran a straight week and tested every day. We got a lot of data at that time, more than they had ever gotten at any point and we pushed the car hard and we didn't have any major failures, except for those teething and developmental things. But mostly it has been around the questions: What can the battery handle? What can we do with it? What can we not do with it? That's mostly what we have learned. At the same time, we have to figure out the handling of the car and how can we handle the specific needs of the regen?

Cyber: So you need a propeller on the roof to regen the battery?

Doc: Or some solar cells.

Cyber: So when you are able to get the boost, what does it feel like?

Doc: You know it! You know it! You can feel it pushing you in the back. It literally is almost like a turbocharger and it gives you more zip down the straightaway. When I went out for practice today, they put it back into what we think is the race position. I was not as zippy today as I was yesterday. The crew said, "Well, Doc? What do you expect? We had to take some of that juice out."

Because we are looking at the long-term. The race is obviously a long-distance race since it is going at least eight hours and we don't have any data to help us. The other day, I did a full fuel run and we didn't have any problems during the run. It maintained until the battery got a little hot and we turned it back, but we maintained the times and we fell off from the beginning to the end only about a second. But all cars do that. So, if we race trouble-free, and we feel like we can keep it running like that, who knows where we will finish?

We are not thinking that we are coming here to win. The package is just not right for that. We just need data to know what to do in the next generation.

Cyber: How many batteries do you have?

Doc: We have one battery, the normal 12 volt battery and then the monster battery that is specific to the electric portion.

Cyber: What happens if you need to change the 'monster' battery.

Doc: Then we have two spares and we can change the battery. We would rather not because it is a long process. And the thing weighs 200 lbs. We have to use a special lift to get the battery in and out of the car. It would take over an hour, so we don't want to do that and lose that much time.

Before that would happen, we would have the data and we would go into straight regen and maybe do two laps of regen to bring it back up. We would sacrifice lap times big time, but we can recharge the battery.

Cyber: How is the mileage affected for the car?

Doc: During a two lap regen, it would be bad. But the theory of the car is to assist in the fuel mileage. But, at the weight that we are at, we are really not gaining and we are about 10 minutes less than the normal GT1. So, it is all because of the weight. If we were lighter, then we would run 5 minutes longer than them.

Cyber: On a different subject. Last week I was telling someone that the fastest car that I ever saw at a specific point on the track at Road Atlanta was the Corvette GTP and you were driving it.

Doc: Was it right before the dip?

Cyber: Yes.

Doc: That car... We were here testing and I wondered how fast it was really going. So they said, "Give us the tach reading through there and we will figure it out." That car didn't have what we have today in a dash that actually gives us a speed readout. At that time, we didn't have those electronics. So, I gave him the RPM reading... 7200, 7400 or whatever it was when I came in during testing to make a change. So, I gave it to him and he said he would figure it out and I went back out. When we took a break, I asked him, "Did you ever have a chance to calculate the speed?" He said, "Yeah, you were going 208 mph!" I said to him, "I think I would rather not have known that!"

Because, I would never have believed that a car could run over 200 mph through there. Especially not a big car and it was a relatively big car. An open-wheel car, yes, but not a big car. Yes, that car was VERY fast!

Cyber: I must of saw you when you were doing those laps because you were flying!

Doc: That was an impressive car.

Brian Faulkner, who built the engine, during the past couple of years, I have asked him, "Brian, you would never tell us how much horsepower it developed." He said, "Often, you would not let me turn it up." It was not the best handling car and we just couldn't handle all the power that it had. But occasionally, we would turn it up. Brian said, "In qualifying, you were at 1200+ horsepower and over 900 hp in the races."

It was a powerful car!

Cyber: So that speed of 208 mph, how does that compare to the what the Jaguar XJR-14, the Nissans and Toyotas were doing through there?

Doc: One thing about the Corvette is that it handled high speed very well. At Daytona once, when we were there testing, I said, "Let's figure out how fast we are going." There, we hit 240 mph! The car was very fast in a straight line. At the test, Wally Dallenbach was there with me. Before he got in, I said, "Wally, this car is very fast." Wally looked at me and said something like, "Doc, I have been in fast cars before" and he took off. When he came in, I opened the door and Wally's eyes were as big as saucers. He grabbed my arm, starting shaking it and said, "This sucker is FAST! This sucker is FAST!"

So, yes, that car was very fast.

Cyber: We thank you for your time and we wish you and Sparky well in the race.

 

Earl Cook

Cyber Motorsports

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Sparky did well and was the only Panoz to finish the race. The Panoz Q9 Hybrid started in 12th position and finished in 12th position overall. In the GT1/SC1 class, the Q9 Hybrid finished third behind the Porsche 911 GT1-Evo and its sister Panoz GTR-1, that while leading the race, blew an engine, but still completed 18 more laps than the Q9. It was an impressive performance for such new technology.

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