HYBRID MOTORSPORT
VEHICLE INNOVATION
HEV INNOVATORS SINCE 1998

FIRST HYBRID SYSTEM IN IMSA
ENDURANCE RACING

UNRIVALED HEV DEVELOPMENT

Zytek has an unrivalled history with the development of hybrid technology in motorsport; back in 1998 when its use was unheard of we developed a system that was successfully run at the 1998 inaugural Petit Le Mans race in the USA, winning its class, and remains a feature vehicle in the Panoz Museum to this day.

Some notable firsts in Zyteks hybrid motorsport development history:

  • First hybrid system used in IMSA endurance racing.
  • First hybrid system to win its class in IMSA endurance racing.
  • First hybrid system to gain a podium result in ACO endurance racing.


As much as electric vehicles are seen as the future of transportation, hybrid vehicles (combining two motive power sources) have long been seen as a way of maintaining key vehicle metrics whilst reducing tailpipe emissions. The benefits of hybridisation are well known and have been used in motorsport for many years in Formula 1, endurance prototype racing and other series with increasing popularity.

1998 Inaugural Petit Le Mans Class Winner

In 1998 the use of hybrids in motorsport was unheard of, Zytek saw undoubted benefits of the technology and were fortunate to find someone with a similar passion. Don Panoz wanted to enter Le Mans with a competitive vehicle but based on the formidable Panoz Esparante GTR using a front mounted 6 liter Ford V8 engine. This engine layout was not standard at the time compared with other vehicles in the class, so it needed a performance enhancement, and it was concluded that this was best coming from a hybrid system. The resulting KERS was the first of its kind to be seen in motorsport, comprising a 100kW oil-cooled electric machine running at twice-engine speed. This was controlled by a 1200A, 600V inverter, and a NiMH battery pack. The system was successfully run at the 1998 inaugural Petit Le Mans race in the USA, winning its class, and remains a feature vehicle in the Panoz Museum. 

Corsa Motorsports Podium Finishes

After the success of the Panoz project, hybridisation took some time to reappear in motorsport, as rule-makers chose to focus their series on internal combustion engines. However, an opportunity arose with Corsa motorsports to develop a hybrid system based on a road car system (as dictated at the time). This system was installed in a very compact manner, with the electric machine integrated into the bell housing and driving the gearbox input shaft via a gearset. The electronics and battery were installed elsewhere in the vehicle to minimise additional mass. When running in a Zytek LMP1 chassis and competing once again in the USA, this system was another success with the team completing several races achieving a number of podium finishes.

60kW Hybrid System Silverstone Success

Demonstrating the capability of a hybrid system in endurance racing in Europe was also on Zytek’s agenda and building on the success of the Honda system racing in Japan in the Super GT series, Zytek agreed to install a new version of the 60kW hybrid system in an LMP1 chassis. In order to be eligible to race, the system had to be able to demonstrate electric-only operation so that under race conditions, it could run the length of the pitlane without using the combustion engine. The test successfully completed, the chassis was completed, homologated as a hybrid, and run at the Silverstone 6hr event.

Corsa Car

INNOVATIVE ENGINEERING

Electric
Vehicles

We have been deeply involved in EV innovation and development since 1994, and are proud of a number of firsts, such as the first 6 in 1 drive system to reduce EV powertrain mass and complexity.

Digital Engine Management

Since 1981 we have been innovating auto electronics, with an unrivalled history of digital engine management development and deployment in the highest tiers of motorsport.

Vehicle Electrification

Helping you at all stages of the vehicle electrification process, from initial design and modelling, to manufacturing and assembly, to testing at our in-house facilities and track.

Hybrid Road Vehicles

We have a rich history with the development of hybrid road cars, such as the first hybrid vehicle to be developed for production outside Japan.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

We worked with Honda to develop an energy recovery system which would be used in Super GT racing for many years; it was the first hybrid system championship win outside of Formula 1.

We also worked with Mercedes/McLaren to develop their hybrid system for the 2009 F1 season; and was the only KERS system to enjoy two race wins

These are manyfold, including instant acceleration, improved performance, improved powertrain and vehicle efficiency, a zero-emissions operating mode if desired, removal of some engine ancillary components as well as a tie into a manufacturer’s desire to promote the use of such technology in road cars for increased fuel economy.

Hybrid systems will always add mass to a vehicle, as there are many additional components to be integrated into the powertrain. However, clever thought about how and where the system will be integrated, plus the use of design techniques and materials will minimise that mass. In addition, careful sizing and designing of the battery and other components will help minimise mass increases.

Yes, advanced materials can be used throughout a motorsport hybrid drivetrain, derived from aerospace and other industries. Zytek also has the option to specify how key components are designed, up to (for example) custom SiC power switches, giving the ultimate in lightweight, efficient performance

Not necessarily, as electric machines and power electronics can run at engine/gearbox temperatures. This may force the units to be slightly larger, but negating the need for dedicated coolers on vehicle. The balance of mass associated with integrated and “bolt-on” hybrid systems can all be simulated so that benefits and ultimate project direction can be agreed upon with customers

This varies depending on series regulations, but in general they can fit almost anywhere. Zytek has fitted systems onto the front of engines, between engine and gearbox, after the gearbox, and driving non-driven axle directly. It is also possible to use thermal recovery devices, usually very high-speed units (ie. directly coupled to the turbocharger).

Yes. Whilst many aspects of hardware can be homologated for a year or more (depending on the series), software updates can be delivered on a much frequent basis, sometimes race by race. This means that additional performance can be found in motor control (for example), leading to highly optimised software strategies. Zytek has created and optimised its machine control algorithms over 25+ years of motorsport, and hence offers customers benefits in terms of torque/amp and lowest loss operation.

WORK WITH US