CAD Powers New Land Speed Record

22 Oct, 2007 By: Michelle Nicolson

Russ Wicks and his American Challenge team use Autodesk products to configure a Dodge stock car that reached 244.9 mph.

Russ Wicks knows how to move fast -- faster than anyone else, in fact. The only living person to hold world speed records of more than 200 mph on both land and water, Wicks recently set his sights on the challenge of breaking his own records. When his 2007 Dodge Charger (built to NASCAR specifications) hit Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats earlier this month, Wicks already held the world record at the time, set in July 2006 at 222 mph in a Ford stock car.

Armed with the latest CAD technology, Wicks and his American Challenge team planned to push the limits even farther. The team spent a month redesigning and reconfiguring an Autodesk-sponsored Dodge Charger to improve its capabilities. On October 9, Wicks set a new stock car world speed record of 244.9 mph.

"I wanted to shatter my previous world record and intended to raise the speed far enough that it would be out of reach, as it was after Bobby Isaac first set it in 1971," Wicks explained. "The plan was to use the latest innovative technology to maximize the vehicle's performance and return the title of the world's fastest stock car to Dodge. And the entire project needed to be completed within 30 days, before the Bonneville Salt Flats turned to a lake for the winter."

Russ Wicks' Autodesk-sponsored 2007 Dodge Charger.

Wicks' vehicle was developed with the backing of the Dodge Motorsports Engineering Group and Arrington Engines, and Autodesk software was used to make integral performance modifications.

Autodesk has supported the American Challenge team -- a consortium of business leaders, technical engineers, and motor-sport professionals focused on breaking the current world land speed and water speed records -- since Wicks set his original stock car speed record in July 2006. The company provided the team with Autodesk AliasStudio, Inventor, and Buzzsaw, as well as technical support, according to Kevin Schneider, senior evangelist for Autodesk Manufacturing.

The first step to building the record-breaking car began with the task of redesigning aspects of the Dodge Charger to increase its capacity for even higher speeds. The American Challenge team used AliasStudio for surfacing the optical scan of the stock car. Using built-in data exchange tools within AliasStudio, Wicks and his team were able to easily export these designs into Inventor software, Autodesk's 3D modeling package that enables digital prototyping and allows users to virtually explore their ideas before building them.

Optical scan data of the 2007 Dodge Charger in AliasStudio.

Digital prototyping enabled Wicks to fully test the effectiveness of outer mold-line surfaces like spoilers and fins before manufacturing any physical prototypes of these parts. Inventor also was used for layout and design to enhance suspension and drive train as well as for performance tests, such as for suspension bump stops.

Because the team included people from American Challenge, Autodesk, Dodge Motorsports, Arrington Engines, and a variety of other organizations, communication was a key issue to meeting the deadline. These people were located all across the United States, so the team used Buzzsaw -- an on-demand, collaborative project management solution -- to enable everyone to collaborate efficiently, which helped ease the tight timeline.

"The ability to share technical information online in an ergonomic, user-friendly manner meant that the vast physical distance between all those who worked on the car was easily transcended, and the design process was uninterrupted by communication breakdown," Wicks explained.

Wicks' stock car speed record of 244.9 mph was confirmed by Guinness World Records.

After breaking his own record, Wicks doesn't plan to stay still for long.

"Next summer I intend to break the gasoline-powered world speed record, which currently stands at 364 miles per hour," he said. "Our team has used Alias and Inventor to develop a preliminary design, and my American Challenge colleagues are keen to begin building the chassis as soon as possible. By using the latest in design and technology, I intend to push the limits of speed and hope one day to hold both the outright land and water speed records."

About the Author: Michelle Nicolson

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