Today we are in the heart of the Motor Valley, in a place that I would define almost magical for what it represents. We are at the gates of Varano de’ Melegari, among the slopes of the Parma Apennines, at the Dallara headquarters. We spent a day full of surprises, which we will tell you about in the next articles. Our dream day begins with Dallara Academy, a multipurpose building that celebrates the bond with the surrounding area, the importance of training and passion.
The Dallara Academy is a center that has been strongly desired by the engineer Dallara to share and preserve the Dallara know-how acquired in almost 50 years of experience. Dallara is in fact an Italian excellence and is famous all over the world for activities in the automotive world such as design and production (using advanced composite materials such as carbon fiber), aerodynamics (through wind tunnel studies and virtual simulations) and vehicle dynamics (also in this case through real tests and virtual simulations). Dallara’s very high skills have allowed this Italian company to be present in prestigious championships from the American Indy Car to the WEC (World Endurance Championship), passing from Formula 2 and GP3. Dallara is also an advisor for the Haas Formula 1 team and other prestigious car manufacturers such as Lamborghini, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo.
The Dallara Academy is divided into two parts, an area dedicated to education and an exhibition area. The first was born to turn the attention to the youngest. In fact, on the ground floor, in addition to the spaces dedicated to welcoming the public, there are Educational Laboratories conceived and designed for students of primary and secondary schools. These workshops allow students to experience the laws of physics applied to the design and development of cars, thanks to targeted activities that aim to teach while entertaining students. In fact, we find ourselves in front of many workstations where students can experiment with the laws of physics, they can touch and see the behavior of composite materials with their own hands or test how aerodynamics is a fundamental component of a vehicle thanks to a small wind tunnel.
On the first floor, on the other hand, there are university classrooms where the second year of the MUNER’s “Racing Car Design” master’s degree course is held. Entering the classrooms, it is impossible to not be amazed by the exceptional design that distinguishes the whole building. The Dallara Academy was in fact designed by the architect Alfonso Femia who gave particular emphasis during the project to its inclusion in the landscape. Thanks to this particular design, in fact, there is always a double perception of both internal and external spaces where technology, symbol of the Dallara brand, blends with its history in a poetic way.
Another proof of this extraordinary design can be found in the middle of the two floors where the exhibition ramp is located. This has been called like this and not a “museum” by the Engineer Dallara and it is probably the most evocative place in the entire building. In fact, it is possible to immerse yourself and retrace the history of the company through a walk among the cars that have in some way marked the path of this company, while enjoying a side window that allows you not to lose sight of the extraordinary place in which we find ourselves.
Dallara was founded in 1972 by the engineer Giampaolo Dallara. After his studies in Aeronautical Engineering, Engineer Dallara worked in Ferrari, Maserati and finally Lamborghini, where he held the role of technical director during the period in which the Miura was born, a car that marked the history of automotive. In 1972, driven by his enormous passion for car racing, he founded Dallara Automobili in his hometown. In this walk we find ourselves in front of cars that have made Dallara history: from the Miura to the X19, from the Sports cars born in collaboration with Lancia to the Indycars that race in the United States, from the Le Mans prototypes to the series like Formula 3 and Formula E, till the latest “Dallara Stradale”.
After discovering this wonderful building that perfectly tells the passion and dedication of Engineer Dallara, a nice surprise: we are also granted a visit to the famous simulator. Dallara (in the Varano headquarters and in the American one in Indianapolis) is the only company, together with Ferrari, to have such an advanced simulator. In fact, in a huge space there is a real concentration of technology.
The simulator consists of an hexagonal platform where a real racing car chassis is laying down. The platform can be moved, to simulate the movements and accelerations of the car in action, thanks to 6 electronically controlled mechanical actuators with a balls recirculation system. In fact, this technology is better suited to the need for low latencies and high movement speeds compared to hydraulic actuators. The lucky clients that can sit behind the wheel of this simulator find themselves in front of a 200° screen which, together with the use of high definition projectors, is able to completely immerse the user in the scenario. Despite a very high level hardware, almost unique of its kind, the software part is more surprising.
The simulator software, completely managed and developed by Dallara, allows you to create a “multi-body” model of the car. With this type of model, famous in the field of mechanical engineering, it is possible to create a model that approximates the behavior of every single part of the car in a way that is very close to reality. When we talk about a “model” in engineering we refer to approximating the real behavior of an object thanks to mathematical equations, most of which are non-linear. This means being able to describe, thanks to mathematics and physics, phenomena such as vibrations, thermal stresses, air flows and mechanical stresses in a way that is very close to real behavior.
Dallara’s powerful servers, during the simulation, are then able to continuously solve these complex equations (about one million) in such a short time as to guarantee a simulation in real time (about one thousandth of a second). With this extraordinary tool it is not only possible to carry out driving tests for drivers and teams, thanks to the presence of a “pit wall” where even engineers can participate in the simulation, but also to develop real cars. The extraordinary simulation capabilities in fact allow to carry out the development of a new vehicle even before building a prototype. In fact, Dallara is able, thanks to the simulation, to highlight potential areas for improvement of a vehicle that has never actually been built. This allows you to save time, money and to build an even more efficient and better prototype.
Our morning ends with the discovery of this almost unique technology. We had the pleasure of discovering Dallara’s history and how it has marked the history of motorsport and can even now be one of the Italian excellences in the automotive world. We will tell you in the next articles how our day at Dallara continued.