My Mygale M13-SJ/Mountune [Formula Ford EcoBoost 200]
This is an account of racing my Mygale EcoBoost, which I bought in August 2015. Its a french made chassis, fitted with a Ford EcoBoost 1600T, and a Hewland 6 speed sequential gearbox. The car features drive by wire, with clutchless up and down shifts, managed by a bespoke Life F88R ECU fitted with GDI drivers.
Back in 2013, Radical Sportscars ran two cars in the British Formula Ford Championship, one driven by James Abbott, and the other driven by Juan Rosso, in 2013 and 2014. But at the end of 2014 the championship was killed off, and both obsolete cars sat at Radical for almost a year before Pete Goulding and I went to see them. I bought the black car, driven by James, and Pete bought the sister car, driven by Juan. Petes car was white, but is now wrapped in orange vinyl. Both cars were of similar spec, with minor differences between them.
In 2016, my first year driving a single seater, I competed in 13 hillclimb and sprint events, and won one first in class. I also scored my first points in the British Sprint Championship, which I'm very proud of considering the lack of power and aero compared to the regular front runners.
Keeping my car standard for 2016, I learnt a lot about the performance during the year, and drove in the wet and in the dry, with no mechanical issues, and just a couple of spins along the way.
Pete however upgraded his orange car for 2016, fitting split rims, a larger Pro-Alloy intercooler, and he also tuned the car for 220BHP, and ran less weight through the removal of the impact protection boards (approx 16kg weight reduction). Pete also relocated his alternator to the front of the engine, and ran all year without any battery issues.
For 2017 Pete and I have fitted more powerful Hybrid turbos, and I've also fitted a larger Pro-Alloy intercooler. I've also reduced the weight of my car, in an attempt to maintain the performance level between us, and to make my car yet more competitive in the BSC. I've also relocated my alternator to the front of the engine, and I've wired in the radiator fan which is now under the control of the ECU. We are both hoping for 300BHP for 2017, which is an increase of over 100BHP from the standard engine, and puts us on par with the 2.0 normally aspirated cars that regularly win FTD and finish in the top 5 at BSC rounds.
So what is a Formula Ford 1600T EcoBoost?
Have a watch of this video to get an idea, then read on.
The Mygale M13-SJ/Mountune, the car I have, is a 2013 version of the car that was first released in 2012. These were raced in the Formula Ford Champships between 2012 and 2014. My car was first raced in 2013 under Scholar Power, the engine was changed to Mountune, and then it won two races in 2014, Brands Hatch on March 29th, and Croft on June 29th, with James Abbott at the wheel on both occasions. Radical started with a different chassis in 2013, a Sinter LA12, but after failing to make the car competitive, they sold it and bought the Mygale M13-SJ, which then led to the two race wins in 2014.
A full history of the championship and the cars successes can be found on the Wikipedia Formula Ford page.
Where the story starts, August 2015
I collected the Mygale M13-SJ/Mountune Formula Ford from Grantham today. Radical let me use a spare Brian James Race Shuttle, which is a clamshell trailer that opens at the rear to allow the car to be stored inside. It had a tyre rack too. So we loaded the majority of the wheels and tyres in the trailer, around the car, and the remainder of the tyres inside the BMW, and set off.
Once home the trailer and car were quickly unloaded. After lunch, I set off back to Grantham again to return the empty trailer back to the Radical depot.
The single seater is simply amazing. I've worked out how to start the engine, and when it runs, it growls. If you rev the engine, the turbo spins up, and the exhaust makes a lovely popping and banging sound as the revs drop back down again. I've already started on the spanner check, I've found a few bits and pieces that need tidying up before I can drive it. But overall, with the spares package and the sheer number of wheels and tyres involved, I think the price we paid was pretty reasonable.
This is the car all loaded up at Radical, waiting to drive home. We changed the straps on the car to go through the wheels, before departing, as Woody said if the trailer suffered a puncture, it would make it more secure.
I invited the wife to sit in the car, and she liked it. Thats a good thing right?
FTR GearboxThe car is fitted with a Hewland 6 speed sequential gearbox, called the FTR. It did not come with an LSD fitted. After a bit of searching I found that Quaife listed an LSD for the Hewland box on their website, unfortunately it was no longer manufactured. Plus the Quaife diff, part number QDF14S, is for the LJS/FTR gearbox, and the following explains the differences between the different boxes.
The FTR (which is what I have) is a 6 speed box, with an engine oil tank.
The JFR is a 5 speed box, based on the FTR, but without the engine oil tank.
The JFR6 is a 6 speed box, based on the FTR, but without the engine oil tank.
The LJS version of the FTR/JFR has inserts fitted to the bearing housings of the side plate and main case to allow the use of differentials and output shafts from the LD200/Mk9 range of gearboxes. Therefore I would need an LJS/FTR if I wanted to fit the Quaife LSD. So that ruled the Quaife diff out.
The altnernative is the Hewland Powerflow FTR-212 LSD. I found one for sale in Germany, which cost €1200, and it arrived in January 2016. Dirk Jenichen supplied it, it was from an F3 car. It was installed in February 2016 by Mark Bailey Racing. During the service he found that the CWP were damaged beyond repair, due to the gearbox running dry, and I had to find another one quickly. Luckily there was one on Ebay which I bought, and Mark fitted it with no issues.
FTR Gearbox RatiosThe ratios inside the box are as per the following table/graph.
Life F88 ecuThe Mygale EcoBoost Formula Fords were all fitted with the Life F88 ECU. However, this isn't the fully functioning F88-GDI4, but instead it is a locked down F88R, essentially lobotomised, produced specifically for the tightly controlled Formula Ford championship. This poses several serious questions. Could the ECU be unlocked to allow it to be tuned to increase the power output of the engine? And could the ECU be set up to provide traction control?
So I wrote to one of the engine tuners familiar with the Life ECU range, and this was their response.
You are not the first person to ask this question and the short answer is you are not going to get the ecu unlocked.
Life racing sold the ecu’s to Ford as part of an MSA controlled championship and as such the IP (intellectual property) of the maps etc rest with Ford. Life racing are contractually bound not to unlock these ECU’s. They can re-flash the ecu and basically blank it but they are then faced with supporting a product that they have sold as a bulk deal to Ford at a drastically reduced margin, so that doesn’t make much business sense for them. The cost of rebuilding the map and rolling road time would not make this option attractive to you anyway.
Also the ecu was designed to fit that one car so they have limited IO and do not run the VVT (because the cars were traction limited anyway) and won’t run traction control.
The 170 bhp map was done because teams on a lesser budget insisted on running 95 octane fuel on test days etc and melted some engines so the maps were made safe for that fuel.
I think in 2013 a control fuel was introduced and the power went back up again.
If you want to run the engine with an open ECU then the only option is to upgrade to a LR GDi4 ecu which is £2250 and the traction control upgrade adds another £200. You would still have some rolling road time as well to configure certain items in the software.
You would need to add wheel speed sensors and additional wiring for the VVT if you want to use it (assuming its not locked off mechanically)
EcoBoost Power OutputsCuriosity drove me to email Life regarding the stories surrounding the different engine power outputs, namely 170BHP and 200BHP. Andy Laurence has apparently managed to get his ECU loaded with an earlier map, that supposedly produces 200BHP on pump fuel. As Pete and I have cars from the same team, we'd like to know which maps we have, and whether our cars are on the same footing power wise. We dont want to be 30 BHP down just because Andy has a different map to us. So I approached Life, and asked about the version that is in my ECU, and whether it was the 200BHP version or not. The issue we have is that Life say that it is against their company policy to load an old map in to the ECU, so whatever we've got, we're stuck with.
I provided a screen shot of the base map version taken from the LifeRacing software connected to my laptop, and this was their response.
That is perfect. That was the last map for the 2014 season before preseason testing for FIA F4, that map is good. We do have a newer map on file that allows the car to start faster from cranking. Not really worth updating unless of course you want this feature.and then I asked how much power my car has. Not an unreasonable question. But it didnt furnish me with the response I was expecting.
Life worked with Ford and their partners to provide engineering and trackside support for the championship during 2012 to 2014. Life only worked directly with Ford and it's partners to manage this championship. Life does not hold any data for competitor engines as they are built and managed by the teams choosen engine builder. I would suggest you ask Mountune for dyno printouts of your engine. If I was you I would put the car on a rolling road and do a few power runs with 95ron fuel, then flush the entire fuel system out and repeat the test with 102ron fuel, you can then decide if the higher cost fuel offers any performance benefits or not.So from that, the conclusion I must draw, is that my car (and Petes if he has the same map) should be capable of 200BHP on Pump fuel. I shall contact Mountune again, and ask for a engine dyno map, which they must have as they provided the engine.
Mountune have since sent me the dyno plot from my engine, from when the engine was first built in 2013. Looks pretty healthy to me. If it were running 102RON fuel then it would be producing 30BHP more. I asked Mountune for the power output, and they said that the power was determined by the calibration map issued by Life. I asked Life and they said that it was the engine builders who knew the power output. Turns out no one knows.
Mountune engineAs I've already mentioned, the engine in my car, was built by Mountune Racing and it was supplied in October 2013, so it had only done one full season of racing. We bought the cars in August 2015, a full year after the championship had finished, and during that sabbatical, the cars hadn't been driven. The engine in the sister car, bought by Pete Goulding was built by Scholar.
When I contacted Mountune in September, to find the history of the unit, I was in for a shock. They told me that the engine number I gave was from a leased engine. Now, I hadn't heard of a leased engine before, but in motorsport apparently its very common for race teams to lease engines from a supplier. The contract with Mountune would have been for an engine, for a number of years, and that would include one possibly two rebuilds during the life of the engine, and at the end of the contract, the engine would be returned, to Mountune. What I discovered was that the engine was still on lease, and therefore wasnt even legally mine. How could Radical have sold me their car with a leased engine in it? All I can put it down to was an oversight, and fortunately when alerted Mountune to the problem, they contacted Radical and resolved it, presumably forcing Radical to purchase the engine off them.
Hi Graham,So that was a huge relief. There was me thinking Radical would have to buy the engine back off me, which wouldn't have been ideal. Fortunately, Mountune and Radical have resolved the issue, for which I'm most grateful. In the circumstances, if I ever buy another car from a race team, I'll certainly ask about the engine's identity and ownership.
Further to our conversation yesterday, engine E054-002 was new in October 2013 when it was leased to Radical. The engine is built to the upper tolerances for the manufactures limits (blue printed) as permitted by the Formula Ford regulations.
We do not have any records of it having been returned since October 2013 for repair or service.
If my memory serves me correctly I believe that we suggested that the turbo was replaced half way through 2014, but I believe Radical replaced this themselves.
This is all the history I have on the engine.
I have also spoken with Phil Abbott and the engine purchase issue is being resolved.
FIA Chassis ApprovalThis is a copy of the FIA Email, dated October 2012. It reads:
We are pleased to confirm officially that the safety structures of the above mentioned car were successfully tested under the supervision of the FIA according to the requirements detailed in 277-18.104.22.168.
ModificationsFor the FF championship, the minimum weight of the car was controlled at 475Kg (the Mygale SJ12 manual actually states the car weighs 485Kg). Basically, any driver below 80Kg in weight would be required to carry ballast to bring the combined weight up to 555Kg. As I found no ballast, I can rightly assume that James Abbott weighed 80Kg (or more). For sprinting and hillclimbing there is no minimum weight, so I can remove or replace items with lighter versions. Adding lightness is the key.
These are the items I’ve weighed, and either kept or removed. Significant reductions still be made from several routes. In 2017 I shall be changing from the standard cast alloy wheels for three piece split rims, to save 2-4Kg. Also for 2017 I have removed the anti-intrusion sheets from inside the car, as these weighed in at 16Kg. At the end of 2016 I removed the plumbed in fire extinguisher system.
|FIA Extractable Seat + extraction belts||1489||1489|
|Diolin anti-intrusion panels (pair) and fasteners||16000||16000|
|Silicon air inlet pipework||846||846|
|63mm 0.55m ducting hose (air inlet)||185||185|
|Rear crash box||1325|
|Front crash box with aluminium wing brackets||3600|
|Front wing (with end plates)||4400|
|Front wing end plates (pair)||1750||1750|
|Rear wing end plates (pair)||3300|
|2.25L mechanical extinguisher system||3500|
|Hand brake pull T-cable||250||250|
|Rear 8.5 x 13 inch cast wheel with A15 230/530 tyre||12000|
|Rear 10.5 x 13 inch Force wheel with A15 250/570 tyre|
|Front 7.5 x 13 inch cast wheel with A15 190/530 tyre|
|Front 8.5 x 13 inch Force wheel with A15 190/530 tyre|
|Oil cooler and hoses||7500||7500|
|Alternator bracket + driveshaft pulley||750||750|
|Neutral cable assy||345||345|
|Rear ARB assy||929||929|
|Gear change cable||698||698|
|Gear lever and strain gauge||279||279|
|Varley red top 15 battery||5500|
Weight of car in 2017April 2017 - The car weighs 453Kg, dry, on the Rimstock alloys and Dunlop wet tyres. The Force racing wheels and Avon slicks reduce the weight by some 3Kg, so the car is bang on 450Kg for 2017, fitted with the X10, pneumatic paddle shift, and the Revo turbo and Pro-Alloy intercooler. Thats 25Kg less than the minimum weight the cars had to run when raced in the Formula Ford championship. All I need to do now is fit the Lithium battery to save another 5Kg.
Syvecs IO Expander
July 2016 I bought a Syvecs IO 10 expander module. This connects to the CAN BUS and provides additional IO to allow me to use rear wheel speed sensors for launch and traction control. This is being wired in to CAN 02 from the F88R to provide the expansion I need to add the sensors.
The biggest hurdle to fitting anything to the cars, is finding a set of wiring schematics. Ford wont release them, as they're their intellectual property, and so I set myself a task of tracing all the wires through on my spare engine loom, to allow me to produce a diagram. As of January 2017 I've completed 99% of this task, and I'm now wiring in the X10. Part of the problem with connecting the X10 to the Life ECU, is that the X10 needs to connect to CAN 02. To do that, I had to buy some crimp connectors, dismantle the back shell from the F88 loom, and carefully add the two wires. This wasnt as difficult as I'd imagined, and the X10 is now connected to pins 79 & 80 from the F88R ECU which will allow the 10 inputs and 10 outputs on the X10 to be controlled by the ECU.
G force / acceleration data
August 2016 - I've never been able to read the longitudinal or lateral G forces that the ECU is meant to provide. After some research, I was told that this was because the GPS module that came with my car, didnt include the electronics for the accelerometers. So I checked with Sky Ford and they confirmed that the last one on their shelf was an accelerometer version. So I bought it, plugged it in, and guess what, still no data. So I sent an email to Jason at Life, and he asked me to provide a recent log file, which I did. Five minutes later, he told me that my firmware was very much out of date, and thats the reason why the acceleration data was missing.
Then in a complete U turn, Life then offered to connect to my ECU and perform an update, free of charge, to give me the latest firmware, and the latest calibration data. Yet we'd been told earlier in the year that all support was to come from Northampton Motorsport, as Life had effectively awarded NHM exclusive rights to tune the EcoBoost cars.
I wasnt complaining about Life's change of heart. So I installed Teamviewer on to my Windows 10 laptop, connected the laptop to my WiFi, and connected the Laptop to the Life ECU. I then emailed Jason the codes that Teamviewer displayed, and these codes enabled Life to remotely connect to my ECU over the internet. Once connected, Jason updated my Life Windows executables to the latest versions, and he then started the Life Netserver executable in
/remote mode. This gave him remote access to the ECU directly from his desktop, and he was then able to reflash the firmware, and update the calibration maps inside the ECU. Frustatingly I couldnt see what was happening, but I could hear the fuel pump start twice, which meant the ECU had been reset a couple of times, presumably to load the new firmware and prove that it was working properly.
Two significant changes were made. The engine now starts more rapidly, so I can conserve battery power when starting. This is really noticeable. Secondly, the ignition switch logic inside the ECU was inverted, so off meant on, and on meant off. I had to rotate the ignition switch 180 degrees so the On Off labels still made sense. The reason for the logic change was for the engines that ran alternators on the engine directly, rather than off the driveshaft. Inverting the signal allows the engine to be stopped, with the engine driving the alternator. Without this logic change, the engine cant be turned off with the alternator generating +12V.
Happily I now have working accelerometer data, an engine that starts more rapidly, additional calibration channels open to allow adjustment of throttle maps, boost limits etc, and more power, as the maps also now give me 200BHP whereas before I had the later 170BHP map. A huge Thankyou to Life for their support. Just goes to show that with a little persistence, they will help, and this greatly improves their customer satisfaction scores.