The front bumpers on Mercedes-AMG GT4 race cars are set to be made from sustainable natural fibre composites supplied by Swiss lightweighting company Bcomp.
Bcomp’s bodywork solutions will be supplied to HWA AG – development partner of Mercedes-AMG – and provide a sustainable alternative to the GT4’s existing carbon fibre panels, offering equivalent mechanical performance in stiffness and weight and improving safety.
The new bumper uses Bcomp’s ampliTex and powerRibs technologies, which harness the natural advantages of flax fibre.
The powerRibs reinforcement grid uses the high specific bending stiffness of flax to build up height very efficiently, boosting the flexural stiffness of thin-walled shell elements significantly. The new bumpers are also safer in the event of a crash or collision and decrease the risk of punctures significantly.
Unlike the sharp fracturing and splintering of carbon fibre, ampliTex technical fabrics are far more ductile in an impact, whereas the powerRibs confine the damage zone, minimising debris and the risks to drivers, marshals, and spectators.
A full sustainability analysis concluded that the new bumper offered a total material emission reduction of 90% when compared to the carbon fibre part as well as an 85% reduction of CO2 emissions from cradle-to-gate, considering all production steps from raw material to final part.
Not only do Bcomp’s materials reduce the part’s carbon cost, but they also introduce the option of thermal energy recovery. Since the new bumper is full natural fibre, it can be used for thermal energy recovery, turning approximately 80% of the energy stored in the part into renewable energy, resulting in a process without hazardous carbon waste or parts that need to go into landfill.
Reverse engineered from HWA’s original, the natural fibre bumper’s design has been collaboratively optimised over the past 12 months. To ensure that the bumper met all racing regulations and requirements, the HWA team performed extensive mechanical testing and validation. The stiffness of the complete frontend of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 was measured, simulating the aerodynamic drag and front diffusor downforce. The tests were conducted with a carbon fibre bumper as benchmark and afterwards with the new natural fibre bumper, validating that the newly designed part performs to the same level.
Production of the old carbon fibre bumpers has now ceased, and all customer teams will receive the new Bcomp version with their next orders.
Bcomp’s award-winning technologies are already used in 16 racing series around the world, but their applications are not restricted to motorsport. From automotive interior panels and bodywork to luxury yachting and the European Space Agency’s latest natural fibre satellite panels, Bcomp’s technologies can be used wherever weight, stiffness and sustainability are important. With the GT4 cars closely based on their road-going counterparts, these racing projects open up opportunities for future high- performance road applications.