Dirty fan mail
Stig is sometimes known to eat Vauxhall Nova drivers for breakfast, particularly if they are the sort to send him vitriolic emails regarding his motorsport wrapping prowess by criticising the number of visible joins on one of his projects, which was the case when a GDW article about his recent wrap project for the 24 Heures du Mans 2012 Jota Sport Zytek appeared on a ‘pimp my puissant that my parents bought me to go to college’ type website. Here, for the record, is why there are more joins in the vinyl on the Zytek racing wrap than in one of Ernie Wise’s wigs.
The simple reason for the amount of visible join work on the Zytek wrap (which you can see represented in the pictures as blue lines on the car) is down to the number of body curves which go into making up the aerodynamic shape of the car.
The materials I use to wrap the car are very good at bending and stretching around all of the extreme aerodynamic curves and generally they will stretch to fit very large areas with no trouble, but here’s the key to why I have to overlap the joins. Unlike on a regular vehicle wrap project, where you can bend and stretch your vinyl to conform to almost any kind of body shape with little or no trouble, on a racing car, with all of its varied aerodynamic curves, the vinyl will eventually begin to outstretch its own adhesive abilities, especially where air free (air egress) vinyls are employed, so by the laws of physics the adhesive will eventually run out of tack long before the elasticity of the vinyl.
As I say, this is all well and good when wrapping your run of the mill domestic car as you will be hard pushed to get the material to fail on this basis, but when dealing with race cars and their daft shapes, things begin to get interesting to say the very least. Not only are you dealing with severe compound curves there is also the base surface to take into consideration, which is made from carbon fibre and is nowhere near as smooth and as ‘grabby’ as the paintwork on a road going vehicle. And this is also a determining factor in being able to attach a self adhesive vinyl that has been stretched far beyond its normal limit.
And the final piece in the jigsaw is heat. For example the force of air hitting the bodywork on the Zytek is designed to create downforce at speeds even as low 40mph. Now the force of air at higher speeds (above 100mph) tends to create quite a bit of friction, and friction generates heat. Now I am not saying that you would be able to fry an egg on the bodywork, but this surface friction, when coupled with residual heat from the exhaust, brakes, and engine, tends to create a considerable amount of heat all round the bodywork of the car, and the vinyl wrapping material has to put up with all of these forces, and if the vinyl is not applied in the right way, this build up of heat (remember the Zytek is an endurance race car) will begin to soften the adhesive. Again, none of which you would encounter when wrapping a street vehicle. So all of these factors lead to a fitting style that is more ‘sectional’ and the joins are sometimes overlapped which helps to ensure that the vinyl stays put and is not under too much stress because it will get an absolute battering when the car is out on the circuit.
To summarise in a nutshell, over stretching the vinyl thins the glues out, therefore you have to overlap the joins. If you do not, before you know it the material is flapping about half way around a lap at Le Mans. And believe me; you really don’t want an angry racing driver/team principal giving you a right royal rollicking because you haven’t done a thorough enough job.
The picture on the left shows the engine cover removed, just to give an idea of how close the fit is, and this is a place where the heat transfer to the this part of the bodywork is incredibly high. Put it this way, you really wouldn’t want to touch the engine cover without gloves when it comes in to the pits!
I have been wrapping racing cars for years, and have learned how to do it because vehicle wrapping courses for racing cars simply do not exist. What I have learned has been drawn from a sound understanding of the physics of motorsport and how to apply this science to the application of self adhesive vinyls to the contours of racing cars.
My years of experience have taught me the hard way how to ensure that our cars remain looking pretty right to the end of the race.
The material I use for the Zytek is Avery’s Supreme wrapping material. I like it because it is dual LMP3cast with air channel glues so the initial ‘grab’ remains quite low, which is a must for this sort of vehicle when you’re getting the material lined up. The Avery material has both positives and negatives in use, but that said, being the GDW Stig I do try to break it whenever I can just to test its ability to do the job.
That said, the team and I are very pleased with how much abuse the material actually takes and it can also be cleaned and polished after a race and still look bright and new as though just fitted. And travelling at around 180mph a couple of inches off the ground, this is no mean feat, so hats off to you Avery for producing a really good vinyl wrapping product.
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