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Lee Products develops fast-acting, high flow valve for F1 rear wing actuation

13 January 2011

The fast moving world of Formula 1 motor racing technology is constantly changing as a result of the desire to gain an advantage in such a highly competitive arena, as well as the need to comply with ever-changing rules and regulations. An example of this is the decision to allow the use of driver-activated rear wings for 2011, which are set for a return to Formula 1, 40 years after they were banned on safety grounds in the 1960s.

The decision was made at a recent meeting of the sports governing body the FIA World Motor Sport Council, with the objective of allowing more overtaking in F1. One of the beneficiaries is miniature component specialists Lee Products which, over the past few years, has sold hundreds of solenoid valves to all of the F1 teams for a wide range of applications. These include, fuel flap, emergency clutch disengage, reverse gear selection, power steering, auxiliary lube oil tank top-up applications, as well as front wing control. In fact Lee Products specifically developed its 250 series solenoid valve at the request of its F1 customers and this was subsequently homologated by the FIA for use in F1. 

The active front wings had a trailing edge which could be adjusted by the driver to increase downforce during braking. Active front wings were a feature on F1 cars for the 2010 season but have now been banned for the 2011 season, to be replaced by the active rear wing.
Drivers will be able to control the rear wing once they have been behind another driver for a set amount of time, thereby reducing drag on the straight and allowing greater opportunity for overtaking.
The wings are raised and lowered by a large diameter hydraulic actuator which needs to move very quickly and therefore demands a fast-acting, high flow valve to control it. To facilitate this Lee Products developed a 12v dc version of its 3-way high flow solenoid valve specifically for this purpose and several F1 teams have specified the valve for this function. This modified valve can operate at much higher temperatures, up to 165°C. Also, the original retaining nut has been removed to save space and reduce weight whilst the lead wires now exit from the rear of the valve instead of at the hydraulic end. 
Lee Products’ miniature 3-way high flow solenoid valves are a natural evolution of their proven piloting solenoid valves, which set new standards in reducing space, weight and power consumption. Valve elements are based on the low leakage, high reliability designs used in Lee check and shuttle valves. Functions and features include; 2 position, 3-way, 3000 psi, 4.0 USGPM minimum flow at 3000 psid (300 Lohms), single coil and an integral safety screen with .004 inch hole size. Power consumption is 7.8 watts at 18-32 vdc and they can operate within a -54° to +135°C temperature range. Special 12 vdc versions are also available for motorsport applications.

These solenoid valves are part of Lee Products’ extensive range of plugs, restrictors, check valves, relief valves, shuttle valves, filter screens and flow controls which are all being used in current F1 cars and engines.

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