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Solidtec Solutions Sponsor a Winning Design from Access Automation

March 2011 saw the confirmation of sponsorship by Solidtec of Access Automation’s Terra FX Sports Racing car. Access Automation Limited has designed and manufactured a custom sports racing car which competes in the Sports Suzuki Class of the Independent Racing Classes (IRC) Series. The car is called the Terra Fx, being a play on words, as the design utilizes the aerodynamic properties of “ground effect” when an aerofoil is operated in close proximity to the ground.   The project has been used to hone the design and manufacturing skills of Access Automation by developing a highly innovative race car that can successfully compete in sports car racing, even with a novice driver. Essential to the success of the project was the use of SolidWorks 3D CAD software, with which the car was designed and modelled.

The IRC Series that the Terra FX runs in involves 8 race meetings per year which are held throughout race tracks in the North Island.  Further information on the IRC series can be found at
Mark Galvin, Director of Access Automation is a Mechanical Engineer with wide interests in engineering and technology. Prior to starting Access Automation Limited in 1990 he worked as a research scientist for 19 years with the New Zealand government, first at DSIR and then Industrial Research Limited. He has invented and patented a number of commercially successfully products.

In 1990 he left the government and started Access Automation Limited. The main activity of AAL is the design and manufacture of inclined lifts. They are now the leading manufacturer of such equipment in NZ and also export many systems to Australia and the Asia pacific region. (

“This project has given Access Automation Ltd the opportunity to really push the boundaries with some unusual design and construction innovations as well as having a bit of fun. In our normal line of business of designing cable cars we have to be a bit more conservative” says Mark.

Design Paradigm of Terra FX
The project is very much about design innovation, in particular, the aerodynamics of the vehicle. Previous experiments have shown that the car will generate very high aerodynamic down-forces by exploiting a phenomena called “ground effects” .This is where an inverted aerofoil shape operating in close proximity to the ground amplifies the aerodynamic forces.

In the case of the Terra FX, the main shape of the car is an inverted wing and so it is more correct to consider the project as an inverted aircraft flying close to the ground, rather than a car. From day one, the design paradigm of the project has been to build a wing with wheels, rather than to build a car with good aerodynamics. The concept sketch below shows the main architecture of the car. The three main elements are the central core, the engine side pod and the driver side pod. The central core is both the main structure of the car plus the optimized aerofoil shape.

It is very light, strong and rigid as it is an enclosed box without penetrations. The side pods hang from the central core. These house the driver and engine on the opposite sides of the car. Both these heavy items can be placed close to the ground without compromising the aerodynamics of the car as they are located in a low airflow area between the wheels. This configuration has proven to produce excellent down-force and excellent Down-force / Drag ratios (L/D). The unusual design of the car has proved to be very successful and attracts a great deal of attention at the race track.

General Specification of Prototype
Class of racing: Sports Car
Weight: Dry weight 500 kg
Motor: Turbocharged 1300 cc Suzuki motorcycle eng
Power: 280 Hp
Transmission: 6 speed sequential with paddle shift
Power to weight: 560 Hp/Tonne
Chassis torsional stiffness: 22,000 Nm per degree
Estimated down-force: 300 kg at 100 KPH/1,200 kg at 200 KPH

Racing Achievements for 2010 to 2111 Season
The Terra Fx has raced in 3 of the 5 rounds of the current IRC series.  There is another round to come at Taupo in Easter.  Key results to date are;

Round1, Manfield Motorsport Park, National Meeting, 2 -3 October 2010
  • 1st in both scratch races.
  • Set new lap record of 1:07.5 for the sport car class (old record was 1:9.0)
  • Set fastest time of the meeting for any class.
Round 3, Manfield Motorsport Park, MG Classic Meeting, 13 -14 November 2010
  • 1st in 3 races.
  • Set fastest time of the meeting for any class.
Round 4, Taupo Race Track, Trans Tasman meeting, 15 – 16 January 2011
  • 1st in 2 races
  • Set fastest time of the meeting for any class.

“SolidWorks 3DCAD software has been an essential tool in the design and construction of the Terra Fx racing car. SolidWorks was used to define the geometry of the vehicle, investigate suspension options, calculate spring rates, confirm packaging and running clearances and produce developed shapes and laser cutting files for the monocoque structure. SolidWorks has proved to be a truly versatile tool that has made the design and construction of this complex prototype possible with otherwise modest resources” says Mark.

Access Automation have been a customer of Solidtec Solutions since 2009 and can attest to the value of using SolidWorks 3DCAD, and the training and support packages that Solidtec provides. “Solidtec have been absolutely brilliant as a supplier of the software. They offer training courses in our region, their technical support is prompt and of the highest standard and they have been proactive in organizing local user-group meetings which are both informative and a great networking opportunity.”

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