Launch control (automotive)
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Launch control is an electronic aid to assist drivers of both racing and street cars to accelerate from a standing start.
Popular automobiles with launch control include the BMW M series, certain marques of the Volkswagen Group with Direct-Shift Gearbox (most notably the Bugatti Veyron), Porsche 911 (sport++ mode), Panamera Turbo, Alfa Romeo with TCT gearbox and certain General Motors products. Mitsubishi also incorporated launch control into their Twin Clutch SST gearbox, on its "S-Sport" mode, but the mode is only available in the Evolution X MR and MR Touring (USDM). The Nissan GT-R has electronics to control launch but the company does not use the term "launch control" since some owners have equated the term with turning off the stability control to launch the car, which may void the warranty of the drivetrain. The current version of Nissan GT-R allows user to launch the car by turning the Traction Control to "R" mode.
How it works
Launch control operates by using an electronic accelerator and a computer program. The software controls acceleration based on engine specifications to make the car accelerate smoothly and as fast as possible, avoiding spinning of the drive wheels, engine failure due to over-revving, and clutch and gearbox problems. In racing cars, this feature is only available at the start of the race, when the car is stationary in the starting grid. After the car is running at a certain speed, the software is disabled.
Reason for use
Racing drivers have only a very short time at the start of a race in which to achieve competitive acceleration. High power delivery to the gearbox and driven wheels cannot easily be managed even by the most skilled drivers.
Developments in electronics in the 1980s enabled the introduction of launch control.
In 1985, Renault's RE60 F1 car stored information on a diskette which was later unloaded at the pits, giving the engineers detailed data about the car's behaviour. Later, telemetry allowed the data to be sent by radio between the pits and the car. Increasing use of electronics on the car allowed engineers to modify the settings of certain parameters whilst it was on the track, which is called bi-directional telemetry.
Among the electronic driving aids were a semi-automatic transmission, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), a traction control system, and active suspension. The 1993 Williams FW15C model featured all of these aids. This trend was ended by the FIA when it outlawed these aids for the 1994 season, considering that they reduced the importance of driver skill to too great a degree. Bi-directional telemetry was also forbidden, which was soon reinstated as the FIA found it too hard to analyse the engine programmes in order to search for hidden code that could be found breaking the rules.
Fully automatic transmission and launch control were allowed again from the 2001 Spanish Grand Prix, but as of 2004 they were outlawed in order to reduce the money needed for a competitive F1 team.