McLaren have announced the reason for Heikki Kovalainen’s big accident at the recent Spanish Grand Prix. The Woking-based squad, along with their wheel supplier have concluded there was a processing fault in the manufacturing of Kovalainen’s left-front wheel, which eventually failed. The accident saw Heikki skate across the gravel trap and impact a tyre wall at approximately 145mph. Although the impact briefly knocked Heikki out, his only injury was a concussion and earlier today the Finnish driver was given the all clear to race this weekend.
According to McLaren, a clear lacquer coat was applied to the outer-clamp surface, and this caused the wheel to distort and eventually fail.
It has been established that, owing to a process fault during manufacture, the outer clamp surface of the wheel was given a clear lacquer coating. As a consequence of this fault, the clamp load that attached the wheel was not to specification.
In running, the consequent loss of load caused the wheel to fret and distort, leading to its eventual failure.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and the wheel supplier have now established new procedures designed to prevent a re-occurrence of this issue. McLaren Press Statement.
Initially, some reporters had suggested a link to Lewis Hamilton’s accident at the Nurburgring circuit last year, where the Briton’s wheel essentially fell off. Although Lewis was uninjured in that accident, the impact was quite heavy. However, replays of the footage tended show it was more of a tyre failure on Heikki’s car than a wheel failure. As it turns out, it was the wheel that did fail, but it is not linked to any previous incident.
Outer clamp surface needs clarification here, whilst I am guessing at what it implies, ie tyre to wheel ‘bond’? When technical terms such as this which are not generally public knowledge, nor that of experienced mechanics/fitters, I feel it does need explanation.
So could someone help me out and explain please?
As far as I can tell (and I’m no expert), it is a part of the wheel that contacts with the tyre, as you say. I believe the clamp to be a part of the rim and helps keep the tyre on.
I tried Googling for a proper answer, but the best I got was some quote saying there were an awful lot of parts to a wheel rim. And that was about it. Anyone else know exactly what an outer clamp is?
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