A note from the Director
Andrew Brilliant on Non-Disclosure and Intellectual Property
Aerodynamics is both a challenging and fulfilling endeavour. One of those major challenges is that a physical shape can be seen by anyone looking at the car. It takes high end resources to design it, but then it takes the team testing and time to fully realise the rewards. A well funded and ambitious competitor of yours can have even a bad copy of the aero installed and tested quickly, even before you can realise the full potential of the original. While a copy will not come close to the downforce of the original, it usually works better than not having it at all. Many factors effect vehicle performance and that small improvement is often all your competitor may need to beat you. For this reason secrecy is a necessity. When it comes to protecting aero, it is in all our interest that you make an effort in earnest. The goal should be to maintain the largest possible competitive advantage into the future. We can only do this by delaying your competitors having a copy of the technology for as long as possible.
Your competitors will do almost anything to get a peak at your aero. Every bit of information they can glean reduces the technical advantage you have paid for.
One of the key concepts that allowed us to develop at this level is what we call “pooled development”. Aerodynamics of this caliber once took tens of millions of dollars to develop. While we have reduced these costs massively the total cost is still high. The budget is far beyond the reach of any of our mid level customers. Our business concept, in answer to this is that all these customers have created a pool of resources. We reinvest a huge percent of our income to develop technologies as well, technologies that cost far beyond any single customer budget to invent. This strategy brings higher levels of performance than was ever possible, but also comes with additional responsibility. All of our teams have access to those technologies and that means each and every team presents a risk of leaking that information. Once technology has leaked it is impossible to stop the spread. The people you wanted to have it last, usually have it first.
In one real world example technologies we pioneered on the championship winning Project Nemo can now be found in a Voltex parts catalog. Anyone can purchase a mimicked concept of Nemo’s front underbody. The technology only leaked when the team failed to stop one single photographer from taking photos at a low angle in the garage. We are certain Nemo’s track record could very well have stood for two additional years if not for one small mishap.
Due to this and several similar incidents, we took a gamble and started fresh. We invested huge resources to develop all new underbody technologies. Along with that we put into place our non disclosure agreement. This is of course for our benefit, but equally so for all our other customers and us.
All AMB Aero customers are now required to sign this Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). We also wrote some notes below as a simple layman’s explanation of how you may need to change the way your race team operates in order to comply with the NDA. This technology is our lifeblood, so please help us in our dream to continue pushing technical boundaries, growing the sport and our profession while pushing our customers to the front and keeping them there.
We encourage you to make your own NDA that your staff and team members sign. Once you sign the NDA, you are responsible legally. We know many things are outside your control and we tend to be understanding, but our requirement for you is centred around an expectation that you take all reasonable steps to prevent leaks.
What parts matter:
Parts of the car are visible during the normal course of operation in a race are not at issue. The parts that can be protected are the ones in the underbody, or as the NDA defines them “not visible when the car is fully assembled and set 100mm from ground level at least one meter distance from the car”.
Things such as the CAD model, CFD visualisations, aero map data, including downforce or drag numbers should be treated as highly confidential. If you need something for media purposes, just let us know and we will supply you with a good response to those questions.
What we expect you to do:
1) Disallow team member photography of the underbody parts.
This is simple in practice, any and all team members or people allowed in/near/around the garage or workshop should understand the value of what they have access to. What it can cost the team if photographs surface can be immeasurable, such photos should be banned completely. Photos should not reveal the underbody parts (top or bottom sides thereof). These sensitive parts should never be placed in plain view of the public or people walking through the workshop/pit garage. The use of inexpensive items such as blankets and tarps take almost no time and achieve the purpose. If the front or rear bumper is removed, simply toss a blanket on top of the diffuser/underbody even while it is still attached to the car. If a splitter/front diffuser is removed do not place it on the wall or on a stand in plain view. Several of our customers configured the car so the front bumper + splitter or rear bumper + diffuser are a single unit to avoid such risk.
2) Treat aero technology just like an F1 team does.
Make your competitos spend every penny and every hour you did to get to your level of aero performance. Competing aerodynamicists have and will literally go to race events just to patrol your pits and wait for a chance to get a view. We have a collection of photos of our competitors crawling under cars left unattended or in the air. Don’t let this happen to you!
Avoid jacking the car up and putting it into a revealing position for any longer than necessary. Strategic use of low hung team banners or rope barriers at garage entrance can solve most such problems in the absence of a vigilant team. A fan or media person should have to reach around a banner and place the camera on the ground to get a low angle photo. This is usually seen by the team when it is happening. If the car is left alone in the garage it should have covers, rope barriers or items placed around it to make such photos or viewing impossible or at least difficult.
3) Never allow the media around the car without explaining the rules.
No media should be wilfully allowed to photograph the car from low angles that reveal the underbody shapes. There is no excuse for this, if anything the added mystery will help your marketing of the car. The only people really dying to see your underbody are the people who want to copy it. Most good journalists will agree the article can not go live until you can review the photographs used. We are happy to review them for you as well but you want to avoid any revealing photos in the first place. You never know who they are friends with.
In the event we find photos of sensitive aero parts on a media website or publication our lawyer will contact them demanding they be removed and then he will contact you to explain that you violated the NDA. You can be potentially billed for the lawyer fees as well as the remedies explained in the NDA. This is a very serious issue for us. If you have taken reasonable steps to prevent the leak we are always understanding but again, you must do what is reasonable to be done.
Escort out media members out that are not following the rules. If a team member is seen taking photos instruct them to delete the photos and explain to them the severity of violating your non disclosure agreement.