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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Top Gear vs The Grand Tour: Who's Quickest Off The Line?

On the left, New TopGear. On the right, as close to Old TopGear as copyright laws allow...
Earlier this year, as the result of a fracas, some arguments and a loyalty-based mass exodus, legendary BBC motoring show TopGear was reformatted with an all-new lineup of presenters and a quite different production team. It had... mixed results. The first two or three episodes were middling to poor - episode one felt like a rushed pilot and was borderline unwatchable at times - but by the halfway point of a typically short series, the new squad began to hit their stride and started to show some actual potential for the future. However, naturally, there were scores of mindless social media campaigners who just wanted the BBC to excuse a man for needlessly assaulting a colleague and put the old TG back together. There are two reasons why calling for such a thing was and is a waste of time. Firstly, well, as I've already said the BBC can't just re-hire someone who essentially committed a crime, because that's a bad message to send out (again). Secondly, if you wanted the old show with the old presenters and their "chemistry" and "banter" and what have you, all you needed was an Amazon Prime subscription and some patience, surely?

Well, now we have an answer to that second part, because the immensely anticipated show The Grand Tour has finally landed with its debut episode on Prime Video in the UK, US, Germany and Japan (other nations will get it in December, or just pirate it for free as you read this). The general reception has been perhaps predictably positive, although I put it to you, dear reader, that people are mostly pleased because of the unavoidable level of familiarity on display - in fact it felt so familiar to some that the Radio Times has said "The Grand Tour is back," even though this was series one, episode one...

I sort of knew when both shows were announced that the three stooges were likely to just make the kind of show they were already making before - whereas BBC mega-franchise TopGear was now free to reformat and be different - but now that I've actually been confronted with such a product, I feel... unmoved?

Huh.

OK, let's break the debut episode down (MULTIPLE SPOILER ALERT obviously):

> The opening sequence was very nice. They know that we know why this show exists, so they tastefully put together a scene in which The Tall One makes his way from a miserable glass-fronted business building in London to escape to an airport in Los Angeles, wherein he finds out that apparently you can rent a 725-horsepower Fisker-modified Ford Mustang in California. On his way to the middle of nowhere, old mates James May and Richard Hammond suddenly appear in a white Roush-modified Mustang and a red Shelby GT350 to complete the three colours of the American flag (and British, French, Dutch, Russian, etc. etc...). Heartwarming smiles are exchanged and they bugger off into the desert, overtaking cars of all shapes and sizes to arrive at "Burning Van" - a play on Burning Man - so that they can have a hero's entrance. A rocky cover of I Can See Clearly Now takes so long to finish that we have to sit through about 25 different high panning shots divided up by shots of the presenters waving and grinning at the concert audience they've just driven through (amazingly, despite driving three Mustangs, they didn't hit anyone!). The eventual on-stage intro which followed will hopefully be a one-off, because watching them pretending to be rock stars was a little odd.


> The studio tent bit varied vastly in quality throughout. The audience was too trigger-happy with whooping and applauding, although that's just the American style for studio shows. Jeremy immediately patronising the US audience's different automotive vocabulary was tedious (to the point where I felt embarrassed on behalf of less childish Britons), as was the Air Force fracas 'bit' later on that was really just filler. Also disappointing was "Conversation Street," which was suspiciously similar to "The News Bit" on that old BBC show except it was shorter, was introduced by a low-budget sting (a joke that loses its weight on such a high-budget show, no?) and started with Jeremy repeating a couple of old TopGear News chestnuts to really ram home that these are the same old guys who used to be on TopGear don't y'know...
To be honest I'm not sure why they decided to establish their pre-existing TV caricatures so heavy-handedly, because the people watching this show will primarily already know it all from TopGear and not need reminding, while any fresh new viewers are not guaranteed to connect with the characters any better for having them so un-subtly spelt out up front. Finally, the not-a-guest part with all the (visibly breathing) dead celebrities was a tiresome, drawn-out stunt that had me wishing they'd just stuck with one death and got on with something else, although that could just be me misplacing my sense of humor for a minute or two... but to me it was another on-the-nose example of them referencing the old show, only this time they didn't follow all the way through with creating the parallel and made it apparent that they probably won't have guests throughout the series like they used to. It wasn't exactly the old TopGear's most popular feature...
What was good about the studio? Well, mocking James for his 37mph speeding ticket was pleasing and there were moments of more natural banter, plus the concept of a mobile base with audiences from all over the world could keep the setting fresh... unless it just gives Jeremy different nationalist stereotypes to peddle each time. I also hope Convo Corner has some more actual content in it next week to make it worthwhile.

The Eboladrome
> We'll get to content more in a mo, but further setting-up of the format was required, so Clarkson introduced "The Eboladrome," which looks like a tricky little test track as well as looking like the Ebola virus. Their old humour was in further evidence here through corner names such as "The Isn't Straight," "Old Lady's House" (because it's near a house where an old lady lives) and the now-suitably commercialist "Your Name Here," not to mention the perilous penultimate "Cage of Electricity" turn which is overlooked by a small substation. Keen internetters quickly worked out that the Eboladrome is situated at a disused air base near Swindon and conspicuously avoids using the runway around which it wriggles, possibly for legal reasons...
After a demo lap by an unseen driver with a Ferrari 488 GTB, Jeremy gave us a half-length track test feature in the spicy little BMW M2, proclaiming it to be the greatest BMW M car... In The World - although not in those exact words, which was a missed opportunity!
"And now we must put it in the hands of our lame racing driver!" is also a missing phrase, albeit one I just made up regarding their house-trained ex-NASCAR test driver Mike Skinner, a.k.a 'The American.' If Amazon really did insist on an American test driver then, well, OK, but his grumpy in-car commentary felt utterly pointless and subtracted value, as did the "he thinks every non-Mustang is communist" bollocks put on him by the presenters - a joke probably older than some audience members...
OK, I am being quite negative here. The track does look like a good chassis test and "the same racing driver" looks like he'll be pretty handy each week at actually driving the cars. Which is good.

But now to the really good bit:


> The first proper film covered the hyper-hybrid trio and was definitely up to standard, with beautifully dramatic cinematography to capture the energy and adrenaline involved in pushing the limits of grip, driver talent, metaphors and Amazon's swear word censorship hierarchy. However, it's a shame they didn't get a road-registered LaFerrari, because there definitely were some customer cars out there when they filmed the feature about 13 months ago. Mind you, the purple McLaren registered 'P1 OOV' is owned by the McLaren factory and used as a press car, as I assume is true of the German-registered Porsche, so that particular LaFerrari was probably beamed directly from the Fiorano test track rather than being a customer car. Apparently Ferrari didn't fancy paying the road tax on it. Make of that what you will. Oh, and technically the Italian car does have an all-electric mode, but it only works up to 5km/h for garage maneuvering.
The second portion of the film - brought in after the M2's Eboladrome lap that was unsurprisingly slower than an M3 - included input from former F1 driver Jerome d'Ambrosio, providing an impartial adjudicator for track laps around Portimão circuit and an opportunity for mischievous subtitles while he described the cars in French (being as he's Belgian)... just like when they did that with subtitles on the old TopGear! Oh the jape.
The finale closed out with a bet that if the McLaren P1 wasn't the fastest then Richard and James could destroy Jeremy's house. Because the P1 wasn't on its optional semi-slick tyres... it was the slowest. So that'll be a fun future episode!

Side note: I wonder if they filmed these three cars on or near the day that Chris Harris On Cars filmed those three exact factory-supported cars on the same circuit for his own video feature...

----

Overall, the first episode of The Grand Tour (which is a really generic name, by the way...) ended up feeling quite self-conscious. Sometimes this wasn't a problem, such as with the opening sequence up to but not including the on-stage part, but at multiple points, especially in the tent, it lead to some slightly contrived character acting of the kind that was making TopGear feel a bit tired before it was reformatted. The trouble is, because there were genuine moments when the famous chemistry between the three of them was able to present itself naturally, it showed up the less genuine bits, like when an actor keeps slipping in and out of character. However, this first episode is meant to establish the new show and it has done that emphatically, meaning that hopefully the rest of the series will have a bit more room to flow.

How did it compare to new-new TopGear? Well if we're comparing apples to apples then I have to compare it with the first episode, which was terrible. Chris Evans's take on the show wasn't just aimed at children, it felt like it was written by children. Actually the best description I heard was that it was like someone's amateur fan-fiction where they write themselves into the show... which is not a compliment. It was widely publicised that the aftermath of Clarkson-gate was extremely messy for the BBC show, with directors and producers joining, arguing with Evans and then leaving until finally they managed to nail a few things down. This showed in the first couple of episodes.


What we've got now are two shows that are both trying to be the show that effectively doesn't exist anymore... but neither of them quite can be. New-new TopGear can't be Old TopGear because it doesn't have Pinky & Perky & Pedant who were so central to making the format work, whereas TGT can't be Old TG for legal reasons but gets as close as it dares, like the equivalent of the cars you see in Grand Theft Auto games that bear an uncanny resemblance to real cars without actually being them. In the end, both shows therefore feel a little contrived as they go to great lengths to feel familiar to us, albeit in different ways, yet ultimately can't be what they imitate.

I honestly fear that the Clarkson/Hammond/May/Wilman/Porter combination of people that moved to Amazon don't really know what else to make at this point, having developed and honed a comfortable routine over 12 years on the BBC. I mean, they had a completely new brand and a blank cheque to start afresh, yet they just re-jigged what they were doing before because it would please all the Facebook campaigners who just wanted Old TopGear back.
Meanwhile, New TopGear suffered a similar problem the other way around, having a chance to reinvigorate a global smash-hit brand that was in need of refreshing and yet not figuring out exactly how to do that. Once it recovered from a squiffy first couple of episodes, its biggest problem was forced banter and possibly still a lack of clear direction (not to mention a lack of depth in the car reviews). The first tGT episode beat the first TG mk.3 episode, but as an overall package moving forwards? Neither of them scores a clear victory at this stage, if you ask me.
The next new series of TG in 2017 needs to have much more confidence about itself, something that's achievable now they have a practiced crew and don't have the mercurial Evans to deal with.

I don't intend to pick a side here. Once both shows do find their feet, I want them to push each other to get better and promote some healthy competition, which would benefit us all as car enthusiasts in need of entertainment... in theory.

In the meantime, all we can do is continue watching both shows and see what really happens. On top of that, I'm also intrigued by the Amazon team's online offshoot DriveTribe, which aims to be a social and content hub for all things automotive. It's already absorbed a host of magazine writers and YouTubers, so it may actually end up being that which becomes the next big thing after all. Time will tell...


Written exclusively for SmallBlog V8. Do not copy without permission.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Audi Withdraw From LMP1 After 18 Years

2016 Audi R18 TDI e-tron quattro at the 6 Hours of COTA
If Formula 1 fans are impatient for complaining about one team dominating for three or four years at a time, they ought to look further afield and realise how good they've got it. See, if your first love in motorsport is endurance racing, the dominant force has now been around all century long... and they're only now being regularly overhauled by none other than a corporate stablemate of theirs.

Yes, I'm talking about Audi in LMP1. Since their second attempt in 1999, they have never once missed out on a podium finish at the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans. Not. Once. Of those 17 podium scores, 13 have been victories, a win count very nearly on par with all-time leaders Porsche who have now returned to reassert themselves (a heart-stopping Le Mans finish this year saw the old guard from Stuttgart score their record 18th win when Toyota #5 broke down on the final lap). Not only have Audi been all but untouchable since the start of the 21st century, but they have hit some key technical milestones along the way, such as the first Le Mans win for a car with a diesel engine (2006) and the first for a hybrid car (2012).

It's not just around Circuit de la Sarthe that they've left their mark, though; of the 185 races Audi has entered in "Le Mans Prototype" racing cars around the world, 106 of them ended in victory. From 2000-2008 they won the American Le Mans Series championship nine times in a row while US sports car racing grew around them. Top that off with back-to-back World Endurance Championship (WEC) manufacturer's titles in 2012 and 2013. They have been relentless, they have been dominant and they have done it all while pioneering new technologies... and they have done it all with a certain class indicative of the spirit of endurance racing.

Audi's 13 Le Mans-winning cars.
The middle row comprises diesel-powered cars. The front trio are diesel-hybrids.
However, being owned by Volkswagen has suddenly made the current situation very difficult thanks to the "Dieselgate" scandal, which is costing VW Automotive Group (VAG) billions of dollars in fines and buy-backs while shattering diesel's reputation as the cleaner, thriftier fuel of choice. While many argue that motor racing is the unequivocally ideal place to develop new car technology (Vorsprung Durch Technik and all that), many others in the corporate world see it as a mere folly... and an expensive one - the recent hybrid powertrain arms race between LMP1 factory teams has caused costs to spiral upwards to a level similar to a major Formula 1 team, which given that VAG also includes Porsche means that the German giant is effectively paying for the approximate equivalent of both Red Bull Racing and Mercedes-AMG F1 at the same time... with the obvious guarantee that at least one of them will lose.

When everything was rosy, that was fine - pit Porsche's petrol/battery hybrid and Audi's diesel/flywheel hybrid against each other, develop two or more sets of technologies at once and generate some healthy competition between brands that otherwise don't really overlap with each other much. Remember, we're talking about the business behemoth that could afford to lose millions on Bugatti Veyrons and eco-spaceship XL1s and shrug it off like they were just doing us all a favour in the process. Now, however, things are not rosy at all and the knock-on effects are obvious. For instance, the "all-new" Bugatti Chiron bears striking technical similarities to its predecessor perhaps because it was only allowed to make production if it could turn the company a profit this time. Audi itself could soon be made to stop using its own chassis platform for its cars, instead adopting the one Porsche already uses for Panameras and the like to save group costs. So basically, with savings needing to be found across the board, running two LMP1 factory teams has quickly become unreasonable...

But why Audi and not someone else's racing? Well, there's another, more direct issue the Ingolstadt squad would face soon; in 2018, a new 10-megajoule hybrid sub-class will be introduced to the WEC. As Porsche proved with its utter dominance in 2015, the bigger your hybrid system the better. However, more electric power means a bigger, heavier energy store (battery), something of grave concern to Audi whose diesel engine is notably heavier than a petrol equivalent - certainly their V6 TDI will weigh more than Porsche's tiny 2.0-litre V4 T - giving them a clear performance disadvantage one way or another as the only team using diesel engines, which already have to take longer to fill up during pit stops thanks to a rule aimed at balancing out their better fuel consumption. So add a possible performance deficit to VAG's need to slash costs across the board together, then throw in that the diesel technology is no longer desirable and... well, things aren't looking good, especially after Ferdinand Piëch left the group.

And so, despite them having developed a machine for next year anyway, an era in sports car racing will end with the 2016 WEC season, as announced on 26th October:


"Speaking to 300 employees of the motorsport department on Wednesday morning, Chairman of the Board of Management Rupert Stadler put this strategic decision in the context of the current burdens on the brand, pointing out that it was important to focus on the things that would keep Audi competitive in the years ahead. That is why the Board of Management had decided to terminate Audi’s commitment in endurance racing. In the future, Audi will be using the know-how and skills of the motorsport experts from Neuburg and Neckarsulm partially in motorsport and partially in production development. 

“We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” says Stadler. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.” The first all-electric racing series perfectly matches the strategy of offering fully battery-electric models year by year starting in 2018, Audi currently being in the greatest transformation stage in the company’s history. The commitment in FIA Formula E will already commence in 2017. It is regarded as the racing series with the greatest potential for the future. That is why Audi has intensified the existing partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport in the current 2016/2017 season. On the road toward a full factory commitment, the manufacturer is now actively joining the technical development.

The commitment in the DTM [German silhouette touring cars], where Audi will be competing with the successor of the Audi RS 5 DTM in 2017, will remain untouched."


Audi also says there is a "job guarantee" for all their motorsport employees, whom will now be shared between developing production cars and pushing the electric drive technology in Formula E, a series in which it already supports the competitive ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team at arm's length ready turn into a full factory effort next season. I covered the inaugural FE race on this blog, but in true style neglected to cover any more of it after that. Since the first season of racing when the cars were completely standardised, the regulations around the powertrain - everything between (but excluding) the battery and the wheels - have subsequently been freed up to allow companies to develop their own concepts, of which there are now eight different types on the grid. Having just started its third season, Formula E is what's hot right now among car makers wanting to look cutting edge, with more manufacturer teams taking part than in Formula 1 including Renault, DS [Citroën], Jaguar and Mahindra (not to mention a BMW-supported independent team), plus Audi for season four and potentially Mercedes-Benz in season five, when a new McLaren-supplied battery will allow teams to use one car for the entire race length and the aero will no longer be standard. You've been hearing all decade long that electric cars are the future and here's even more proof of it.

Plus, y'know, it's substantially cheaper to enter than F1 or WEC. That helps too.

In the meantime, Audi will still have a factory team in DTM and I don't see anything denying that they'll keep building R8 GT3 cars to sell to customer racing teams around the world, alongside the new RS3 LMS touring car that won the TCR class in VLN at the Nürburgring last weekend.

Still, while all great things must come to an end, the world of endurance racing will surely feel Audi's absence in 2017. Between Nissan's miscarriage of an LMP1 project last year and this sudden withdrawal by a staple manufacturer, LMP1 will soon be left with just two factory teams (Porsche and Toyota) and, thanks to Rebellion Racing switching to LMP2, a single uncompetitive independent team (CLM/ByKolles). Depending on whether the Toyota finally brings a third car to Le Mans or not, we're talking about only five or six cars in the top class of the 24 Hours and WEC, right when it looked like sports car racing was in a new golden age.

It'll be an absence the weight of which is matched only by that of the pages Audi has added to the racing history books since the turn of the millennium.


Farewell Audi. May you return when the time is right. In the meantime, Toyota has perhaps never had a better chance at FINALLY winning the big one after so many disappointments...


Written exclusively for SmallBlog V8

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

McLaren TOONED "Hunt 40" is Made of 53% Recycled LOLs


Hey, remember McLaren's TOONED cartoons from a few years ago? Yeah, they were neat. Seeing as McLaren-Honda is currently so successful that they don't need to put any work into attracting sponsors, they've decided now's a useful time to bring back the tongue-in-cheek animations... and when I say "bring back" I mean that they essentially repackaged one of their old Tooned 50 episodes from 2013. See, it's also 40 years since 1976, the year that notorious playboy James Hunt won the F1 world championship with the legendary racing team, so why not commemorate such an incredible season in a unique way? Conveniently, they already did as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, so they took the majority of that episode and bookended it with fresh cringe-laughs including a direct reference to the excellent #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe meme and Jenson Button in speedos calling Fernando Alonso "my little chorizo," because any joke at this point is better than that Back To The Future thing they did last year.

Anyway, it's funnier than I've just made it sound (honest!), so watch an enjoy... perhaps by relaxing on a camping chair near a Brazilian race track.

Friday, 30 September 2016

LaFerrari Aperta Appears, Screams, Then Disappears


There will be a Paris Motor Show highlights post on here tomorrow, but for now let's segue from my previous post perving at a Ferrari into the motor show coverage...

Why wasn't LaFerrari called the Ferrari F70? Well, one reason would be that it was launched two or three years too soon for Ferrari's 70th anniversary - whether that was in response to the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 is up for debate - in which case the name would be a little farcical... but maybe still not as bad as using something that sounds like a bad advertising slogan for the actual name. Nevertheless, Ferrari's special-series cars tend to be a one-shot deal, with no variants to follow... except for this time, as Ferrari has decided to commemorate its real 70th anniversary next year with the first open-top special-series car since the controversial F50 of the mid 1990s.

Welcome, then, to LaFerrari Aperta.

"BWOAH" - Kimi Räikkönen
It's more than just a roof chop though, don't y'know. Cars like these demand perfectionism and that meant re-evaluating how things like the aerodynamics are affected. To that end, little strips in the corners of the windscreen divert hot air venting from the bonnet, while a glass screen between the headrests also works to separate heat and turbulence from the occupants. Even the underfloor aerodynamics have been redesigned to channel more of the air underneath the car rather than over the top of it, one external sign of which is a little black air vent behind the front wheels, visible in this video. A more upright front radiator design also helps with these issues... somehow.

Critically, the exhaust has been made a little bit louder, while the control system that manages how the 800PS 6.3 V12 and the 163PS electric motor interact with each other and the road has been revised using knowledge gained since finishing the original LaFerrari. So it'll sound even better now that you can hear it more clearly as well as function all the more seamlessly as a hybrid.


Performance? Well thanks in part to use of a carbon fibre tub - which has nevertheless been reinforced low down - it has the same torsional rigidity and beam strength as the hardtop as well as the same straight-line performance figures of 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, 0-124mph in 7.1s and 0-186mph in around 15 seconds. An optional removable carbon roof panel even facilitates exactly the same top speed of over 217mph, or if you left it at home there's a fabric emergency roof (for all your fabric emergencies!) rated to 130km/h (80mph), just in case you get caught out by the weather forecast.

Another concern with de-roofing a car is weight increase. To be honest, LaFerrari's weight has always been a little bit of a mystery, one that isn't helped by the fact that Ferrari had to (or perhaps chose to) homologate two different versions of the original car, one for European regulations and one for US regulations. What is clear is that the US-spec one is heavier - which would explain to me why they wanted a lighter Euro-spec one to satisfy themselves with marginally better performance figures - but by how much is a little bit unclear. Upon unveiling it in 2014, Ferrari begrudgingly quoted a dry weight of 1255kg, but nobody seems to still use this figure (that would be immensely impressive for a big car with a V12 hybrid and DCT). However, when Chris Harris reviewed the car at Fiorano, he said a day after a typically long presentation that "the dry weight is around 1300kg and wet with fluids it's 1414[kg]." This would square with info from a forum post I found that said a German weighed their car to find it weighed 1480kg with around 75% of a tank of fuel - the tank can apparently take 86L in total, three quarters of which is 64.5L, thus if we take fuel to weigh 1kg/L at delivery temperature (before it heats up during use and expands) the car would theoretically weigh 1415.5kg with an empty tank - but all other fluids - in the real world.
But that's the European-spec version. The US-spec version is officially quoted at 1585kg, which is a lot heavier! If we take away 86kg of a full fuel tank we get a figure of 1499kg wet-minus-fuel. Assuming the official kerbweight quote does include a tank of fuel, which it often can, the weight penalty of US safety regulations would in that case be around 85kg or so.

Why bog you down with all that educated guesswork? Because roadster versions of Ferraris generally add around 50kg of dry mass onto whatever the hardtop had and the Aperta is based only on the US-spec version. That would put the weight at approximately 1529kg plus 86kg of fuel (1635kg).


Not that any of this matters to you and me beyond curiosity and Top Trumps matches; the 200 planned customer cars are all already sold at around a 50% premium over the hardtop, while Ferrari will also build nine cars to keep for themselves. Maybe they'll hand them out to management and/or F1 drivers and even have a car left over for road testers? Who knows. Maybe we'll find out as part of Ferrari's seemingly extensive 70th anniversary festivities next year.

For now, scroll back to the top and watch Sebastian Vettel reflect on some of what those 70 years of history contain.


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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Take a Peek at a Ferrari 488 GTB's Gizzards


Last Saturday, I went to an event I've never been to before called Passione Ferrari. Despite the slightly clichéd Italian name, it takes place in the very British setting of Silverstone Circuit, site of the Scuderia's first Formula 1 victory back in 1951. It was £10 to get in and decent food could be had for under a fiver, so in the absence of market stalls it was astonishing value for money given the kind of access visitors got to what is still the holy grail of supercar brands.


Once you'd walked around the infield of the Grand Prix route to get to the paddock on the F1 pit straight, you were met with rows upon rows of people's Ferraris that they'd driven to the event. Pick a model from the 1970s onwards and there was probably one there... and in the image above you can even see a rare, obscenely valuable and drop-dead gorgeous 275 GTB/4 from 1967!! KOP 138E is probably worth the nearest ten of the other Ferraris in this image combined, at approximately £2-2.5million... and it was just sitting there! No rope fence, no security bouncers, just another one in the crowd. Amazing. I wasn't the only one that noticed!

However, this little "photoblog" is focusing on something bang up to date, the twin-turbocharged 488 GTB.


Pictured above is a completed 488 Spider which you were free to sit in and fiddle with while eager children waited their turn - or didn't, as it may have been - but I'm only showing you this one because I neglected to take a photo of another 488 elsewhere at the event. See, in a pair of pit garages accessible from behind, there were a selection of exhibits including services to maintain and repair your Italian stallion. There was a carbon fibre repair stand where you could pick up a scuffed aero whisker from inside the grille of a 458 Italia or watch someone cut through carbon fibre only to fail the same trick with a carbon-kevlar sample, while elsewhere I saw a naked 360 Modena on a chassis alignment rig... but more to the point there was also a partially-assembled (or partially disassembled) 488 GTB on jack stands.

So, I decided to get close up to parts of Ferrari's latest V8 sports car which would normally be kept firmly out of view...


I won't pretend to know what all the gizzards are, but this lot, located behind the left-side door and in front of the left-rear wheel, looks electrical. Feel free to add some knowledge in the comments! Normally this bit would be covered by the side skirt. I do know that.


The passenger-side door (it's right-hand-drive) with none of the trim attached. The window glass has been removed as well. The speaker looks like an alloy wheel from an F430! Sadly that gets covered up. The black shaft near the middle is, I reckon, the door handle mechanism. At the end of it (the end near the speaker), there's a zig-zag shape resembling the 'S' from the 'PS2' logo, roughly where I remember the interior door handle being in the Spider I sat in, which appears to pivot up and down to pull the rod that disappears into the door at the other end. I couldn't tell you much else about this stuff, though...


Here is the headlight, a more recognisable part. As is common, the shape you can see with the bonnet closed actually extends slightly underneath it. In this extra area you can see an 'R' denoting that it's the right-side headlight unit.


This is the front luggage area, minus floor and carpet. Jeremy Clarkson once likened what you could see of the Lotus Exige's engine bay from the seat to peering into your Nan's kitchen cabinet, with all the tin foil and tupperware. Such un-glamorous things are nestled under the windscreen here, including some kind of air inlet (or a windscreen heater?) and a fluid reservoir or two, plus other pipes and leads that do Many Important Things.


A closer look at some of the things under the base of the windscreen, on the would-be driver's right-hand side. Among other things, part of the windscreen wiper mechanism can be seen near the top, culminating in that gold-ish nipple.


Now let's get to the bits inside the wheel arches! As well as not having wheels, there were no plastic weather guards on this car either, so you can see right through...


Ferrari-branded Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes were fitted here, vented and drilled for greater cooling. The disc itself is 398mm at the front (360mm at the rear) and uses composite materials and technology derived from LaFerrari to get them up to temperature more quickly while also officially improving stopping distances by 9% compared to the 458 Italia this car replaces. Handy, given that the new engine produces 110 more horsepower! Weighing around half as much as an equivalent cast iron disc, each is squeezed by bespoke Brembo pads attached to a hollow monoblock aluminium caliper (6 pistons up front, 4 out back, each different sizes to make pad wear more even).


Behind that, you can see the front suspension, including spring, magnetorheological damper (inside the spring) and the upper wishbone mounted to what I think is the wheel hub - with a Ferrari horse embossed on it. Gotta represent! The black accordion-esque cylinder nearby is most likely the steering shaft that pushes the front wheel outwards (or pulls it inwards) to steer it. The wheel and brake assembly pivot around the circular spot you can see above the horse, all attached to the hub.

The front of the car is to the right of these images, by the way.


I can guarantee you that this fan ahead of the front wheel are is part of the cooling system, not some secret downforce cheat! It appears to be sitting on an intercooler or radiator, mounted up front to balance the weight and/or to free up space elsewhere.


Before we get to a rear corner, I'll break this up a bit with a photo of the central tunnel and "central bridge," onto which the transmission buttons are mounted, from the finished car we could sit in. It's all real carbon fibre.

Anyway...


We rejoin the action in the right-rear wheel arch area, looking at more fans and radiators as well as the bottom of the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 engine. The purple-ish pipes in the top left area are part of the exhuast system, and as such get extremely hot (sadly I can't put a number on how hot). The system on the right of this image appears to be the intercooler used to cool incoming air for the right-side turbocharger as well as feed air into it via the thick orange pipe.


Slightly further back, you can see the rear spring/damper combo close up, along with the exhaust pipe disappearing behind it to within the rear of the chassis in order to poke out almost centrally of the rear bumper.


With the tail of the car on the left, there are more electrical leads and plugs going on behind where the rear wheel (and a plastic shield) would be. Ferrari is an odd mix of traditionalist and technology-pushing, so despite electronic "Side Slip-angle Control" and an electronic parking brake and active aero flaps here and there, they still build road cars using aluminium chassis as is in keeping with their history, whereas the likes of McLaren use a carbon fibre central tub. The only exceptions are the "special series cars" such as the Enzo and LaFerrari, although the front/rear subframes and crash structures would likely be metallic on those cars anyway. You can bend metal back into shape, but when carbon fibre fails, it's failed for good.


Here we look upwards to the top of the rear wheel area, with the rear brake in view at the bottom.
In case you've forgotten, the shot of the engine is right back at the top of this page ;-)

Although, to save you scrolling I can post a different one from a finished 488:




Here's a quick and dirty photo of what you see when the floor and rear diffuser are removed. You can see the exhaust pipes exiting through their own little grilles, while the 7-speed twin-clutch gearbox hangs low just ahead of them. To the left of that, you can see the left-side rear suspension lower arm.


Finally, this is a peek up the little piece of aerodynamic trickery on the rear bumper. Air flowing down the roof gets channeled into a central slot just below the FERRARI script on the top side. That air then exits through the moustache-like slot just above the rear number plate, in order to reduce drag. Here we are looking up through the exit. It's difficult to get a good shot of these things but I thought I'd try it anyway!


One last close-up: this is an air outlet next to the left tail light. It would be easy to assume that it's just a heat vent with a carbon fibre surround instead of a grille, but air flows through the large intakes behind the doors and gets split, so some of it feeds the intercoolers and turbos we saw earlier, some of it blows cold air onto the engine and some of it flows straight through and out of here for lower drag. Although of course, heat might also exit here.

There's a better and more visual explanation in an official Ferrari video here:


So there we have it! I hope you learned something and that I didn't unhelpfully misidentify anything. There will be more activity on this blog tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Oh yeah, I totally sat in a 488 Spider. The carbon fibre paddles felt a bit plastic-y, so I'd stick with metal ones...



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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Ariel's Thinking About a Vacuum Car

Ariel Atom AERO-P research car
It's not just large car companies that like to push the boundaries of automotive technology, you know. Small British sports car companies are doing things their own way and many of those things are of distinct intrigue. TVR is punching its way out of its coffin with an all-new car using Gordon Murray's ingenious new construction and manufacturing techniques dubbed "iStream." BAC, makers of the Mono one-seater, have successfully made body panels out of graphene, the upcoming wonder material that's just one atom thick (although they used more than one layer of course!). Oh, and speaking of atoms, let's look at Ariel's latest news...

Despite still looking oh-so cool after over a decade, the Ariel Atom isn't particularly aerodynamic. The nose cone and little plastic headlights may have a tiny frontal area but airflow needs to be smooth and an exposed tubular frame just isn't. Faster versions can be had with "F1-style" wings, but as Ariel themselves point out, "conventional aerofoils and aerodynamic devices give downforce at speed – the higher the speed, the higher the downforce.  However the negative aspect of this is that downforce is not required for most of the time, particularly for road based cars during normal driving, and is not available at slow speed or when stationary."

"The ensuing drag of fixed aerofoils also not only reduces a vehicle’s top speed but has a marked negative effect on its fuel consumption as well as emissions.  On the Atom drag can be increased by as much as 15% by adding conventional aerofoils with the resultant effect on fuel use and tailpipe emissions."

So you see, it's dirty downforce, only working at speed and holding back certain aspects of the car's potential, plus wings make you look like a bit of a chav sometimes.


The small Somerset-based company is thus on a quest for a better solution. The one it's testing now allegedly guarantees downforce from a standstill without any real drag penalty. I'll give you a hint: look at the picture above and atop this article. See how it looks like the car has a surfboard glued to the bottom? It's closely related to that, which isn't on normal Atoms.

The large flat floor conceals two fans which suck air up from underneath the car through two small tunnels, thus generating a low pressure area under the car. The reason this matters is that with low pressure below and high or unaffected pressure above the car, the air going underneath is accelerated as it tries to equalise the pressures. This causes the car to be sucked downwards. The effect can be guaranteed by sealing the floor and using a wing-shaped underside to generate "ground effect," but cars using fans to generate or greatly increase the effect are generally known as "sucker cars" or "fan cars." Ariel have nicknamed their prototype "The Vacuum Cleaner" for obvious reasons!


Of course, a vacuum car is nothing motorsport hasn't seen before, both in sports cars and single seaters. Naturally the F1 solution was more complicated, but the earlier American machine had a simpler setup; the 1970 Chaparral 2J featured a two-cylinder snowmobile engine running completely independently of the big-block 680hp Chevrolet V8 powering the wheels, instead running at a constant speed to spin the fans and generate a consistent aero platform. It looks a bit like someone plonked the air conditioning unit from a skyscraper on the back of a fairly basic Can-Am car - although its aluminium construction was itself actually quite advanced at the time - but combined with Lexan skirts connected to the suspension (thus creating a seal around the underbody) the 2J was as much as two seconds per lap faster than the opposition... when it wasn't suffering mechanical problems. Oh, and in case you were wondering it does have a pair of rear wheels under there! I imagine pit stops took a while...


In the 1978 Brabham BT46B Formula 1 car designed by Gordon Murray, the enormous central fan system was connected directly to the 520-horsepower, 3.0 flat-12 Alfa Romeo engine via "a series of clutches" and drew air from both underneath and partially through the top-mounted radiators, the latter so that Brabham could pass it off as a legal and innocuous engine cooling device (Spoiler Alert: this did not work). One giveaway was that this setup caused the car to squat down when the driver revved the engine, so strong was the suction! It required a different driving style involving hitting the throttle as early and as hard as possible, thus generating the downforce to carry major speed through a corner. It worked so well that the car was banned after a single dominant race at the Swedish Grand Prix, at which point Brabham had to revert to the previous, fan-less spec. Niki Lauda later said of the experience that it would become very tiring for the drivers to be subjected to cornering forces of that magnitude, which has a byproduct of making the steering heavier as well as throwing the driver around more.


Inspired by these two cars, Ariel's philosophy is somewhere between them. The fans run separately from the engine, like the 2J, but they don't run all the time and you can switch them on and off to make the car squat down only when it needs to, a bit like the 46B. There are two 100mm electric fans, one at each end, powered by a dedicated battery pack. In the photos of the prototype there is no clear exit point for the air - certainly no enormous turbine-looking thing like the '70s cars - but on this CFD simulation image of theirs, there appears to be an additional banana-shaped pipe between the rear wheel and the main body, just ahead of the suspension wishbones. Maybe it's that? They don't seem to say in their press release [EDIT: There's a Y-shaped one-into-two pipe between the seats/under the engine air intake - it's that]. In any case, the reason they've made the fan system switchable instead of running permanently is because when you're cruising on the motorway, you don't need the tyres to be forced so hard into the road. Turning the fans off would mean less force on the tyres, therefore less friction and rolling resistance and thus slightly better fuel economy than if the fans were on. Ariel say that this version 1.0 vacuum car is already making three times more downforce than a normal Atom with wings on while adding no drag, the benefit of which is much more grip and stability when stopping and steering, not to mention better traction under acceleration, without losing any top speed or significantly affecting economy.

But you may be wondering, if we came up with this stuff in the 1970s, why has it not been on road cars before? Not even Adrian Newey's crazy new Aston Martin does it. Well, there is some evidence to suggest the McLaren F1 road car had front and rear(?) fan systems with a switchable "high downforce mode" to help cancel out all the lift naturally generated by any car body shape, while also blowing cool air strategically onto the hot bits like the engine, ECU, brakes etc. However, McLaren themselves are very quiet about it, only saying in the original 1992 press release that "two powerful electric fans remove boundary layer air from the rolled S-wave of ‘reflex’ diffuser sections, helping to control movement of the Centre of Pressure" and never explaining further. It sounds like it's more for balancing the car's handling than for outright grip.

McLaren F1 road car
Red Bull X2010 Gran Turismo concept on its side, revealing where the air gets sucked in
At any rate, even if we put aside the added complexity of a fan car, there are a few practical issues with the concept. Some F1 teams claimed that Brabham's car was picking up dirt and stones from underneath it and chucking them out the back of the car along with the air, which wouldn't be ideal in any situation with multiple cars close together (or a bike following). While some speculate that this was merely an attempt to get the car banned on safety grounds, it would nevertheless be interesting to know what McLaren's solution to this problem was, if indeed it's a real problem. Would the suction effect be weakened if the intakes had grilles on them to filter out grit and leaves?

Secondly, the reason the Ariel Atom AERO-P research car has a big rubber platform on the underside is the same reason the Chaparral 2J had sliding skirts connected to the suspension; for the effect to be fully realised, you need to 'seal' the floor onto the road surface. This is fine on most race tracks, but if the car hits a big kerb or rises up as it drives over a big crest in the road, the seal is lost and so is the downforce. Suddenly you'd have significantly less grip to play with than you did a second ago - I read that the 2J could make a tonne (1000kg) of downforce just with the fans - which could easily lead a rather significant accident. Again, if McLaren or the F1's designer Gordon Murray opened up about their system we could find out what they did about this (maybe it was as simple as giving the driver a toggle switch like Ariel has done and then telling them to only use it on a track).

Ariel will find out all this and much more - including how to retract the rubber skirts when they aren't needed - as their research continues. The AERO-P will also be used to study other, passive aerodynamic concepts and to study "the particular requirements of new technology powertrains, not yet released and still under development."

If they keep us informed, it will be fascinating to follow the development of this notorious, immensely effective, yet scarcely utilised aero effect and find out whether it really is feasible for road cars on a more everyday basis... or whether drivers could handle an Atom track car making over a tonne of downforce!


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KEN BLOCK DID MORE SKIDS YO


YO YO YO SBV8 UP IN HERE BRO IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU SAW A CAR DOING THE SKIDS RIGHT?

WELL DON'T SWEAT IT BROSEPH 'COZ KEN BLOCK'S ONLY GONE AND WENT THERE ONE MORE TIME!!

HE'S STILL SKIDDIN' LIKE HE AIN'T KIDDIN'

DOIN' SKIDS BY A TRAIN

DOIN' SKIDS NEAR SOME WATER

DOIN' SKIDS NEAR A DANGLING SVT RAPTOR LIKE "HELI YEAH!" U GET ME BRO

DOIN' SKIDS UNDER A BRIDGE AND SHIT YO

DOIN' SKIDS IN HIS FOCUS WORLD RALLYCROSS CAR MOFO

IT'S GOT FORZA HORIZON 3 STICKERS BRO

NOT A DC SHOE IN SIGHT

GIVIN' NOOBS A FRIGHT

HE BE DRIFTIN' SKIDS ALL NIGHT

SHOWIN' DRIFTIN' KIDS WHAT'S TIGHT

UNDER A BRIDGE OR OVER

THIS SKID-VID SERIES IS NEVER OVER

BETTER WATCH IT ON YO' OWN

'CASE YO' MIND GETS BLOWN

DON'T WANNA COVER YO BROS IN BRAINS

AFTER SEEING KEN BLOCK SKID PAST TRAINS

MORE DONUTS THAN A POLICEMAN STEREOTYPE

I'M RUNNING OUT OF BRO-TACULAR THINGS TO TYPE

JUST WATCH THE SKIDS

AND MAYBE OTHER VIDS

OF KEN IMPRESSING THE MONSTER KIDS.

YO.

BRO.

STOP...

GO.


Sunday, 31 July 2016

Maybe Next Month!


A month ago I apologised to anyone who reads or follows this blog (anyone? Bueller?) for being very thin on content. Maybe I'll get my act together in July, I said! Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a lie. I apologise again.

Maybe I'll pull myself together in August. In the mean time, use the sidebar to find something interesting from the archives!

As you were.

[image unrelated but beautiful]

Learn 11 of the 10 Must-Know Facts about the Mazda MX-5


The Mazda MX-5 (known in North America as the Mazda Miataaa) has been observed by humans for over 25 years now and recently reached total lifetime sales figures of over a million following the launch of the 'ND' a couple of years ago. It's so good that FIAT-Chrysler decided that if they were going to build a new Alfa Romeo Lancia FIAT roadster and sportify the brand, it would have to be a collaboration with Mazda (known in the USA as Mahzda). I could sit here and tell you all about it, but that would be a waste of time, because this video contains all the truth there has ever been on YouTube about this infallible automocar. Enjoy!


Drifter Puts Ferrari V8 in a Toyota 86


Swapping a V8 into a car that didn't originally have one is a favourite pastime of drifters with money. Unfortunately, this usually means taking an iconic coupé from Japan, butchering the bodywork and then putting a smallblock Chevy V8 in it. Now, I've nothing against that engine - its name inspired this blog's title after all - but when it comes to engine swap projects, an LS1 (or the like) is basically the Toyota Camry of engine swaps; yes, there are lots of practical reasons why it's an effective tool for the job... but that's kind of it. It's not interesting, unique or particularly special relative to the wider automotive world. I also despair when someone inserts an SBV8 in place of an engine with its own iconic status, such as a Porsche flat-six or Mazda rotary engine, partly because it's usually just done to piss people off and partly because cars like the 911 and RX-7 have characters defined by their engines. Yes they have a great chassis too, but the real USP is the engine and yet someone in a shed has turfed it out, changed its soul... bastardised it. No thank you. You're only doing that because you can't be bothered to learn how to maintain a 13B or Porsche boxer.

No, a proper engine swap should be something mad. In the video above you will find something mad. Outside of the real heavyweights like Skyline and Supra, Japanese coupés usually make do with an inline-four engine (sometimes great ones like a Honda VTEC or Nissan SR20). The one issue there is that a four-cylinder engine isn't very exotic, so even if the compact, lightweight chassis of something like the Toyota GT86 is as well balanced and finessed as a Porsche, it just doesn't feel like it's in that league.

Now, however, Formula-D mainstay Ryan Tuerck has decided to give the 86 an exotic soul... by inserting the 4.5-litre V8 from a Ferrari 458!

I'd just like to mention that, because I once fantasised about putting a Ferrari V8 in a Nissan S15, he's basically stolen this concept from my imagination. I'll be expecting royalties, Mr. Tuerck...

As you might imagine, fitting a 562bhp V8 from a mid-engined supercar into the front of a car only designed for a flat-four (a layout even shorter than an inline) is not a simple task, so the video above explains some of the work and considerations that have gone into making this incredible show car so far. It should be a hell of a thing when it's finished!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Aston Martin AM-RB 001 will Redefine Hypercars Forever

Aston Martin AM-RB 001 Concept posing with the Red Bull TAG[Renault] RB12
For many fans of supercars who are over 15 years old, precious few machines, perhaps even no machine has yet surpassed the mighty McLaren F1 of the 1990s. Designed by Gordon Murray, then the most successful and famous designer of Formula 1 racing cars, the F1 road car set a world top speed record of 231mph almost by accident in its quest to be the ultimate driver's car. Its creator obsessed over losing weight, achieving ultimate efficiency and effectiveness of engineering and an incomparable driving experience, all with a borderline psychotic perfectionism of which even Ron Dennis was probably in awe. The result stood tall as the king of hypercars well after it ceased production, managing to miraculously win Le Mans with very little modification from road spec, as well as top its own top speed record with its BMW 6.1L V12 de-limited, to hit 240mph in 1998. It wouldn't be until 2004 that Koenigsegg beat it with the CCR, followed by the rather more famous Bugatti Veyron a year later... yet neither of those cars have a seat smack bang in the middle of the chassis (made of carbon fibre as a world first), nor a naturally aspirated engine that ignites the soul and reacts almost as quickly as electricity.

Fast-forward to 2016, however, and while McLaren have once again made a boundary-pushing hypercar, it is now a different British sports car company which is currently stopping the world dead in its tracks with a money-no-object, physics-crushing performance car to end all performance cars.



This is the stunning Aston Martin AM-RB 001. Designed by Adrian Newey OBE, now the most successful and famous designer of Formula 1 racing cars, this upcoming road car is claiming the impossible in its quest to be the ultimate driver's car. Its creator obsessed over losing weight, achieving ultimate aerodynamic efficiency and effectiveness of engineering - there is not a single piece of steel in the car's structure - and an incomparable driving experience, all with a borderline psychotic perfectionism of which even Ron Dennis is probably in awe.

So far we have a full-size display model to gawp at and a wordy but largely un-revealing press release to work with. This car is a collaboration between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing, fully justifying the cynical use of AM logos on the Renault-powered RB12 Formula 1 cars. While it actually takes a decent-sized team to devise a car like this, we hear that it encapsulates everything Adrian Newey has learned in his 30+ years as a racing car designer as well as fulfilling a dream he's held since he was 6 years old: to design a road car.
If you don't follow Formula 1 closely enough to know about Newey, he masterminded all four of Red Bull's world constructor's championship titles from 2010-13 thanks to his enormous brain and unmatched affinity with the black art of aerodynamics. Oh, and that was far from his first run of success in the top racing series - from 1993-98, he was responsible for every single constructor's title-winning car except for '95, having overseen much of Williams-Renault's utter dominance before moving to McLaren-Mercedes in 1998 and fending off a resurgent Ferrari with the help of Mika Hakkinen's epic driving. So that's 10 world titles in total. TEN. Now he's easing back on his F1 work and has this chance to move street car aero on by a giant leap or two instead.

The thing is, when viewed from a higher angle the Aston Martin-Red Bull 001 doesn't really look like much. I was initially disappointed by the top image because after seeing the X1 Gran Turismo Concept racers it just looked a bit... conventional. Chunky, even.

But then I saw this video by EVO magazine. The following images are screenshots from the video, which is required viewing just to gawp at...




LOOK. AT. THAT!

Look at all the fresh air underneath the front bodywork! All the negative space between the wheels and the cockpit! Suddenly you realise that far from being chunky, that bodywork is as sinuous as a bat's wing. In fact, it's almost as if they were trying to make the whole car into a wing and then squeezed a cockpit into the middle of it and some wheel pods in the corners. It's like a cross between the X2014 and a BAC Mono. Or an automotive catamaran. Or a minimalist rule-breaking LMP1 car.

This display model's two-tone colour scheme neatly bisects the inputs from Red Bull Racing's aero department and Aston Martin's design department. The carbon-coloured dark grey elements around the bottom are by Newey and co, while the greenish-silver top body is styled by Aston Martin (but no doubt refined in a wind tunnel anyway). Aston's work is like a skin stretched tight over the aerodynamic hard points, while Red Bull's input includes a two-element front wing (middle picture above) that looks straight off an F1 car, an elegant little active rear wing and many air channels and/or heat vents.


Despite seeming not to have any room for anything bar some skinny little suspension arms, this car is meant to have room enough for two everyday adults, sitting with their heels higher than their hips as one would sit if they were in an F1 or LMP1 car. Don't count on any luggage space though, this may be an Aston but it won't be a cushy GT car. Instead an all-new naturally aspirated V12 engine of undisclosed displacement squeezes in behind the occupants, along with some kind of electronic KERS boost to allegedly provide as much as 1000 horsepower... in a car allegedly weighing as little as 1000 kilogrammes. That is of course 1000bhp/tonne, roughly twice the power/weight ratio of a Veyron and considerably more extreme than any of Porsche/Ferrari/McLaren's hyper-hybrids of a couple of years ago. In fact, this car makes all four of those machines and many more besides look chunky and old-fashioned (especially the Bugatti). Instead, its performance aims are pointing at an altogether more significant crowd...

Just the one exhaust pipe, pointing at an angle undoubtedly meant to make the airflow out of it benefit the car's handling
Because there is so much fresh air underneath this low-slung car, there is the potential to manipulate it into generating absolutely huge levels of downforce. In fact, there's official talk of the car making "LMP1 levels of downforce." No figures are given at this stage but in theory that would be comfortably over a tonne of the stuff at something like 200km/h (124mph) or above. For reference, the McLaren P1 in "Race Mode" generates ~600kg at around 160mph, so this could have twice as much aero effect as that - oh, and LMP1 cars make more downforce than Formula 1 cars anyway, so there's that for context. What's more, Aston Martin state that it can pull up to 4.5g of lateral force in a fast corner (whether that's possible on road tyres is debatable but the model here is wearing slicks, so I'm assuming you get multiple sets of tyres for different driving) while delivering lap times to rival Red Bull's racing cars...

Now, we've heard the phrase "F1 car for the road" often enough in the past that it's become a cliché difficult to take seriously. At the same time, however, if ever there was a car to actually manage it then this seems as worthy a candidate as we've ever seen before. Thing is, though, this is a road car. A decade ago we had the Caparo T1 which basically looked, sounded and sort of drove like a GP2 car with headlights and a canopy over it... but despite being road legal it was an absolutely hopeless road car. Given Aston Martin's long-held reputation for elegant long-distance cruisers, a rock hard race track refugee that's un-drivable on a trip to Tesco wouldn't make any sense no matter how fast or spectacular it is.


As such, the suspension will apparently be as game-changing as the aerodynamics - much like the McLaren F1 road car this aims to blow your mind yet soothe your spine. We hear from the company that the system(s) will feature "innovative technology and employ principles honed by Newey over his thirty year career. Likewise, the transmission is a clean-sheet design conceived by Newey and developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies." Newey himself adds "I’ve always been adamant that the AM-RB 001 should be a true road car that’s also capable of extreme performance on track, and this means it really has to be a car of two characters. That’s the secret we’re trying to put into this car - the technology that allows it to be docile and comfortable, but with immense outright capabilities." Will it be clever active suspension that reads the road ahead? Will it simply be a packaging marvel that squeezes enough travel into a tiny space entirely within the bodywork for unobstructed air flow? Or both? Or something else entirely? Time will tell.


How much time? Well, the first deliveries are targeted for 2018, so we've got a while yet to get our collective heads around this incredible machine and absorb what will likely be a drip feed of technical information over the next year or two. This model has already been shown to some potential customers in Monaco, while Red Bull F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has expressed keen interest in being a test driver during prototype development. Once it's all finalised, Aston Martin will at their facility in Gaydon build at least 99 road-registered cars (with a cap at 150 cars including prototypes), then 24 track-only versions that really would scare an LMP1 car...

Fancy one? Tough. It's going to cost at least £2,000,000 which used to be an awful lot of money until two Thursdays ago. Instead you, like I, will have to just sit there and dream about it, quietly wishing it had a slightly snappier name and wondering what on earth its all-new V12 will sound like.

Hypercars may never be the same again.


Written exclusively for SmallBlogV8. Don't steal the words. Images from Aston Martin and evo magazine.