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Saturday, 14 May 2011

F1 versus X1 - What's The Difference?

Sponsor decals leave subtle hints about what game they're in
*Note - To take these pictures, I needed to do a 2-Player race. Unfortunately, the game didn't let me use the Ferrari F10 Formula 1 car, so I have used the Polyphony Formula GranTurismo instead. Its body is based on a 2004 F1 car (possibly a Renault), but it has a 3500cc V12 producing ~900bhp. It is also a Standard model, whereas the Red Bull X2010 is a Premium model, meaning higher detail and surface quality.

To fill the void between the Turkish and Spanish Grands Prix, I've decided to compare F1 with limits to F1 without. Gran Turismo 5 is a wondrous place. You can race the never-raced Jaguar XJ13 against a Ford Mk.IV GT40 and a Ferrari 330 P3, drive a Lamborghini Miura Prototype, go rallying in a Lotus Evora, you can even take a picture of a dog sitting down. It has everything, including the fastest race car possible in 2010: The Red Bull X1 (I know it's been renamed X2010, but I prefer X1, so I'm sticking to it).

But aside from the presence of headlights, what's the difference between this "fastest car in the world, with a very high top speed as well" and a traditional Formula 1 car? The short answer is Quite A Lot. The long answer is, well...


It Has a Fan
This car really sucks. No no, in a good way.
Legendary car designer and mastermind of the world-beating McLaren F1 supercar, Gordon Murray once implemented a fan system on a Brabham BT46B for the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix. Taken from the pioneering Chaparral 2J CanAm car of 1970, the idea is that a fan mounted on the back would suck air up through holes in the floor and force it out the back, generating incredible amounts of downforce at almost any speed (as long as Ground Effect was maintained, which it was). Niki Lauda raced the car to a comfortable victory in that race. Actually, "comfortable" isn't the word, as the car's ability to turn on a dime at very high speed put a large amount of lateral force on the driver, making the car very tiring to drive for a long period of time. In any case, its sheer dominance meant that it and all "fan cars" were immediately banned. However, the X1 Prototype is a car designed without legal limitations, so it has a fan attached, which - along with other aerodynamic elements, of course - helps it to produce over 8 Lateral G's in a fast enough corner, roughly twice what a modern F1 car can do. This means that it can go round corners much, much faster. For example, the tight, 1st-gear hairpin at Suzuka (just after going under the bridge) can be taken in an F1 car at around 40mph. The X1 can take it at around 80mph. The replays of this thing look like they're on fast forward!

You can demonstrate the system to yourself by sitting on grass/dirt and seeing dust being forced out the back.

It Has Covered Wheels
As you've no doubt noticed by now, there is a lot more bodywork on the X1 than on any F1 car. Surely it's faster without it, because F1 cars always have exposed wheels? Actually, no. Formula 1 is merely the fastest open-wheeled race series, and open-wheel cars must have their wheels, er, open. Alas, exposed spinning wheels create horrible amounts of drag, and left to their own devices the very first thing a Formula 1 aerodynamicist would do if the rules allowed is to cover the wheels as much as they can (previously they have made efforts to guide the air around them with winglets, fins and other aero devices, but they're now banned so they can overtake each other). This significantly reduces drag around the wheels by providing a much smoother air flow around them. Covering the wheels completely wouldn't do anything to speed up pit stops though, so how Group C racers and prototypes of the '80s/90s coped, I don't know. The front wheels have removable covers, but the rear ones appear to be sealed in with rivets/screws. Maybe they never wear out? Maybe the designers just wanted to put a GT logo there instead of a centre locking cap for a wheel jack to latch onto or some kind of flap. Who knows? I'm sure it's not terribly important...

Racing drivers don't appear to be into eye contact much... 
The front wheel modules in the above picture do not rotate with the wheel, partly because they are holding the comparatively minimal front wing and possibly an aerodynamically-shaped structural element in place. As may be apparent, they don't just guide air around the wheels, but at the end, they also begin to shape the air flow towards the side pod and air intake (just under S. Vettel's name in the pic), while still having a smooth and straight outer edge.

It Has More Power
A lot more power, in fact. A modern F1 engine is a 2.4 litre, naturally aspirated V8 producing ~750bhp. The X1 has a 3.0 litre, Twin-Turbocharged V6 (turbo power has been banned in F1 since 1989), which produces a stupendous 1504PS, or 1483bhp. That's about twice as much. It also makes 527lb/ft of torque. These figures, along with the immediate downforce provided by the fan (downforce aids traction by pushing the car down) and racing slick tyres means that the 545kg X1 can go from 0-60mph in just 1.4 seconds. Yes, that's one-point-four seconds. The next 60mph takes another 1.4 seconds, and 200mph - which is approaching the limit of an F1 car these days - will casually pass you by just 6.1 seconds after you set off. Does this astonishing acceleration ever stop? Yes. Depending on the downforce setup, the top speed is anywhere from a Veyron-Vanquishing 280mph up to an amazing 300mph (with low downforce). In some situations, such as a long slipstream on an oval circuit, or perhaps with a perfect setup, you can even go beyond 300mph. I got in a long slipstream at Indianapolis once and reached 310mph, at which point I was right on the 16,000rpm red line in 7th gear. Once I moved out to overtake, however, the top speed dropped off a little, which is only natural.

By contrast, an F1 car's top speed is 190-210mph, depending on gear ratios/downforce. 0-60: ~2.5s, 0-100: ~5s

It Has a Low-Drag Body
As I mentioned earlier when explaining the covered wheels, the X1's body is designed to minimise aerodynamic drag. In case you don't know, "drag" is used to describe the friction of the air against the car. As a car pushes against the air, the air pushes back an equal amount (Newton's 3rd Law). While a big rear spoiler creates downforce by the air pushing the wing downwards - and/or creating a low-pressure area underneath the car/body piece - and aiding grip, it also creates drag, which, in a manner of speaking, "drags" the car backwards (although, of course, the car perseveres with engine power). It's for this reason that low downforce (or even no spoiler at all) leads to a higher top speed, as the car can slip through the air more easily. Part of the reason the X1 can potentially hit 300mph is that it has a much lower Drag Coefficient than an open-wheeled F1 car.

Helpfully, the Red Bull X1 also has tail lights, so you can better tell what the car in front's doing in a race
Much like Formula 1 cars prior to the 2009 rules overhaul, the Formula GranTurismo pictured has winglets and heat chimneys (which, oddly, have no opening, making them more like fins than anything), as well as air guides just before the rear wing to move them around the rear wheels. The X1, however, has almost nothing on its top body, just a tiny roll hoop, a few louvres to vent out heat from the engine bay (and over the tyres for similar reasons, and to cool the rear brakes) and exhaust pipes that exit through the top, well before the diffuser and fan system, to keep it out of the way. Behind the rear wheels, downward-pointing fins on the outer edges guide the air off the car as smoothly as possible, while leaving an opening for water and other debris to come off the tyres without getting into anything important. It also has a longer, wider diffuser than the small, largely hidden diffuser under the F-GT's rear wing. The X1's rear wing is simple in structure, as most of the downforce is generated by that central fan, but the adjustability of the rear wing helps fine tune the car for each track (the same goes for the front wing, although that also controls airflow into the front section of the car and into the underside where the fan can get to it).

In the pursuit of minimum drag, the driver is also covered by a glass canopy, again something that chief designer Adrian Newey couldn't do to the Red Bull RB7 that's currently atop the F1 leaderboard. Rather than being added on to an F1 car shape, it is part of the original shape of an original car, so it doesn't look out of place, just part of the car that's see-through. It also lifts up and forward on an electrically operated hinge to allow entry and exit. Y'know, if the driver wasn't a computer-rendered element of the car that just reacts to controller inputs. The mirrors are also inboard, and you can just see the housings, behind the steering wheel (from the driver's perspective), where the black dashboard thing splits off in a 'Y' shape. Well, either they're mirrors or screens, but I can't see any rear-facing cameras...

So that's essentially the difference. The body, the fan and the immense power. Those things add up to make a ridiculously fast car. But what's the true difference in speed? Well, the Ferrari F10 can lap the TopGear track in 59 seconds or so. The Red Bull X1 can do it in 40 seconds. The F10 can lap the Le Mans circuit (with no chicanes) in around 3 minutes, the X1 can do it in 2 minutes. Monza, Suzuka, Grand Valley Speedway, the Nürburgring F1 circuit, Fuji Speedway, unless the track is really long, it can most likely lap it in just over or just under a minute. The 12.95-mile Nordschleife? Less than three and a half minutes, according to YouTube. No videos of it loosing ground effect and taking off mid-corner, mostly due to yet another banned F1 technology - Active Ride Height. It does what it says on the tin, making sure the X1 is always at optimum height for the fan system to work and keeping the car flat and level in corners.

What's the best thing about this car, though? That it's completely and utterly possible. Red Bull Racing have made a full-sized model to show off how brilliant Adrian Newey is at designing stuff, but other than that the X2010 Prototype doesn't exist outside of your PS3. Not because humankind cannot build a 300mph fan car, but because there's no financial interest in building a completely bespoke and potentially-harmful-to-drive one-off that they can't sell to anyone because it isn't road legal. A one-make series is a long shot, too. It's a shame really, but still, now we know what a 2010 Formula 1 race could've been like: shorter.


Through that arch you can see the rear axle and the end of the right front wheel module. Air is channelled through here.
Now you know, you should start playing GT5 so you can unlock it be either reaching B-Spec Level 35 or getting a medal in each of the three parts of the Sebastien Vettel X2010 Challenge... and experience the terror. It is so much faster than any other car in the game, you need to completely readjust your brain and just try to keep up with it. Delicate throttle control is the key to a golden lap time, as well as quick steering. Persevere! Win! Click on another article here after you do!

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