Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Proof: A 290mph Veyron Über Sport Is Possible

Performance Power Racing Ford GT and a Jet Fighter
Just one post ago, I mentioned that Bugatti might be making a Veyron Super Grand MacDaddy Sport R with 1600 horsepower and 1600kg combining to make a 2-second 0-60 run and a suspected top speed of 288mph. Those performance numbers may seem far-fetched, but if you really don't believe that a car can go that fast, then I would like to point you in the direction of this Ford GT, whose 5.4-litre V8 has been extensively modified - not least by having the supercharger system removed for a twin turbo setup - and now produces a simply staggering 1700 horsepower. That's a hundred more than the Veyron Possibly Bullet Edition might have, and enough to warrant a parachute instead of some poncy hydraulic airbrake. What's more, its creators Performance Power Racing have just set a world speed record by getting their maddeningly powerful GT up to 283.22 miles per hour. I can't possibly imagine what that feels like, or even looks like!

But here's the clincher: It topped 283mph using just one mile of runway.

To put that into perspective, you need at least five miles to max a Veyron. In fact, if this PPR GT can go that fast within a mile, the question must be asked: how fast can it actually go? Did it really reach its terminal velocity in just one mile? Or can it go faster?

Either way, there are of course a few problems with taking a road car engine and making it over three times as powerful as it was designed to be. First of all, it won't last nearly as long before needing a complete rebuild, and is more likely to overheat or otherwise bring the party to an end early, and if that happened when you were edging closer to 300mph, it would feel rather...... unpleasant. What's more, the overall car won't feel as refined and harmonised as something equivalent made by the manufacturer (although it does cost less to do, perhaps because of that). But there is no equivalent of this. There's no production car close to 1700bhp. The nearest one is the still-in-development 1350bhp SSC Tuatara, and that figure's probably just a target until such time as it's finished and ready to go.

But here's the thing: in 2001, when VW decided once and for all to start making the Bugatti Veyron, there were no 1000-horsepower production cars. There were tuners like the JUN R33 GT-R will a millennium of horses, but again, those were extreme one-offs based on road car engines not designed for that level of force. The 2003 Koenigsegg CCR got close-ish with 806bhp, but that was about it. Then the Bugatti came out with an engine that not only made 1000 horsepower (they say the 1001PS/987bhp figure is nominal, and that it's probably a tiny bit more in reality), but was designed and (over)engineered to last for a decade of doing long journeys and a few annual top speed runs. It was a major jump, and it's helped pave the way to even madder cars like this.

But here we are again, in exactly the same situation but with even higher numbers now. Can VW/Bugatti really engineer a 1600-horsepower W16 to last for ten years of sometimes doing 290mph? Honestly, I believe they can. We have Underground Racing Lamborghinis that can withstand 1900 horsepower however briefly, so I believe that the finest German engineers in the world can beef up their 1200-horsepower Veyron SS engine by another 33% somehow and make it last long enough to be a valid road car engine, and then set about making sure the All-Wheel-Drive, the brakes and the chassis can withstand it all as well to make an all-round road car and Grand Tourer that just so happens to be able to blow away 99% of all the world's cars at will.

For the time being though, here's the 1%. More pics of it (at least one other of which involves a jet fighter) can be found here. Also, they say this car is docile enough at low speeds - when you're using about 1% of the engine - to be used on the school run! Now that'd be something...

Monday, 29 October 2012

Bugatti Reportedly Developing a Veyron Super Duper Sport

An 8-litre Quad-Turbo W16 with 1001PS is so passe now, apparently.
Take a legendary old moniker from the pre-war years and turn it into your halo of halo brands. When you already own Lamborghini, Bentley, Audi and Porsche, you need a brand as outrageous a Bugatti to overshadow them all, and while the Veyron isn't as elegant or as front-engined as the pre-war cars that made the name famous, the sheer opulence and level of finish and engineering stands up to Bugs of old. However, it seems that VW Group considers the idea of joining together two 4.0-litre Twin-Turbo V8s into one almighty beast of an engine making 1001PS (987bhp) and then dropping it into a car designed to do more than 400km/h (248mph) as being so 2005. We've already seen them turn the wick up on the four turbochargers and beef up one of the nine radiators/intercoolers to get another 200 horsepower out of it for the Super Sport, and now - just when you thought that, because the limited production run is reaching its end, the Veyron was soon to take a bow - they're reportedly planning to get twice as much again out of that monstrous W16 in order to edge closer to the next great speed milestone: 300mph.

Hello Again, Punto

I came home from Uni this weekend after seeing TopGear Live on Saturday with my dad. The show itself was as awesome as usual, although the ending wasn't quite as climactic as it normally is despite it being a world first (well, it was a world first the first time they did it, which was Thursday lunch time). Typically it's The Stig sliding around fighting monsters with explosions and stuff. They did come up with a new game though, which I shall post a terrible phone video of later (among others and some less terrible pictures).

At any rate, after that, I came home and have spent the weekend here. Despite it being a month since I was last here, in some ways it only feels like a few days now that I'm back, however it did feel like it had been a month since I'd driven a car - with my only wheel time in that gap being in a rain-soaked go-kart - so I decided to get reunited with the Punto. It was like meeting up with an old friend for an hour. There was some catching up to do, as it were; the pedals and steering felt weird and I discovered a mystery scratch on the left side of the front bumper, which neither my mother nor my brother are taking responsibility for. The steering initially felt light and a little bit rubbery - but then it's always felt over-assisted - and the pedals, well, I just needed to remember where the clutch bites and to calibrate my braking foot for something much more sensitive and potent than a go-kart brake, which didn't take long.

In fact, it didn't take more than about 10 or 15 minutes for me to settle back in, and then it was just great to be driving again. I picked a couple of choice roads that I hadn't used on my last blast before moving out, which included corners lined with trees or banks, that changed radius, swept over a small hill or were otherwise blind and narrow, because there's a lot of that around here if you know where to look (and I made sure to start looking as soon as I could drive!). Oddly, I had to get used to travelling that fast on a road again as I've only ever walked or occasionally taken the train since moving. Even 40mph felt a little quick the first time. But overall, the feelings involved in driving were satisfying to feel again, and it became natural, like we were communicating in harmony with eachother doing the good old thing once again. I made sure to wring its neck just a little bit once I'd got back in the swing of it! Sadly, I now have to wait again until my birthday in a month or so, and then Christmas before I can drive again, unless I go mad and hire a car after turning 21 next month.

I might have to do more go-karting in the mean time...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Porsche 918 Spyder Production Car Leaked

Production 918 Spyder
When you can't count on an embargo breaking, you can always hope for a brochure leaking. The Porsche 918 Spyder was always going to go into production, but now we can see what the difference between concept and reality really is. Thankfully, the changes are merely in the details, and this car is in no way watered-down.

For the 918 of you lucky rich fuckers that are buying one, the base price is €768,026, which translates directly to £620,992 or $995,976 (although local taxes and such will not make those the actual prices in the UK or US). That's without the optional Weissach Package - including more carbon fibre, titanium and ceramic parts to shave a somewhat measly 35kg off the 1700kg kerbweight, as well as magnesium wheels and the removal of leather, the air conditioning, the stereo, interior door handles, centre console, armrests, glove compartment and all the carpeting, and finally removal of the wiring for the quick-charging system - which, weirdly, will set you back another €71,400 (~£57,745/~92,589). Porsche: The Masters of Charging More For Less.

UPDATE (26/10): US pricing can be found here.

But what do you get for your big pile of money? Well, the production car (pictured above) is pretty much the same as the concept car, with the only exterior changes being mirrors instead of cameras - will they ever actually make it to a production car? - and the side-exit exhausts being moved to a slightly unusual position, behind the tiny rear windows. This saves weight with short pipes, and ensures that this hybrid is no silent disappointment. And it is still a hybrid; along with a 4.6-litre Direct-Injection V8 making 580bhp and 370lb/ft, there are two electric motors, one on each axle. Their 116 and 129bhp (front and rear respectively) combine for a maximum total output of 795bhp and a meatier 575lb/ft of torque, the latter of which is available between 1000-4000rpm. The motors are fed by a 6.8kWh Li-Ion battery pack and a 3.6kW onboard charging system (although an external 'universal' charger will do the bulk of the battery charging).

I couldn't possibly tell you how that all works together, but there's going to be Electric Torque-Vectoring tying them all together for massive grip and All-Wheel-Drive below 146mph (235km/h) - I guess the electric motors run out of puff shortly after that speed - as well as Stop/Start and a "Sailing" fuel economy mode that presumably lets the motors do the work when the engine isn't really trying. When the engine is trying, it's sending power to the rear wheels via Porsche's 7-speed PDK transmission, and works together with the rear motor. Somehow. All this and we haven't even got to the stunning looks, ultra-modern interior or the fact that this hybrid system will be capable of fuel economy figures which put a Toyota Prius to shame. Although, they haven't actually mentioned the official MPG figures yet...

But why, you might ask, does the world need a hypercar to care about fuel economy? Is the significant added weight of the batteries and massively complex drivetrain something this car needs (it weighs roughly 320kg more than the V10-powered Carrera GT of 2004)? Well, you could look at it as a supercar bogged down with responsibility, or you could think of it as having your cake and eating it. Assuming you can spend a million dollars on a car and don't have many bags or passengers, you needn't buy a silly little economy car, because this one - this 800-horsepower, Nürburgring-shredding beast - is so frugal that you could use it every day and not spend more on running it than you would on something half as powerful. How can I say that without official economy figures? Because the prototype I've mentioned on here before was managing around 3 litres per 100km of fuel consumption in the most economical mode, which translates to a staggering 94.2mpg (UK, or 78.4mpg US). Of course, that figure was given with a '~', so it's not 100% accurate, but even being within 90% of that is amazing for a V8 supercar. Now do you see why it costs so much? You're paying for the future. Also, if you pay a little more (OK, €59,500 more), you can make the future look like the past:

I need say nothing more. You must surely want one now! The 918 will go on sale from 18th September, which using the American date system is 9/18. If you're still unsure about a hybrid hypercar, you're not alone. See below:

2/10/12, 14:58, 208,626 views (when posted here)

Personally, I can't wait for this car to be out and about. It's the best sign of the times I've seen yet, and may well remain so until times change again.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

TopGear Mk.II is Ten Years Old Today

For those who haven't seen the '02 series, the fat bloke in blue's not James May, he's used car guy Jason Dawe, who lasted one series.
Precisely a decade ago (well, it was precisely so at 8pm GMT), BBC2 broadcast the first episode of the newly rebooted and completely overhauled Top Gear, after the original show - which started way back in 1977 - had petered out at the end of the century. Rather than effectively being a televised magazine, the show was to feature celebrities going balls-out in a Reasonably Priced Car, around the same purpose-built, Lotus-designed airfield test track that supercars would prowl around on at the hands of tall man Jeremy Clarkson, short man Richard Hammond or mysterious and (usually) tame racing driver, The Stig. Oh, and there was another guy there, too. There would also be road tests of the cars that either matter or are surprising in some way, and some of the magazine-based consumer advice and news would stay in as well.

Fast forward to today, and TopGear is a global phenomenon with around 350 million viewers, multi-millionaire hosts and an annual world tour of their explosive live show (which starts next week in Birmingham) drawing in thousands of fans of the BBC show, or maybe even one of the two spin-offs from the colonies. There are also a lot of supporting books and some silly merchandise like a V8 pencil sharpener. Despite its almost constant political incorrectness and celebration of speed and joy behind the wheel, it has continued to be on television, entertaining and enthralling car fans of all ages, even though it has more or less stopped informing them of anything. So Happy Birthday, you mad, mad fools. The world loves you for being what no other show would dare to be. Long may you continue..........

..OK, about that last part. I'm supposed to finish a piece of writing about the tenth anniversary of my favourite show with "here's to the next ten years" or something, but I don't honestly believe that all ten of the next ten years will contain new episodes of TopGear. I'm sorry, but I don't.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Video - Wanted for Assault and NiCd Battery

16/10/12, 2:28, 302 views (when posted)

OK, I'm aware that I haven't been posting as much of late, and that's because I've been settling in to university life (I now know where the nearest corner shop, pub and chippy are, so I'm all set). To make up for this, and partly as filler before I write other stuff I've been meaning to write, I give you a healthy dose of awesome, with a car chase that follows every car chase convention, but pulls it all off. You'll see why when you press Play.

One other thing I can write about now, which isn't quite big enough for a real post, is that I tried out for the University's Cheerleading Karting team last Thursday. To do so I had to go not to the local indoor one in Swansea (a very different and much hillier place compared to Wokingham) but to the other side of Port Talbot and the Llandow Circuit. This was outdoors. In Wales. Of course it was pouring with rain all day. Apparently there's more comment on sunny days than rainy days in Wales, as they're rarer. Nevertheless, there was racing to be done, so I put on some gardening gloves, a motorcycle helmet and a boiler suit. I'm pretty sure that's what Jenson Button wears when he goes racing too.

Despite slick tyres, cornering wasn't difficult in the cold shower karts we used. The harder part was seeing where you were going when following someone, and the hardest part was the braking, especially when you get confident and start braking late and hard. The final corner was a hairpin, which along with a three-part chicane book-ended a long back straight. You see, a go-kart doesn't have brakes, it has a brake, and it's on the rear axle, so if you slam on the left pedal, the rear wheels will stop turning, which is basically the same as pulling the handbrake up at speed. Much opposite lock was required when it got really wet! Even the experienced guys were caught out at various stages of the final hairpin, although I'm pleased to report that I only spun once, and it was in my first race. What's more, the one time after that when I wasn't stuck with the lethargic #3 kart, I came a close second behind someone who does this all the time and has his own Mercedes GP overalls (because he's rich, not because he's the next Lewis Hamilton). I'm pretty happy with that, despite not making the team, although the next round of the Uni Championship for Non-Team Folk is at the indoor circuit, so I'm planning to do a lot less losing next term...