Thursday, 31 January 2013

McLaren MP4-28 Continues Smooth-Nosed Sexiness

2013 McLaren MP4-28
So you've all seen the Lotus E21 with its stepped nose and daring red sidepods. Well, the second 2013 F1 car has been unveiled this morning, and it features only one of the above things. McLaren have continued their avoidance of the "platypus nose" while improving air flow under the car by raising the front end to the same height as everyone else, thanks to the new allowance of a non-structural "vanity panel" to arch over the step. McLaren don't do ugly, you see. The new car will of course be piloted by Jenson Button - now the most experienced driver in the sport after the departure of Michael Schumacher - and Sergio Perez, who's only about to start his third season and has already impressed enough to ascend to a top team for 2013.

Like Lotus, McLaren have gone for a lower "Coandă Effect" exhaust exit. The Coandă Effect is when a jet of air is attracted towards a nearby surface, meaning that clever shaping of the exhaust area and the rear end of the bodywork can bend the airflow out of the exhausts towards the diffuser, recouping some of the effect lost by the banning of 2011's directly exhaust-blown diffusers. This little trick was introduced by McLaren last year, and many teams now use a developed version, including the Surrey organisation. There are also other detail changes to the sidepods (including a lump on the tip of the side air intakes like the 2011 Ferrari) and the wings.

The Vanity Plate is extremely well-integrated, with no noticeable join lines.
Jenson Button assured people that while it looks very much the same, underneath it's very different. One major change to the MP4-28 is the change from pushrod to pullrod front suspension, something Ferrari tried last year. Pullrod suspension - already used by all teams for the rear wheels - is effectively a pushrod system that's upside-down, lowering the Centre of Gravity. It's thought that the MP4-27 of last year didn't go for a high nose because of the improved CoG of a lower one, so perhaps they compensated for the more aerodynamically-efficient high nose with the lower pullrod front suspension, wherein the rods seen in the picture that go downwards from the wheels pull on a hinge when the wheel moves up, which in turn compresses the spring (diagram here, pullrods in yellow). This is why you can't see springs sticking out of the cars, which would make a lot of drag and be dangerous in a collision. We'll have to see if it pays off for them as it's not a common setup (before the Ferrari F2012 it had been 11 years since a car had used it, and it was a lowly Arrows car), and Ferrari got off to a slow start with it last season. Although to be fair, they had other problems with it too.

There's not a great deal else to say at this point, so, er... here are some more pictures.

A quick comparison I threw together. They might not quite be to scale.
Oh look, another energy drink sponsor.
Y'know, I'm not even sure there is an actual Vanity Panel on here. It looks like they've just not put a step in the nose...
I'm pretty sure that's a camera pointing rearwards. Speaking of cameras, there are more photos here.
Considering their love of smooth surfaces, that's a pretty ugly sidepod intake...
There was talk of a special 50th Anniversary livery or logo, but no such things are to be found. A bit of a shame really...
The two drivers in McLaren's 50th year: Checo and... Butto? No I don't think that nickname would work...
How will these two guys get along? How will they do in the championship? Will all McLaren's pit stops go well this year? The Australian Grand Prix weekend is still 42 days away, so until then look out for other F1 reveals over the coming week!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Rich Arabs Get Tired of Waiting For New Hypercars, Build Their Own

W Motors Lykan Hypersport
If there's one place that buys a lot of hypercars, it's the Middle East (or the bits of it that aren't on fire, anyway). Places like Qatar and Dubai soak up the Agera Rs and Veyron Supersport's of the world and simply show off how expensive they are to their peers, not really bothered by what the car itself is actually like beyond how spangly the interior and how loud the engine is. I disagree with this mentality, but that's irrelevant because I don't have £1Squillion to put where my mouth is. Anyway, it seems that this region of the world is fed up of waiting for its next shopping spree, i.e. the releases of the McLaren P1, Ferrari F70, Porsche 918 Spyder and probably another Veyron LE, so they've started their own car company in Beirut, Lebanon, called W Motors. Here is their car, unveiled at the Qatar Motor Show.

It's called the Lykan Hypersport, because "Supersport" is so common and this way it sounds even better more expensive and exclusive. Well, I say "sounds" - this car will cost the richer locals a staggering $3.4million USD, or £2,154,490, and only 7 of them will be made. Does that even count as a production run?

So what do you get for your month's shopping budget? Well, lots of things not made by W Motors, such as a RUF-supplied Twin-Turbo flat-6 making 750bhp and 737lb/ft that's sent from behind the lavish cockpit to the rear wheels, enabling a 0-60 time of 2.8 seconds and a Koenigsegg-bothering top speed of 245mph. Well, that would've bothered Koenigsegg nine years ago when they were going that speed. In fact the whole car isn't made by W Motors, as "production" is expected to be done by Magna-Steyr in Austria, who make cars for the established prestige names. One thing they did do was the design. Company chairman Ralph Debbas studied Automotive Design at Coventry, and his being a former design student explains the huge amount of styling on every surface, and the fact that it conjures up memories of cool concept cars from a few years ago, like the GTbyCITROEN concept that had almost exactly the same overlapping rear wheel arches as this, or the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, which had equally angular intakes and vents on it, as well as satin black "snowflake" wheels. There's even a touch of the Danish start-up hypercar, the Zenvo ST1, about it. But hey, I've said before that we shouldn't just look for other cars in a design, so looking at it in isolation, well, it's certainly striking, isn't it? Like a flashy third-year render brought to life with all the aggressive surfacing and slashes and flicks. As movie adverts would say, "If you like Lamborghinis, you're going to love this!".

But still, 3.4 million dollars for a block of styling and a modified Porsche engine? Well, you do also get diamond-coated LED headlights and real gold stitching for the leather seats, as well as a complimentary Cyrus Klepcys watch that's "worth" over $200,000 or £130,000. I'd rather spend that much on a Porsche 911 GT2 RS than a watch, but whatever. The car has, to be fair, had six years of development time, with the likes of RUF Automobile (famous Porsche tuners), Viotti (either a dead classical composer or a dead Italian coachbuilder...), Studiotorino (Italian design house), Magna Steyr Italia and ID4MOTION being involved in making this potentially worth at least half the money being asked for it. The latter name makes custom digital dials and W Motors says it has made them an "Interactive Dashboard" that's supposedly lightyears ahead of what everyone else has, although they haven't said a single thing about what it actually does.

It's probably on sale now, although with only 7 orders to fill, it will probably be sold out in the next month even at that price, so it doesn't really matter if it is. W Motors are likely to follow this up with a lesser Lykan Supersport to probably sell for "only" $2m and have a detuned engine. They'll probably make more than 7 of them as well, assuming they're still around by then.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Peugeot 208 Type R5: Peppy Le Peu

Unless you're a rally buff, you probably don't know that both sides of the PSA Peugeot-Citroën alliance have a rally programme. The Loeb-powered DS3 dominance in the World Rally Championship stops Citroën's Pug sisters from competing against them directly, but with the 207 they have been competing very successfully in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge - a version of the WRC for upcoming amateur drivers - and national championships that use the "Super 2000" rules it was designed for. With the 207 road car now being replaced by the 208, the rally cars needed updating as well, so here it is. My immediate thought is that all 208s should be sold with empty grilles like this test car has, because it gives it an expression like one of those spunky cartoon sidekicks like Scrappy Doo. Deliberately misspelt for mild punnery, it's Peppy Le Peu!!

Spurring on this happy chappy is a 1.6 turbo engine throwing 280bhp and 295lb/ft at all four wheels via a five-speed sequential gearbox. Lots of clever engineering has been done to reduce costs, not least the FIA-enforced maximum purchase price of €180,000. It's also cheaper to run than the 207 was, and its longer wheelbase combined with its shorter body will make it more stable and more agile, so says Peugeot. It also benefits from the 208's body being 40kg lighter than the 207's. That said there is a minimum weight in the new Group R's R5 category of 1200kg, reflecting that of WRC cars.

Giving you performance figures is pointless, partly because I don't think they've released any yet and also because it depends on the set up and surface. Racing cars come with adjustable gear ratios, of course, so it could be 2.5 seconds or it could be 5 seconds, although realistically I would think it's hovering around 3 to 3.5 seconds. The 208 R5 underwent shakedown testing recently at the hands of upcoming amateur driver and Irishman Craig Breen, who praised it for its brakes and gearbox, adding that the punchy torque delivery was "incredible". If that's enough to make you want to race one, you can get your chequebook in March.

Until then, enjoy this short teaser from Peugeot. Look how happy it is!! Listen to all those squirrelly noises when it's braking and the cheeky BRAAAAP when it's accelerating! Suits the looks perfectly:

If only the driver could see it while driving. That peppy, raring-to-go facial expression might spur them on to victory! You can see the 208 braaaaping and popping and squirrelling through rally stages in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, European Rally Championship and various national series as well. That's the joy of a customer racing car. You aren't limited to one series. You can race where you want (that allows it in the regs)! That's the Peppy Le Peu way!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Leave The Buttons Alone, I Know What They Do

You can scroll down for the rest of the 2013 Lotus E21, but the show car they unveiled today came with this little memento to their meme-tacular driver, Kimi Räikkönen, incorporating every entertaining characteristic about him in joke-button format. Enjoy!

F1 2013 - Lotus Noses Ahead With E21 Launch

Interesting new sponsor on the air intake for Romain's car...
It's that time of year again, folks! New F1 car reveals will be happening over the next week, with the first pre-season test at Jerez taking place next Tuesday on the 5th February. But what will the cars look like? Well they never reveal 100% what they're going to do right away, but to give us an idea of their evolved car - and livery, by the looks of it - Lotus has shown us their E21 (named to celebrate 21 years of the "Enstone Team", previously called Lotus-Renault GP, Renault, Benetton-Renault, Benetton and Toleman). It now features more red, which might be subliminal advertising by the people behind Mars bars...

There's not much we can gain from pouring over official pictures, other than the revised exhaust area, tweaked wings and the continued presence of a stepped nose. This is mildly intriguing because teams are allowed to use a "vanity panel" to cover the step in the nose, should they find it repulsive. However, technical head James Allison pointed out that a purely cosmetic panel "weighs a few grams", and that adding unnecessary weight to a Formula 1 car does not compute. He did promise that "if we find a cosmetic panel that looks nice but, much more importantly and crucially, develops a bit of downforce, then we’ll pop it on quick as you like." Keep looking, lads and lasses!

At the rear end, there is a weird fuzzy thing sitting in the now-commonplace central engine cover hole, perhaps covering up some clever new thingymabob, or just the fact that the show car has no engine. There's also a lot going on between the rear wing endplates and the rear wheels. Most of it's rear suspension and the rear axle, but some of them might be little aero flaps. Possibly, they're rear brake ducts designed to make a weeny bit of extra downforce as well as cool the brakes. With restrictions on aerodynamics tightening up every year, the aerodynamicists will be looking for any breathing space in terms of new winglets, flaps and turning vanes, as evidenced on the front wheel hubs, seen below:

The exposed wheels make a lot of turbulence, so cleaning up air flow around them is always important. Something not on the show car but present in Lotus GP's supporting CG renders is that the (red) air snorkel is wearing earmuffs. The two flanking intakes might be for KERS cooling, or additional cooling for other hot bits, or even the start of their "Double DRS". In fact, it turns out it is for DDRS. While systems that work by exposing holes in the rear wing when the flap is open - thereby channeling air through the car to stall the front wing as well for a speed advantage - are banned, a passive system that works at a certain speed to divert airflow to the rear are still allowed. This probably limits creativity and takes a small percentage off Red Bull's advantage. Lotus tested the system a lot in the latter half of last season but never raced it. While not on the show car, it will be used next week to see if it adds to the overall package or not. Oh, and they're sponsored by Burn, which is Coca-Cola's new energy drink. Because there are no F1 teams sponsored by energy drinks at all...

Wide front wing is wide
Lotus had a good season last year, showing much promise in testing and scoring multiple podium finishes. In the end they came 4th in the World Constructor's Championship, with just the one win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Kimi knew what he was doing (just in case you haven't subsequently heard that phrase a hundred million times already). Their issue, much like Scuderia Ferrari, was qualifying pace. Odd considering both the car and the two drivers were fast over a flying lap. They'll be hoping to rectify that this season while still having the race pace to make the most of any high starting positions they get.

The next F1 car reveal will be the McLaren MP4-28 on Thursday. Until then, here's Kimi spitting his new catchphrase out at a sitcom actor (i.e. someone who knows all about spitting out annoying catchphrases)...

...and some more pictures, via F1Fanatic.

An arty angled shot.
Side view shows the new low-mounted Coandă exhausts.
Rear wing mullet introduced by McLaren, now commonplace on all F1 cars.
Slightly raked ride height introduced by Red Bull, now commonplace on all F1 cars.
Actually, it might be McLaren that the red sidepods remind me of, not Mars bars.

So there it is. Let's see how the others compare. McLaren will probably go for a low nose again.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

F1 2014 – The Second Turbo Era Begins

So, just in case you’ve somehow avoided all Formula 1 news in the last year or so, there will be a major shake-up in the regulations of F1 cars next year, the first major overhaul since the Kinetic Energy Recovery System and the new, cleaner bodywork with wide front wings and narrow rear ones was introduced in 2009. One the one hand, it means the end of the screaming V8 engine, which is sad, but on the other, it introduces turbocharging, something not seen in the sport since 1988, along with a much more powerful and important Energy Recovery System, er, system. Recently, details have emerged about the hotly anticipated Mercedes engine, pictured above. It may look like an engine block with a hat box and the beginnings of a strange horn on top of it, but it’s actually the future of high-end motor sport.

Well, OK, technically speaking extensive hybrid systems have already been around for a year or two in sports car racing, most notably in the Audi R18 e-Tron quattro and the Toyota TS030 Hybrid that raced to the death at last year’s 24 Heures Du Mans, and a small turbo engine is allowed instead of a bigger naturally-aspirated one in LMP classes. Still, F1 has to move with the times if it wants to stay relevant, and it is relevant; carbon fibre construction, ABS, Traction Control, semi-automatic gearboxes and a number of other things all filtered down from the world of F1 to the road cars you see every day (they’re still working on making carbon fibre an everyday car part, and a breakthrough is rumoured to be just around the corner). So the road car technologies of downsizing, turbocharging and sometimes adding a hybrid system have to in turn filter up to motor racing so they can develop. For instance, Direct-Injection is currently unsuitable for very high-revving engines because it can’t deliver fuel fast enough – hence why diesels, where the technology started many moons ago, are all low-revving torque-meisters – but with the new 1.6-litre V6 Turbo engines, F1 must find a way to use DFI on an engine that revs to 15,000rpm, either by combining it with indirect fuel injection or doing some magic. The maximum fuel injection pressure will be limited to 500bar, which is a lot, and they will only be allowed 100kg of fuel (roughly 140L), shedding 60kg from today’s fuel rules, with the outlawing of in-race refuelling still in place. This may lead to a balancing act by both strategists and drivers between speed and economy that hopefully won’t dampen the racing too much.

Since the 1990s, F1 teams have been secretive about their actual power outputs, but it’s generally agreed that today’s 2.4-litre V8s make 700-750 horsepower before you add the KERS boost. The 1.6 Turbo engines supposedly match this figure (in a car that will probably weigh around 20-40kg more…), but 2014’s cars will also feature ERS’s that that go harder for longer, opening up another ‘80s F1 trend of being associated with Viagra. Not really. The point is, the current KERS will be doubled in power output in 2014, meaning a 120kW (161bhp) boost, and will also be able to “harvest” up to 4 mega joules of energy from the rear brakes, a fivefold increase over this year’s system. The main reason for this extra capacity is that the system will be getting its energy from two different sources, combining a developed version of the current rear-brake kinetic-energy recovery system with a similar setup that harvests otherwise-wasted heat energy from the turbocharger when the car’s not accelerating. This has been nicknamed TERS, although in the regulations they are both called ERS, with either Heat or Kinetic on the end to differentiate them. I prefer saying “KERS ‘n’ TERS” though, and I hope Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard both say that live on TV next year. It’s like surf ‘n’ turf, but it’s made of lightning. REAL LIGHTNING.

So if the engines alone manage to make 700+bhp, the ERS boost will make that over 860bhp. But hey, that’s only for 6.7 seconds per lap, right? Nope. If LMP cars can use it most of the time, why can’t F1 cars? The power boost will be available for a massive 33.3 seconds per lap, which on some tracks should mean they can hit that boost button coming out of every single corner. I hope they don’t get RSI in their thumbs…

The thing about small DFI turbo engines with big fancy hybrid systems is that it’s all a lot more complicated than a naturally-aspirated V8 with a little motor-generator on the rear axle, so it’s more likely to fail somewhere along the chain between fuel combustion and tyre combustion. This makes the limit to just 5 engines per season – down from 8 – seem a little strict, but if Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Ferrari can make these engines reliable, they can certainly make their high-budget road car engines reliable too. They’ve all got some experience with smaller turbo engines (Ferrari makes the new Twin-Turbo V6s and V8s for the Maserati Quattroporte), so it could happen, but I would still expect a drop in reliability compared to the tried-and-tested V8s.

Renault's rendering of their engine
Another less black-and-white change will be in the power delivery. Let’s say a current 2.4 engine makes 700bhp. That’s 291.6667bhp-per-litre. The same specific output in a 1.6 engine would give just 466.6667bhp. For a turbo to add the remaining 233.333bhp to a 1.6, it will have to run a very high boost pressure. That will cause notable turbo lag, where the exhaust gases aren’t running through the turbine fast enough for it to do its work until a certain (in this case high) RPM, meaning a power delivery that goes nothing-nothing-nothing-EVERYTHING. This effect won’t be as bad as it was in the ‘80s simply because turbochargers are much better these days, but it will still feel very different to the progressiveness of an NA engine. This could cause drivers to get snap-oversteer as the turbo comes on boost mid-corner-exit, something they will have to learn to deal with at first. Seeing who adjusts the quickest will be interesting for sure.

As for the rest of the car, well, they were going to bring back late ‘80s wings as well, but after pressure from teams they’ve decided to keep the aero rules fairly similar to the current setup, although hopefully the stepped nose will be gone. Plus, of course, anything Adrian Newey comes up with that’s deemed too advantageous in this year’s Red Bull RB9 will be banned in 2014, because that’s just kind of how it goes these days.

So now you know. Or perhaps you already did, in which case well done for keeping yourself informed. This rules overhaul is why Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes-AMG F1, because the German operation are touted to have the best V6T engine and are widely regarded to have the best V8 engine at the moment. We’ll just have to see if it pays off, and how the Renault engine that will no-doubt sit in a Red Bull car compares…

2013 on SBV8: Turbo Lag

McLaren P1 Prototype
First of all, it wasn't my intention to go this long without posting, but having lost the internet connection in my crummy student house, it gets a little difficult to just post something when I feel like it. Second of all, a belated happy new year! I reckon January will be the best month of the year so far. Once things stabilise internet-wise, this site will be back up to speed. Blame Sky. I know I do......

Here's a spy shot of the McLaren P1, the most exciting new car of 2013 in my humble opinion. It already wins the 2013 award for Best Automotive Camouflage, as it features race tracks significant to McLaren in some way, including Silverstone, Spa, Suzuka, Monza, Bahrain, Cataluña, and a couple more. See if you can spot them all!