Thursday, 31 December 2015

Let Supercars Be Your Auld Lang Syne in 2015/16.

It's at the end of the year that people naturally start to look back at the past 12 months and review. Well, 2015 was a harrowing and idiotic year in the real world, so forget all that bollocks and just listen to 15 minutes of supercars making cool noises. I mean, what more could you need?! If Jools Holland's Annual Hootenanny isn't to your aural tastes, here's Marchettino's 8s, 10s and 12s! An exciting and modern new performance wind orchestra ;-)


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Bet You Didn't Reach The Boxing Day Sales Before This Guy

There's a word you might hear in motorsport circles: "Committed." Yes, you have to be slightly mad to be a racing driver, but that's not what it means. No, a committed racing driver is one who gives it 100% bravery, 100% of the time. No matter what. This Polish rally driver has a FIAT 126 and a job to do... and neither banks nor walls nor a lack of power will stop him.


Friday, 25 December 2015



Thursday, 24 December 2015

Sayonara, Frontzilla - Nissan LMP1 Car Officially Axed

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO testing in Kentucky back in May
Nissan Motorsport - better known as NISMO - did a lot of winning this year. They won the Bathurst 12 Hours, the first time a Nissan has taken victory there since Gozdilla itself, the BNR32 Skyline GT-R, dominated in 1992. They flattened their domestic competition in SUPER GT by winning both classes (with a 1-2 in GT500). They won the Blancpain Endurance Series PRO Cup and, would you believe it, managed to win every single race of the Nissan Micra Cup (fancy that!).

Basically, they haven't been short of reasons to pop open a bottle of bubbly in 2015... and yet, in one very big and very public way, they have failed catastrophically...

See, the jewel in NISMO's racing crown this year was their first ever LMP1 car - and their first top-class sportscar entry since 1999 - the wild, crazy, experimental GT-R LM NISMO. You may have seen it in Nissan's Superbowl commercial. They were going to take on the big boys in the biggest, toughest race of them all: the Le Mans 24 Hours. More than that, having already pioneered new engineering concepts in the special experimental class, they were going to shoot for victory with a car that defied every convention possible. Its engine was in the front, it was front-wheel-drive, it had gigantic aerodynamic flow-through tunnels flanking the cockpit and featured an all-mechanical "flybrid" KERS that could deliver devastating power to all four wheels when the driver exited a corner... or at least, in theory. What actually happened is that, despite originally promising a full World Endurance Championship campaign, the car didn't show up until the pre-Le Mans test day, having missed the first two races as well as the "WEC Prologue" official pre-season test in March. Having made such a big deal out of the car and been more welcoming to its supporters than any other team by some considerable margin, racing fans were excited to see what this daringly different machine could do against the likes of Audi, Porsche and domestic rivals Toyota.

What they ultimately saw was an unfinished, underdeveloped design that failed to qualify; the fastest of the three cars lapped a full 20 seconds slower than pole position around the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. In the race, they were thus demoted to starting behind the LMP2 cars, and took a long time to get past them before ultimately meeting trouble of all kinds. The retro-liveried #21 car's suspension failed, it lost a front wheel at the bottom end of the circuit and became undrivable (without destroying the driveline) as a result. The #22 car spent hours in the garage as the team tried desperately to create a working car again. The #23 car was doing best of the lot despite missing the start with a clutch problem... until it agonisingly broke down and caught fire with less than an hour to go. In the end, only the #22 car was able to limp across the line to gratify the mechanics who had worked tirelessly throughout the whole event. Where did it place, you ask? Worse than last - it was so many laps behind the winner that it wasn't officially a classified finisher. Oh dear...

"OK then, I'll humor you" - chequered flag man, probably
Where did it all go wrong? Well, sort of everywhere if we're honest. The first major setback the public became aware of was the car failing its first official crash test so badly they had to spend two months building a new chassis. That was two months they couldn't afford to lose. The real problem, however, was just how complex and unusual the car was. The centre of aerodynamic pressure and front-to-rear balance of both weight distribution and tyre size were all designed to be in sync with each other, which was very clever and would make the front-driven layout work by balancing the car on its front axle. Like the DeltaWing and ZEOD RC that team-and-technical boss Ben Bowlby had designed prior, the car would work properly if every single element was in perfect harmony, and that never really happened for "Frontzilla."

The clever Kinetic Energy Recovery System made by Torotrack wasn't just grossly overweight, it was also chronically unreliable. When it fails, the brakes cook themselves in moments because the heat energy isn't being scavenged anymore, and fuel consumption is thrown completely off-kilter as the 3.0 twin-turbo V6 engine no longer has hybrid assistance. Mind you, even the old-fashioned bits weren't perfect, such as the initially very fragile 5-speed gearbox (through which the KERS delivers its extra power to the front wheels), or the doors that shattered in the first crash test. The car was awkward to drive, too, and drivers took a while to get their heads around how to extract performance from the front-wheel-drive prototype, the likes of which there has never been before now.

The gearbox is in front of the engine, like a Citroën Traction-Avant
In a way, though, you could track the slippery slope of this car's development by focusing on the KERS. Audi already use a flywheel-based system, but Nissan's was unique in being completely un-electric. Heat energy was gathered by a device in the front wheel hubs and stored as rotating energy in a weighted flywheel that spun in a vacuum, which then sent it via reduction gears and the normal transmission to the wheels as horsepower and torque. What's more, because traction control is allowed in LMP1, any power that the tyres couldn't handle was diverted to charging the KERS under acceleration. The original target for combined engine-and-KERS power output was a sensational two thousand horsepower, because hell, why not aim high? In testing, the KERS alone could peak at 1100bhp, which combined with the ~500bhp engine meant the car actually had the potential for over 1600bhp for up to three seconds at a time as the KERS discharged its energy. This was hundreds more than rivals and would've made it one of the most powerful racing cars of all time. In reality, it couldn't do that without a major failure of some kind, so the power went down to 1250bhp combined - roughly on-par with rivals. Similarly, while Nissan intended to use a full-fat 8MJ hybrid system, by the time they were testing at Le Mans it was downsized to 2MJ... and still failing persistently. First the system was going to power the rear wheels via a driveshaft running through the car and epicyclic gearboxes to clear the giant aero tunnels, with excess power being rerouted to the front wheels... then it was decided to only make it power the front wheels alongside the engine, due to more fragile parts.

In the end, the cars qualified and raced with no KERS at all. Aside from the worsened fuel consumption and high brake temperatures, this meant they had less than half the power of the Porsches, Audis and Toyotas at the points on the circuit where they should've had that massive extra boost. It also meant that, without drive to the rear wheels, the car struggled to even put the engine's power down properly on corner exits compared to its rear-wheel-drive competitors. After Le Mans, Nissan tried what they could, but ultimately ditched the system altogether as it was fundamentally unworkable in the time and budget they had.

The project itself has now gone the same way. We were told after Le Mans that they would pull out of the WEC until their car was fast enough, with the possibility that it would race at the rounds in Texas and Japan in September. This possibility did not happen. Instead, they would come back next year with a new hybrid system and renewed optimism! But, er, that hasn't worked out either. The plan was that NISMO themselves would create an F1-style battery-based KERS, similar to what the all-conquering Porsche 919 had used to win Le Mans and the overall championship with its monstrous straight-line speed and 8MJ hybrid system. This would give them the boost and harmony they needed for a full campaign in 2016.

Alas, while the Germans could make it work, NISMO could not. Their system wasn't just underperforming, but it was recently revealed that production is delayed until next March and it wouldn't have gone in the car until the eleventh hour. Oh, and the 2016 chassis has just failed its crash test too. By this point, the founder of the project (and creator of GT Academy) Darren Cox had already left not just the team, but resigned as NISMO's marketing boss after a ten-year stint at the company. An overworked Ben Bowlby was reduced to just being technical director as Nissan brought in high-level employee Michael Carcamo to be team principal and knock them into shape in a bid to turn things around... but as it turns out, it was already too late to save the project. By now it's speculated to be as much as 5-8 months behind schedule, and after an embarrassing show at Le Mans, the bigwigs have had enough and decided that it will not be possible to catch up with Porsche and Audi next year.

And so, despite testing earlier this month, Nissan announced yesterday that they were killing the project completely... and would you believe it, they've bollocksed that up as well; employees at the project's base in Indianapolis were notified by email that they had lost their jobs three days before Christmas, and many of them only found out when Nissan Global released an official statement to the media. A fitting end to a project where it seems every good idea was badly executed.

Just like the Nissan LMP1 project - slipping unstoppably downwards until the end...
So what have we learned?
Nissan wanted to be different. They believed that it wasn't possible to beat the dominant force of Audi by doing the same things as them, because by definition you were already a step behind. The machine it created wasn't just exploiting the extra freedom for front-end aero in the regulations, it was a two-fingered salute to the establishment and an engineering experiment we were all invited to follow in great detail. Their intentions and their attitude were nothing but admiral, be it for their openness, their sense of fun or just their sheer bloody-minded boldness.

In the end, their experiment has failed to deliver on track... and worst of all, the first manufacturer to beat Audi at Le Mans since 2009 used a car that did copy their established philosophies, with only minor technical differences that anyone could've tried. How galling is that?!

But y'know what? There actually are positives to take from this venture. In fact, there is one way in which Nissan did outclass Porsche and Audi.

Obviously it wasn't on the track, although Frontzilla did set the highest trap speed during the pre-Le Mans test days and show impressive stability in the wet. No, NISMO excelled off the track. How do I know? Because despite everyone's expectations being lowered step by step throughout the year, this team gained instant respect for doing what they were doing. Even the people who "knew" it would never compete for victory this year admired it for being different, and only those who are prejudiced against front-wheel-drive ever spoke out against it. When it was announced that they wouldn't be racing in the opening WEC round at Silverstone, they went there anyway and let fans walk right into their garage to poke around and sit in a full-scale model. At Le Mans, they had a slide. No other team in the 92-year history of Le Mans has ever turned up with a slide. On their YouTube channel and this website, you could learn everything you could possibly want to know about how the car works and why, as well as how it was all going. They kept fans engaged on social media and weren't afraid to be open about the problems they were tackling all the way up to and during Le Mans. You could even drive the car yourself in Gran Turismo 6 and it was used in the early phases of GT Academy this year.

And then there's the team. The men and women on the ground who made a Herculean effort to get the cars going, fix them and get them out again, staying awake for far more than 24 hours in the process. They earned the respect of everybody that watched them work, and I've read that endurance and IndyCar teams are now interested in giving many of them them jobs next year in the wake of their blunt dismissal.

A moral victory doesn't come with a trophy or prize money, but despite the chaotic year they've just endured, the people behind this car can be rightly proud of themselves for how they've been. What's more, with marketing boss Darren Cox now out of the picture, there's a chance we may not see clever publicity of this sort from a factory outfit again. It would be easy to beat up on this team... but it would also be unfair.

All of this makes it sad that the higher-ups at Nissan didn't give them a chance to see out their project to the end. By lacking the very attitude their engineers have showed in abundance, they've denied us the chance to see if it could've been turned around with a working hybrid system, refined management and continued perseverance.

Instead, it will remain an unfinished dream, one of motorsport history's great what-ifs.
Sayonara, Frontzilla-san.

Sources: Road&Track,, NISMO on Flickr

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Pagani Zonda "La Nonna" - A Million Kilometres Young

It's widely held that supercars are driven about as often as Swiss tanks. Maybe it's to protect their value, or to avoid hideous repair and/or maintenance bills. Maybe it's simply because the opportunities to enjoy such a machine are few and far between, requiring dry weather and quiet, wide roads with reasonable (or easily ignored) speed limits. While your mere muggle car might do 10,000 miles per year, a lot of supercars won't cover that distance in their lifetime, instead resting in air conditioned garages and occasionally being trotted out for events or a special dinner date or something.

This car has not lead that life. Instead, it's lead a real life of hard graft. This is a Pagani Zonda. Which of the many specific versions of Zonda, you might ask? Well, the short answer is that it's nearly all of them, because this is Prototype 2, a road-legal Zonda that has been used to develop parts and upgrades large and small from the original 'C12' model released in 1999 to the ultimate '760RS' of 2012 (Lewis Hamilton's is one of those). Excluding the track-only Zonda R, all the new and updated versions of the venerable hypercar through the years have been developed using this very machine... and it's been driven a long, long way.

Pagani's engineers affectionately refer to this car as "La Nonna," Italian for "The Grandmother," because it is the oldest working Zonda of all. Total mileage amounts to over 1,100,000km (>683,500 miles), done in who knows what different parts of the world and extreme conditions over a fourteen year work life, before the all-new Huayra finally went into production as a replacement in late 2012. In that time the bodywork got prettier, more aerodynamic and more extreme, while the interior got more opulent and used ever more exotic materials. The AMG "M120" V12 engine grew from 6.0 litres to 7.3 litres and power increased from 394bhp to 760bhp despite the lack of turbos or superchargers. The sound evolved from deep thunder to operatic high tenor, no doubt getting much louder as it went. Every Zonda is something extremely special, so seeing as this effectively is every Zonda, surely this one is the most special of all?

Now retired, she has been taken care of and given a beauty makeover, having been restored to a representative spec to celebrate Horacio Pagani's 60th birthday this year. Finished in the traditional silver with red interior, it borrows its all-carbon bodywork from the Zonda F and Zonda Cinque, with the Italian-flag centre stripe seen on the Zonda Tricolore. There is also a lot of exposed carbon fibre inside and out, a look Zondas have pioneered for many years.

It is unknown whether they put an original-spec engine in it, but I'd be surprised if they did. Chances are it retains the 7.3L, 760-horsepower final-spec engine, which produces 545lb/ft of torque at 4500rpm on its way to a 7500rpm red-line. Some 760s were ordered with a 6-speed manual gearbox - including Lewis Hamilton's '760LH' - but this one uses the 7-speed paddleshift 'box that the first 760RS had fitted. The top speed is probably somewhere around 220mph, up from the 1999 C12's 205mph. One review of the 760RS (which used a much lighter chassis than this old girl) claimed that it was still just as surprisingly friendly to drive normally as lesser Zondas... and that the gear ratios are so long, you can't select 7th gear unless you're doing over 60mph!

Here is a video of La Nonna pre-restoration, being used to amuse a popular supercar YouTuber (on closed roads). Note the yellow ostrich hide!

Get the impression that the test driver knows his way around the car?!

Having become finally finished, this incredible car is currently on display in the old factory showroom (where these photos were taken) while they finish constructing a new facility including a new museum, where she will ultimately reside. Seeing as it's done an average of over 78,500km (>48,800mi) per year for nearly a decade-and-a-half, I think this is one supercar that has probably earned the right to sit in an air conditioned room looking pretty and, perhaps, occasionally being taken to events.

I really admire the fact that Pagani have kept an old prototype around and tidied it up for display. Along with the endearing nickname, it shows how much they care about it. Larger car companies typically crush prototypes once they've exceeded their useful life, unless they think they can find a use for it later. This one is being officially recognised as the Zonda - no, don't call it LaZonda... - the summary of all road-going versions of a car that out-posed and out-drove two generations of Lamborghinis, and together with Koenigsegg helped bring the hypercar into the 21st century, beating the biggest names to the punch and giving us new marques to lust after (and more hard words to pronounce) in the process.

See a pictorial evolution of this car here

I wonder if there's a particular prototype of the Huayra running around the quieter parts of Modena that's now in the beginnings of its own million-kilometer development journey......

Source: via Carscoops

Article written by, and exclusively for, SmallBlogV8. Do not copy/paste onto your own inferior blog

RECOIL III - Jumping Truck Does Jumps, Is Truck

Hey everyone, remember those Recoil videos? Y'know, the ones with Ballistic BlowJob Baldwin doing MAD JUMPS off SICK RAMPS in his off-road racing Trophy Truck in viral fashion that totally didn't lift the format from Ken Block's videos? Well, now there is a third one! It has a sasquatch in it, because sasquatches are always funny and outdoorsy.

The semi-plot of this one is that "Bruce" pinches a little buggy and BJ Baldwin must go after it in his significantly faster and louder yet equally tubular-framed V8 monster with suspension travel to spare. It doesn't take long for him to get distracted by the fact that he's driving something which can do huge jumps off huge things and not disintegrate upon reacquainting with that pesky ground everyone insists on using. Being rear-wheel-drive, it's also pretty handy at drifts and donuts, so why not take a sideways look at the world while hunting for Bigfoot's buggy? I won't spoil the hilarious ending, but suffice to say that Bruce The Sasquatch doesn't give two trucks!! Ha ha! A pun! Awesomesauce, as they say.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Chris Harris Presents: THE Hyper-Hybrid Showdown

Holy shit. It happened. LaFerrari, McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, all in one place, on film, with stopwatches. Wow. If there's a car video on YouTube that's allowed to be over 52 minutes long, this is the one... not least because it also co-stars Tiff Needell and Marino Franchitti alongside Chris Harris. I think the internet sort of wishes this was the new TopGear!

What conclusions were drawn? I won't reveal the times (all set by Mr. Harris), only that despite different qualities, they were all but neck-and-neck. In fact, they were close enough together that you could pretty much just pick the one that takes your fancy... if you can actually decipher which one that is. To dumb them all down, the McLaren seems the most serious and physical, the Porsche the most advanced and grippy, and LaFerrari the most dramatic and exciting.

But at the end of it all, it's just about having three talented mates messing around on Portimao Circuit with about £3,000,000 and about 2800 horsepower. It'll put a smile on your face if you're even remotely interested in cars. I guarantee it.

Video from YouTube. Text from SmallBlogV8.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

FIAT 124 Spider - La Miata d'Italia

2016 FIAT 124 Spider
If you have been anywhere near the internet in the past few months, you'll know there's a new Mazda MX-5 out. What you may have missed is that the new car was acutally meant to be a co-development with Alfa Romeo... no wait, Lanica... no wait, Abarth... no wait, it's not happening at all now... no wait, it's going to be a FIAT. Well, finally, here it is: the FIAT 124 Spider.

Sitting on the MX-5's chassis and using almost all of its interior parts, the 124 is essentially a light re-body of the current "ND" generation Mazda Roadster. The proportions are the same, it's the same size, and so on and so forth.

So what are the differences? Really, there are just two. The most obvious one is of course that body:

It looks... OK? In isolation it's nice, but not spectacular... but if anything the Italian version is a little less curvaceous than the Japanese version, with a comparatively blunt nose and calmer surfacing. Hell, the rear end looks more like previous MX-5 generations than the current MX-5 does! Even the "hip" at the back of the door isn't as nicely executed, if you ask me, and that face is a let-down, almost as reminiscent of the Dodge Dart as it is of the 124 Sport Spider designed and made by Pininfarina half a century ago.

But maybe you love it. That's OK. We need more of these affordable sports cars. Beyond the somewhat uninspiring final design - which doubtless resulted from scores and scores of proposals from almost every design studio the Fiat-Chrysler Alliance has - the thing that concerns me about FIAT is that they are only interested in retro cars now. The Punto seems doomed never to be replaced, while everything else they make is either a hideously inflated 500 facsimile or the Panda, which is itself another revived badge (and is currently just a rounder version of the previous Panda). Do they lack the confidence to come up with a new design language and forge a new path? Are they just aping BMW's successful tactic of pillaging history and playing the nostalgia card, like the Germans do with MINI? I wouldn't mind if they did a retro Lancia Stratos or Alfa Romeo GTA......

At any rate, this is the car we've got, most likely because while a 500 crossover and MPV apparently are fine, a 500 roadster would've just been ridiculous. Inside it's about 95% identical to the new MX-5's interior, which is no bad thing. The trim and badges are the main differences.

The only other major difference to the Mazda lies under the bonnet. Instead of a 1.5 or 2.0 naturally-aspirated engine, you get the 1.4 turbo lump from (guess who!) the 500 Abarth producing 140bhp and 177lb/ft of torque in Europe, but 160bhp and 184lb/ft in America, where a car that isn't fast in a straight line is "for pussies." Both manual and automatic gearboxes are offered, because roadster buyers are either young petrolheads or old retired blokes and nothing in-between. Either such person gets six speeds to play with. There has thus far been no mention of what kind of differential it has, but if it lacks a mechanical LSD then that would be a little disappointing.

The FIAT will probably cost slightly more than the Mazda when it goes on sale next summer - especially if you upgrade from 'Classica' to 'Lusso' spec - and I'd like to believe that a more powerful Abarth version will arrive some time in the future. Either that, or you could take it to a specialist who can upgrade the engine to the full Abarth 695 spec, with 190 horsies or more.

If only it had ended up as an Alfa Romeo after all...

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Yamaha Sports Ride Concept - Another Scoop of iStream

The Tokyo Motor Show has come and gone, but amidst the bonkers kei cars with hilarious names and super-weird concept cars with even more hilarious names, Japan had something a little more down to earth and a little more important to offer... in the shape of a two-seat sports car put together by a motorcycle company with the help of an ex-F1 designer. Why is it more important? Because of how it's made. Meet the Yamaha Sports Ride Concept.

Why is a bike company making a car, you might ask? Well, Yamaha have already been tuning/developing car engines for manufacturers - their CV includes the Lexus LFA and IS F, as well as the Noble M600 - plus they supplied V10 F1 engines in the 1990s (and put one in the crazy OX99-11 supercar concept), so they're not new at this. It would seem that they've been flirting with the idea of making cars for the last few years, because back in 2013 they released the Motiv.e city car concept.

In fact, they announced this year that it will go into production by 2019, so clearly they're serious about it (see the specs in the first of the two images below).

Sports Ride Concept's chassis
Both cars use the "iStream" production methods originally formulated in 2010 by Gordon Murray Design, a firm started by the man behind the McLaren F1, LCC Rocket, Brabham BT46B fan car, McLaren-Honda MP4/4 and many more road and race cars of high acclaim. The construction of an iStream car involves steel tubular subframes welded together, with Formula One-esque composite "sandwich panels" (a paper-based honeycomb structure between two layers of composite skin) bonded to it, giving a very light, very strong and crucially very cheap chassis on which to attach an interior and exterior. Up until now the composite in question has been glass-based, but now GMD have come up with a method of using carbon fibre that is fully automated, much faster and much lower-cost than the traditional method of layering it up by hand.

The result is a mid-engined two-seater that weighs just 750kg, over 100kg lighter than the Alfa Romeo 4C, which uses a conventional carbon tub. With today's safety regulations, that's some feat. Even a Lotus Elise is up past 900kg these days. In fact, the Sports Ride is barely heavier than a current Formula 1 car!

It won't have the power of a current F1 car, though. They said nothing about what engine is nestled behind the seats, so it could be anything from the 1.0 three-cylinder unit from an earlier GMD prototype to one of Yamaha's bike engines. Whatever it is, it's connected to a paddleshift gearbox of some kind. Until they reveal more, this could be a rival for anything from the Honda S660 and Mazda MX-5 to the aforementioned Alfa 4C and Lotus Elise.

The neat thing about the iStream process is that it can be adapted to any style of car and have the same benefits for strength, weight and packaging. The tube frames are modular, so you could the middle section of the city car and attach it to a longer rear section to create a five-door family car if you wanted, or make new frames for an SUV/pickup/supercar/whatever. It wouldn't take much to make room for a big V8 in the Sports Ride; add a longer tail and leave the front two thirds the same. The same basic architecture can be the basis for a manufacturer's entire range of cars!

Even the factory itself - which Yamaha will build somewhere in Europe - is purportedly extremely efficient, taking up to 80% less capital investment, using up to 60% less energy and still allowing for a new car to be finished every 100 seconds, whether or not it's made using carbon fibre panels. GMD claim that iStream cars produce 40% less CO2 from production to destruction than equivalent conventionally-made cars, using more recycled materials in their creation as well.

Apart from the leather, that is. You can't recycle cows... yet
So basically, it's all good. The only not-good thing is that there was no mention of the Sports Ride going into production during the Tokyo show. That doesn't mean no, of course, seeing as it could in theory be built on the very same production line as the Motiv city car, but we'll have to wait and see. If this new production process is everything it's cracked up to be - and with Gordon Murray involved it's more likely than it is unlikely - then this spells very good news for the automotive industry, not least the returning TVR, who are also licensing iStream from GMD for their new V8 sports cars.

I sincerely hope it does live up to the hype, whether we get a flyweight two-seat Yamaha out of the deal or not.

(Read more about iStream here)

I wonder if the Yamaha trumpet is an optional extra?

Article written for SmallBlogV8. If you find it on another website, it has been copied without the author's permission and must be reported for copyright violation.

Mazda RX-Vision Concept is a Statement of Rotary Intent

Hey, remember the Mazda RX-7? Yes? Good! So does Mazda, and with great fondness no less. We heard a couple of years ago that they were planning to bring out a new RX model in 2017 and since then the rumor mill has not stopped turning for a moment. Well now Mazda themselves had stirred things up good and proper at the Tokyo Motor Show with this, the RX-Vision Concept.

Sexy thing, isn't it? Long, low, sleek and clean, it's every bit a worthy successor to the FD-generation RX-7 aesthetically (not to mention much more dramatic than the often-overlooked four-door RX-8 of a decade ago). The twisting side surfacing is very clever and gives the shape a complexity without making it look like windswept origami as so many concept cars do these days. It'll take some refinement and adjusting for reality before the expected release date of 2017, but what a great start!

We know that this car has a new rotary engine, using lessons learned from their previous efforts and with the aim of improving on the traditional weak points of the spinning-Smint engine design - namely low torque, high fuel/oil consumption at anything other than a cruise, and unreliability. They've given it a name of "SkyActiv-R" but haven't given us any specifications at all. We have no idea on power nor whether it's turbocharged, supercharged or a hybrid. Pleasingly, it does appear to have a manual gearbox. These are the people who make the willfully back-to-basics MX-5, remember.

At a guess, I'd say it's either naturally aspirated or a hybrid, given that other SkyActiv Mazdas are generally not turbocharged. Power should be between 250-350bhp and it should be somewhere around the Nissan 370Z, Porsche Cayman, Audi TT-S and cars like that in terms of price and performance. I would also expect them to be chasing a lightweight, much like they did for the new "ND" MX-5 that's around 100kg lighter than the car it replaced. With only two doors it should weigh less than the RX-8, that's for sure!

We'll see where this goes. Hopefully somewhere fun.

Gran Turismo SPORT - The Next Long Wait Officially Begins

When Gran Turismo 6 came out on PS3 in December 2013, some people wondered why it wasn't on the PS4 that was released a couple of weeks before. Well, in the end it was basically a GT5-and-a-half that meant they kept to their traditional two titles per console. Yet, two years later, the new console is still without an edition of PlayStation's most successful franchise of all, despite it apparently being a much easier console to work with. Seeing as Sony has stingily omitted backwards compatibility, anyone whose PS3 has bitten the dust (like mine!) or been sold on is now without Gran Turismo in their lives...

...but look! A new thing!

The video shows new-to-series cars like the 2015 Mazda MX-5 (ND), AMG GT S, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Alfa Romeo 4C, 2015 Audi R8 LMS/GT3 and Lamborghini Veneno. However, that's not the most interesting aspect of it.

Here's a little blurb from the official site:

"That Gran Turismo SPORT will feature highly evolved graphics and sound quality, not to mention a totally revamped physics engine, should come as no surprise. The true beauty of Gran Turismo SPORT goes much deeper, as it will forever change the way driving games are seen. It will redefine the very definition of “gaming” and “motorsports.”"

But what does it all mean? Well, details are scarce at this early stage, but we've been categorically told that GT SPORT is not Gran Turismo 7. However, it's more than just a Prologue title too. Gran Turismo SPORT will be the platform for the new FIA Gran Turismo Championships. Players can take part in the Nations Cup to represent their home country or the Manufacturers Cup if they want to race for a particular brand. The game will also utilise the new PS4 "broadcast" feature, meaning that players can also spectate live from their own console through Sony Entertainment Network if they don't fancy racing. There will also be introductory challenges for new/young/bad players.

But here's the kicker!

"And best of all, the winner of each championship will be coroneted in the same way as a real-life race winner, at a prize-giving ceremony held by the FIA. This will mark a historic moment in video gaming as Gran Turismo will officially be recognized as a motorsport." [emphasis mine]

So, what, this is like GT Academy in reverse?

I'm not someone who considers professional gaming as a true sport, but it looks like this phenomenon has now reached Gran Turismo, with real-life prize money and recognition as a motorsports participant in the same way as proper racing drivers. Personally I'd still prefer GT Academy, but it's still an opportunity to change your life through The Real Driving Simulator, which is something special and a sign of how far racing sims have come in itself.

Beta testing will start in "early 2016" and we can expect more info before then. Until then... YAY NEW GRAN TURISMO HYPE!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Ferrari F12tdf Ought To Be As Insane As Its Name & Looks

2016 Ferrari F12tdf
Is there something wrong with the keyboards at Maranello? First of all we got the "F12berlinetta" and now we have here the hardcore variant of that car, which is called "F12tdf." Given the money they've surely poured into making this as maniacally rapid as possible, maybe they don't have the spare time or budget to repair the shift keys or spacebars in the marketing department......

You see, this "Tour de France" version of the ballistic F12 sports GT car is radically different under the skin, which itself is also even more aggressive after presumably being restyled by aerodynamics as much as any passionate designer with a vent fixation. The aim has been to incorporate knowledge from F1 and the XX programmes to make it accelerate, cleave the air and turn corners in a way that will satisfy everyone from rich novices to rich (and brave) trackday die-hards. Welcome to Chris Harris's wet dream.

Enzo Ferrari used to quip that he built engines and threw in the rest of the car for free, so let's start with the big red and silver thing nestled between the front axle and the windscreen. The 6262cc, 65° V12 engine used in the F12, FF and LaFerrari is found here in a unique state of tune for the TdF, using the same variable-geometry air intake trumpets as their increasingly competitive Formula 1 car and similar mechanical tappets too. This along with a host of other upgrades mean that power is bumped up from 740PS (~730bhp) to 780PS (~770bhp) at 8500rpm... because obviously what the F12 needed was more power. It also has a smidgen more torque, up from 509lb/ft to 520lb/ft. Tuning a naturally-aspirated engine to rev to 8900rpm and generate 125 horsepower-per-litre usually means sacrificing low-end punch, but Ferrari assure us that 80% of the maximum torque output (that's 416lb/ft) is available from just 2500rpm (you get all 520 of it at 6750rpm). This despite the lack of any LaFerrari-style hybrid gubbins.

As well as more power, the dual-clutch transmission changes gear 30-40% faster and has shorter ratios, so acceleration should be kidney-flattening-ly explosive. 0-60mph takes 2.9 seconds, 0-125mph takes 7.9 seconds(!) and the top speed is on the thrilling side of 210mph, but thanks to the carbon-ceramic brakes lifted straight from LaFerrari, the TdF can go from 125mph to a standstill in a distance of just 121m, and from 60-0 in 30m. Factor in the downforce increase of 87% at high speed and it's all under control... probably. If not then there's always the arsenal of electronic stability systems.

But that's not all! Liberal use of carbon fibre and lighter interior materials has lead to a weight saving of 110kg over the F12 Berlinetta, dropping the dry weight to 1415kg (all-up kerbweight is stated as 1520kg). Shedding that much weight from a car is usually a serious undertaking aimed at improving track performance, and to that end they've also widened the front tyres from 255 to 275-section rubber as well as widening the front and rear tracks. As Ferrari themselves point out, this gives the car a "natural tendency towards oversteer," so to stop the poseurs from embarrassing themselves and binning what's likely to be a £300-350k car (prices as yet unannounced), this hardcore F12 comes with a so-called Vitrual Short Wheelbase system, known to normal human beings as rear-wheel steering. Much like on a '90s GT-R or a brand new 911 GT3, the system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at lower speeds to increase agility/response, and turns a little bit in the same direction at high speed to improve stability - but not so much that it crabs diagonally, of course.

So it's got more power, more torque more often, a lot less weight and all-wheel steering... but you're still trying to figure out of it looks good or not, aren't you? I understand. It's taking a little while to grow on me too. There's certainly a lot going on, even compared to the striking original F12, but maybe it would help you to know that all the extra vents, slashes and flicks are there to improve aerodynamics, thus improving high-speed stability and cornering velocity. Or maybe it doesn't help.

The nose has been reprofiled to better guide the air around the rest of the car. The 'air bridge' between the front wheel arches and the A-pillars is wider and more extreme in its shape to "energise" the air flow more and help generate more downforce. The 250 GTO-style triple shark gills over the rear wheel arches are there to extract air from the wheel arch itself and send it towards the rear spoiler, which itself is 60mm longer and 30mm taller. To add that extra length, the roof line has actually been slightly shortened behind the seats, making the rear windscreen (itself now narrower and flanked by air channels) a little more steeply raked. Finally, at the rear end there is a large diffuser with three active flaps to add downforce when you need it and make the car slippery when you don't. As a sidenote, the bodywork which trails from the rear wheel to wrap around the exhausts has shades of LaFerrari's rear corners in its look.

But balls to all that, is it a pretty car or not? Well, it's not entirely elegant, and if it were me then I'd definitely buy it in a dark metallic colour - Tour de France blue, perhaps - rather than bright red or yellow, but it does look exciting. Considering its intended purpose I think it mostly looks very cool, although that thin black strip behind the tail lights is one detail I'd paint over, and I'm still coming to terms with that shark-mouth grille. But of course, if you don't want something quite as extreme, the standard F12 is more than enough already. This is for people who want to reshape their internal organs, embarrass 458 Speciale owners and get millions - MILLIONS - of YouTube views in the process. Besides, you can't see the outside from behind the (alcantara) wheel!

Apparently there's "technical fabric" in here. Ooooh
The Ferrari F12tdf will appear in the real world next month. They are building 799 of them and they'll probably all be sold before you can say "one Lottery ticket please." If you really can't stomach the looks of it then just search "Ferrari 250 Tour de France" on Google and drink in the simple beauty of the '60s road-racers from which this takes inspiration.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

IAA Frankfurt 2015 - More Mad Concept Cars!

2015 Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo - I did not realise it was finished in friggin 'BLUE CARBON FIBRE.
Wacky concept cars are great, really they are. So let's look at some! As important as the real cars for real people are, the fun of motor shows is just as much or more in seeing what undiluted visions car companies have, what their designers and engineers would or could do with freedom from regulations and production costs. We recently went through a couple of years where concept cars just seemed to be thinly veiled production cars with a bit of extra design spice thrown on the grab attention, at the expense of something truly interesting. Thankfully, Vision Gran Turismo has helped car companies see the point in doing something extreme to connect with potential future customers, and with that subsequent outburst of creativity has come the return of true concept cars to the fore. No, 're not heading to production. They're heading to your dreams. Here are five.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

IAA Frankfurt 2015 - Production Cars of Interest

2015/16 Ferrari 488 Spider being unveiled
Wacky concept cars are great, really they are, but the more serious part of an international motor show is the unveiling of cars you (or someone richer than you) can actually buy some time soon. We've seen topless version of the Ferrari 488 and Lamborghini Huracan, crossover versions of basically everything and the new Prius, which is the ugliest car ever designed, to such an extent that it makes a Ssangyong Rodius look bland and a Pontiac Aztek look innovative and stylish. I am not showing you the new Prius in this post. Either you will vomit and blame me or you will think it's actually not the worst after all, in which case I don't want to know your opinion. I hate it, and this is my blog, dammit.

So, instead, here are some real life cars for real life people with money that are actually interesting.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Just What Are Track Limits, Anyway?

Tyres tyres tyres tyres Lewis is blonde now tyres tyres tyres Pirelli Pirelli Pirelli Pirelli tyres. Does F1 ever talk about, y'know, not tyres? Occasionally they'll throw financial discomfort into the mix so we can watch every single person in a position of influence ignore the issue, or a team will complain that they're losing, or someone will mention the bloody noise again (I like it, honestly) or people will talk about how to improve the sport - a popular topic with pub bores, I gather - but ultimately the talk seems to come back to tyres more often than not, whether it's how long they last, how quickly they lose performance or who will supply F1 with rubbery black circles from 2017. This recently happened again in the midst of the Belgian Grand Prix, when Nico Rosberg had a slow-then-sudden puncture which started with a structural chord coming loose up Eau Rouge and ended in a 190mph blowout and spin approaching Blanchimont 3/4 of a lap later. This incident in Free Practice was then followed up by Sebastian Vettel's less dramatic puncture on the penultimate lap of the race itself, after which he had very strong words for F1's sole tyre supplier, Pirelli.

He called their explanation of a small cut on Rosberg's tyre "bullshit" and made clear that if his own puncture had happened just 200m or so earlier when he was charging up the famous Eau Rouge corner, he'd have been "fucked" as the car spat itself off the track and into the tyres at ~180mph. Thing is, tyres have always blown after taking too much punishment. The Ferrari pilot had gone much further than anyone else had all weekend on his last set of tyres, and once a tyre has worn through it's much more likely to fail in the way his did. Maybe it's just one of those things? At the time I did briefly - perhaps cynically - wonder if the proximity of this double-incident to Jules Bianchi's burial had put drivers on edge a little bit...

Either way, his little outburst has lead to a couple of things. First of all, C. Montgomery Bernie has gathered all the drivers together and told them not to air their grievances about Pirelli in public. Secondly, Pirelli's extensive investigation of the tyres on multiple cars after the Belgian GP has shown a number of microscopic cuts, both on tyres that failed and ones that didn't but might have. The track is always cleaned before the race, but only the tarmac and the kerbs. Any area beyond the kerbs is left alone, meaning small amounts of debris can still be found just off circuit. Can you see where this is going yet? The real problem here appears to be drivers abusing track limits, as shown in the image up top of Vettel short-cutting Radillon (the top part of Eau Rouge) just moments before his right-rear tyre burst.

There is now a widespread call for stricter enforcement of track limits, from drivers and pundits alike. Now that we've seen even small debris cause damage to the tyre surface that can lead to a puncture or delamination, we can even say it's on safety grounds, rather than just to satisfy the likes of Tiff Needell.

Up until now, you see, complaints about track limits abuse have largely been from those arguing about drivers not being punished for sloppy driving. "Back in my day, they'd have hit a barrier by doing that!" "Before they added all that tarmac run-off, he'd have been straight into the gravel and out of the race!" "Why can't it just be the 1980s again?!"

The other point of course is that, for example, if a driver runs wide because they carried more speed through the corner, doesn't go onto any grass and just carries on regardless, they've technically left the track and gained an advantage, which is against the rules in pretty much every circuit racing series. Y'know, because it's cheating. The same goes for short-cutting corners on the inside too, obviously.

The track limit is governed using the white lines that border the track. If all four wheels are beyond the white border line, you're off the track. The kerbs might be there to provide margin for error, but they don't count as being part of the actual track. Here's a demonstration from two Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s racing in the Blancpain Endurance Series:

The difference between Pro and Pro-Am as well?
Basically, the white line is the law. In F1 and a few other series, the race stewards occasionally exercise lenience if they're reassured that there isn't a significant advantage to be gained, which seems a little too lenient given that a) F1 drivers are purported to be the best in the world and should be able to keep it between the lines, and b) if they didn't gain an advantage by running over the white line, they wouldn't do it. Give a racing driver an inch of wiggle room and they'll use 1.1 inches of it. There are some particularly tough customers that would rather see drivers punished for just two wheels over, but I wouldn't really want to see that. We want to see the drivers pushing themselves and their machinery right to their limits, but if they were penalised for putting a wheel's width on the kerb then they'd be slightly hesitant to do that. Let me put it this way: if he would've been given a time penalty for going two wheels over, would Max Verstappen have tried it on around the outside of Felipe Nasr at the flat-out 190mph Blanchimont corner? No. Not even Maximum Verstappen is that reckless. You can see that move at 1:35 in this video, by the way, just because it's cool:

So what can be done to enforce track limits? Well, you could hand out a penalty to anyone who repeatedly leaves the track to gain an advantage, but F1 already has a lot of penalties going around for cars who have gone over the maximum allowed four power units (or elements thereof) in a season, so it wouldn't be a good look for them to hand out even more. In qualifying, lap times set by breaching track limits get deleted, which is only right and fair, but doing so in the race is a bit meaningless unless you subtracted the lap(s) from their race distance, which would be much sillier than a 5-second pit/race time penalty.

Some fans are saying that the grass and gravel traps which used to line the corners should be put back again, but that's a tricky one, more so than penalties. On the one hand, there are some corners that have lost their challenge due to tarmac run-off areas letting drivers get away with taking them too fast, like Monza's Parabolica or indeed Blanchimont at Spa. On the other hand, those run-off areas are there to make crashing safer. Take Rosberg's blowout again - when he suddenly lost control at 190mph, he was able to slide onto a large expanse of extra tarmac, letting the surviving three tyres generate enough friction to stop the car hitting the tyre wall. Also, these circuits are used for motorcycle racing as well as cars, and riders falling off don't have to get launched back into the air like a rag doll if they can just slide to a halt on tarmac run-off instead. Paving Parabolica was done for that reason (there was initially hope that they'd only pave the first half of the gravel trap... but they ended up pulling the gravel back all the way around). So it would be difficult to convince circuits to spend the money to make their tracks arguably more dangerous. Instead, let's just hope that the decision makers are more selective about where they pave things over in future, lest every track become the same as the Sochi Autodrome...

On balance, then, perhaps penalties really are best. Punishment for going off the track is more understandable and credible than punishment for an engine needing replacement, at least for fans of the drivers. Maybe a cumulative system (5-second time penalty, then 10, then 20 or a drive-through) would be best, so repeat offenders get taught a lesson. Another suggestion I've seen online is to have sensors in the wheels or somewhere to detect a car off track. Things is, sometimes a driver goes off track because the car kicks sideways, they lock their brakes or they get pushed off, so a sensor system would have to just alert the stewards, rather than trigger an instant penalty.

Track limits are clearly defined, yet often abused. They matter because we want to see drivers exercising their skill and ability to stay right on the limit without going over, and because going off track increases the risk of a puncture - also true in the days of grass and gravel, of course. If you want to see people saving time by driving all over the place, I believe PS4 users can now "broadcast" their gaming shenanigans over the internet. Accuracy at speed is part of the art of track driving. It shouldn't be difficult for F1 drivers.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

IAA Frankfurt 2015 - The Germans Show Us The Future

2015 Porsche Mission E concept car
When it comes to automotive technology, the Germans are often in a class of one. Want to know what gadgetry normal cars will have in the next 5-10 years? Look at the new Mercedes S-Class. Want to know what hybrid cars are truly capable of? Look at the Porsche 918 Spyder. They're dominating top-level motorsport and they top pretty much every class of performance car. The Frankfurt Motor Show is just kicking off as we speak, and already a few crazy concepts from Der Vaterland are grabbing everyone's attention. Let's take a look:

Porsche Mission E concept

The very instant I saw this picture of Porsche's new electric super saloon study, I wanted it to be real but could barely believe it was. This decade has really seen the company let its designers off the leash - with the 918 Spyder, new Cayman and the Panamera Sport Turismo concept from a few years ago being particularly pretty highlights in my eyes - but this new concept car manages to be such a pure design expression while still being just as recognisably, functionally Porsche as anything else they've done. It has immediately generated quite vast quantities of want inside me, despite it being almost completely against everything Porsche originally stood for.

The Mission E is an all-electric four-door saloon which creates unavoidable comparisons with YouTube's favourite EV, the Tesla Model S, for being an immensely powerful four-wheel-drive four seater with its batteries stretching from axle to axle along the floor of the car. It also boasts the ability to update itself overnight for the latest tweaks to the infotainment and driving controls, like the Silicon Valley super sedan. However, while the Model S P85D boasts more power than the Mission E, the Porsche trumps it in an intangible yet highly credible way: racing pedigree. The permanent-magnet synchronous motors with regenerative braking are of the same type used in the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car that took victory at Le Mans this year (Porsche's record-breaking 17th win in its history) with a 1-2 finish. There is one on each axle and they produce a combined 600 horsepower to help propel that sexy shape from a standstill to 100km/h (62mph) in less than 3.5 seconds and past 200km/h (124mph) in under 12 seconds. Allegedly, it can even lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in under 8 minutes, although that could be a simulated time for all we know. Helping it do all that are active torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive, all-wheel steering, 50:50 weight distribution and a very low centre of gravity given by the floor-length battery. While the Tesla weighs over 2100kg, the Porsche should be lighter, with strategic use of carbon fibre (including the 21"/22" front and rear wheels), aluminium and steel.

There is one way in which the Mission E boasts record breaking speed of its own: a world-first 800V charging system - double the current standard and cunningly called Porsche Turbo Charging - means the lithium ion batteries can be charged to 80% capacity in just 15 minutes using lightweight small-gauge copper cables. The car can also be charged by more conventional means, along with wireless induction charging using a charge pad in your garage floor. With the charge at 100% the car can go as far as 508km (315 miles) before it runs out of juice.


I love the single-strip tail lights, à la classic 911. Complete with the traditional pop-up spoiler, the shape is of course very aerodynamic (and only 130cm/51" tall), but the sloping profile and supercar stance all scream Porsche in a strongly sci-fi way which hopefully gives us clear hints of how the next-generation Panamera will look. Wowzers.

Open up one of the suicide doors and you'll find a minimalist but no less advanced interior. Open all the doors and you won't find a B-pillar in the way as you get in. The lack of transmission tunnel helps create a greater feeling of space for the four occupants sat in their lightweight bucket seats. Cameras replace old-fashioned mirrors, as is fashionable, while an equally on-trend touchscreen centre console sits above the simple drive select lever. A skinny OLED 3D display behind the steering wheel displays five "dials" for the Connected Car, Performance, Drive, Energy and Sport Chrono functions, which can be adjusted just by looking at them; the car tracks your eye movements and knows which function you're after when you press the 'wheel-mounted button to navigate through each one's modes (using both eyes and buttons from there).

It also means that the display "follows" you like a creepy cartoon painting's eyes, in that moving your head causes the 3D display to auto-adjust to always be visible to the driver. It can even detect via your face whether you're enjoying yourself, and put together a story of your journey to share on social media, complete with route map and emoticons! How modern. Finally, a second display stretches across the passenger side using 3D-effect holograms. Occupants can use gesture controls to gain access to media, navigation, climate control, contacts and vehicle functions.

And yet, despite all the fast-charging, holographic connected-car wizardry, I just keep coming back to how good it looks. Those curves and that rear end had better make it onto the next Panamera...

Having said that, there's a chance the Mission E itself will become a production car by 2019 (probably with a different name). Don't assume anything, but we may live in hope...

See the full press release here

Mercedes-Benz IAA Concept

Meanwhile, on the other side of Stuttgart, the oldest car maker has also created a rather fine shape... but unlike the Porsche, this one transforms as it goes faster. For those who can't watch the video above, at 50mph the wheels change from concave to flat, the front corners have flaps that move about to redirect air over the front wheels, the carbon fibre front splitter can retract, and most obviously the rear end stretches out by 390mm. This is all done in order to improve efficiency, of course, as the "Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile" is a plug-in hybrid luxury limo from the future, not a race-bred super saloon from the future. With all those motorised flaps and wheel centres and what have you, it isn't going to be light either, while a length of 5040mm in "Design Mode" and a full 5430mm in "Aerodynamic Mode" make it much longer than a CLS or, fully extended, a long-wheelbase S-Class (their biggest production car). Sitting just 100mm off the ground, the end result of all this streamlining is an extremely low minimum coefficient of drag of 0.19Cd, For context, the current Toyota Prius's Cd is 0.25, which was considered very good when it came out in 2010. It's also pretty much the same as the 0.189Cd the tiny Volkswagen XL1 went to great lengths to achieve.

The immense 2975mm wheelbase also means there should be acres of space inside for four people to recline in a spaceship-like environment. The flush side windows can turn opaque to give you a bit more privacy from the outside world if you prefer, while also containing touch pads in the top corners for opening the doors. Unlike the Porsche, the Mercedes wants you to stroke it before it will do special things for you, with a variety of touch-based control interfaces for all the gadgets. There's a touchpad on the centre console, while the steering wheel has "optical finger navigation" buttons, which sound similar in function to the central button/scrolling thingy on my old HTC Desire. The actual interior design is essentially a development of what you'll find in the current S-Class with two 12.3" screen displaying all the info, sitting amongst a mix of white leather and grey - sorry, "anthracite" - brushed aluminium, with Swarovski glass airvents lit up in blue or red. Ooooh.

Unlike the previous Mercedes concept car, you're actually allowed to drive this one. It's powered by the same 208bhp 2.0-litre turbo four/80bhp electric motor combo, making a total output of 275bhp and 442lb/ft. Plenty to get you to the electronically limited 250km/h (155mph) top speed. You can drive on electricity alone for 62km (38 miles) in Design Mode or 66km (41 miles) in Aero Mode if you fancy.

All of this is intended to make suggestions about future Mercedes-Benz products. The next S-Class or CLS could end up having a three-metre wheelbase, shapeshifting abilities and this kind of "teardrop" side profile. On the latter point, Mercedes will point to the 540K Streamliner as inspiration, along with other aero concepts from their immense history... but all anyone has been reminded of by that sloping tail section is the Audi A7, which is a bit of a shame - although that's with the air guides retracted. I also would've expected Audi to be the first ones to make the grille stretch across the entire nose to swallow up the headlights. Like the Porsche though, I love the way this car sits on its wheels, with organically curved flares around the 20+ inch rims/tyres as you can see in the top-down image above. The simple, clean surfacing is refreshing after all the swooshes on current Benzes as well.

This car will never be put into production as-is, but expect the broader aesthetic to appear on cars with three-pointed stars over the next 5-10 years.

Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo Concept

After a ten-year reign over the world of supercars, the mighty Bugatti Veyron died this year. But don't worry, because they're going to make a replacement! It could be a 1500-horsepower hybrid and it could be closer to 300mph than 250 at top speed, but all of that remains to be seen. For now, they're giving us hints of their updated aesthetic with this, their bonkers Vision Gran Turismo concept. There's no mention of any performance figures, but it is clear that the V-GT features some version of the colossal 8.0 quad-turbo W16 engine that gained notoriety in the Veyron, probably with more than the SuperSport's 1200 horsepower and officially connected to all-wheel-drive. Because it's designed for a video game, it can be as extreme as they want it to be, hence the significantly more aggressive aerodynamics seemingly inspired by Le Mans prototypes. The overall look is clearly an evolution of the outgoing car, but it also takes alleged inspiration from the Bugattis that won Le Mans back in the 1930s, especially the Type 57 "Tank" that won in '37 and '39.

The result of an intensive six-month project, the Bugatti Vision GT is meant as the most extreme car it's realistically possible for the VW-owned company to make, developed using simulations far more advanced than a console game to hone the aero and get an idea of its capabilities. They suggest that at Circuit de la Sarthe, where Le Mans is held, it can top 250mph (400+km/h) at four different sections of the 8.48 mile track. It may look like an Art Deco LMP1, but it goes like a Group C car! Having played with a lot of these made-for-GT6 concepts, I think this ought to be the right balance of extreme and believable. The SRT Tomahawk that does 400mph or something daft is frankly a step too far, along with the laser pulse-drive Chaparral 2X (although that's still an awesome design). You don't want it to be a missed opportunity, but you don't want it to be in a barely-drivable class of one, either. You should be able to race it against other cars in the game and not be on another planet of pace, otherwise it's a lonely world of setting preposterous lap times and top speeds by yourself. Or a one-make race, I suppose...

How much of this will point to the next Veyron? Well, don't expect quite the same level of aggression - wings and canards generate grip in the corners, but the resultant drag compromises top speed. I would imagine the production Chiron or whatever it will be called will change shape at speed in some way, with a huge active wing that rises/lowers and probably some flaps in the floor and diffuser like the P1 or LaFerrari. If it had this car's nose design, with the angry headlights floating inside air inlets and more sculpted cheek bones than the jellymould Veyron, then we'd be off to a good start. The curved side intake should carry over too, as a reference to seemingly every noteworthy Bugatti ever made. The rear strip light and four meaty exhausts would be cool, but I wouldn't count on it. If it is a hybrid, though, it may well need all that ventilation at the tail end if they're cooling batteries and that leviathan of an internal combustion engine.

Official sketch overlaid with proposed powertrain
OK, to be honest, there's almost nothing on this thing that will point to the future of motor cars at large, but damn if it isn't cool as hell anyway. I just wish my PS3 wasn't broken......

Oh, and unlike most Vision Gran Turismo cars, it even has an interior! Fancy that.

Stay tuned for more Frankfurt news!

Written for SmallBlogV8. If this post appears elsewhere, comment here with a link so it can be reported.