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.