Jamie Whin­cup finds out what it is like to rip a hand­brake turn in a two-storey build­ing. James Stan­ford re­ports from Ari­zona

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

V8 ace Jamie Whin­cup up­grades his ride by 10 cylin­ders, a few thou­sand kilo­watts and a few hun­dred tonnes.

V8 SU­PER­CAR ace Jamie Whin­cup is like a kid with a new toy, a new toy that weighs 249 tonnes and has a 78-litre en­gine.

He’s about to board the Ko­matsu 960-E dump truck, the largest min­ing truck serv­ing in Aus­tralia.

Whin­cup and I are in an aban­doned mine near Tuc­son in Ari­zona, which Ko­matsu uses to tests its trucks. The Ja­panese maker of heavy equip­ment spon­sors him and wants the two-time cham­pion to check its prod­uct.

He’s only too happy to oblige. ‘‘How cool is this?’’ Whin­cup says as he climbs up 17 steps to the cabin, which is about the height of a two­s­torey build­ing. Min­ing trucks like this cost about $7 mil­lion, each tyre is about $80,000 and they run around the clock, so to be able to just take one for a spin is a real treat.

Whin­cup turns the key and the gi­ant starter mo­tor whirs as it tries to fire up the big V18, which can belt out 2610kW (3500hp).

Af­ter sev­eral sec­onds, the huge pow­er­plant, which weighs 10 tonnes on its own, fi­nally roars into life. The big turbo diesel doesn’t ac­tu­ally drive the wheels but acts as a gen­er­a­tor.

The elec­tric­ity it cre­ates is then fed through huge elec­tric mo­tors in each wheel. A key ad­van­tage of this sys­tem is that the elec­tric mo­tors can be used to slow down the truck too. That’s im­por­tant, es­pe­cially when you are head­ing down­hill with a full load and a gross weight of 576 tonnes.

At the mo­ment, all the en­ergy gen­er­ated by the elec­tric mo­tors un­der de­cel­er­a­tion is lost as heat from big fans on the deck to the side of the driver. But Ko­matsu is work­ing on a way to cap­ture the en­ergy and store it in a bat­tery, like a hy­brid car.

Whin­cup floors the throt­tle and the big yel­low beast surges for­ward. It isn’t fast com­pared with a car but feels like a big freighter run­ning at four times the pace.

‘‘You can ap­pre­ci­ate the awe­some power. Un­loaded, this thing just wants to keep on go­ing,’’ Whin­cup says. The big Ko­matsu is 9.6m wide, equal to five Hum­mer H3s run­ning side-by-side. Its cab is on the far left side, which is strange, and there is a huge blind-spot.

He man­ages to keep the truck off the walls and we ar­rive at a large open area.

I hop out of the cab so Ko­matsu’s Don Lin­dell can ex­plain the fea­tures of the big truck to Whin­cup and, within a few sec­onds, he is gen­er­at­ing more dust than a Deep South twister. He’s driv­ing the min­ing truck like a rally car, fling­ing it around with com­plete faith it will stay up­right.

Lin­dell shows Whin­cup a but­ton on the dash­board that op­er­ates the rear brakes, for emer­gen­cies, and he uses it to do hand­brake turns. My eyes

Duel in the desert: Jamie Whin­cup in Ari­zona and (fac­ing page) get­ting side­ways at Ko­matsu’s prov­ing ground

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