Future rac­ing

Ten years is a long time in mo­tor­sport – who knows where we’re head­ing? Cue Re­nault, Porsche and Citroen with their crys­tal balls...

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS: JACK RIX / PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: WIL­SON HEN­NESSY

Won­der what mo­tor­sport will be like in 10 years’ time? We got Re­nault, Porsche and Citroen think­ing...

For car man­u­fac­tur­ers, 10 years is al­most tan­gi­ble.

New cars we’re writ­ing about this month be­gan on a sketch­pad five years ago, and were twin­kles in their de­signer’s eye eons be­fore that. In mo­tor­sport, 10 years is an ocean of time, whipped up by abrupt regulation changes, tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs and fickle fans. It’s im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict where top-flight mo­tor­sport will find it­self a decade down the line. But that hasn’t stopped us from prod­ding the great­est minds in the sport un­til they agreed to spec­u­late.

It’s all Re­nault’s fault. Once we got wind of the R.S. 2027 Vi­sion F1 Con­cept, we set about con­vinc­ing the reign­ing Le Mans 24hrs cham­pion, Porsche, to have the same hy­po­thet­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion about an LMP1 pro­to­type for 2027, be­fore sketch­ing its ideas, just for us. Then we asked Citroen Rac­ing, the most successful team in WRC his­tory, to do the same. The re­sults are rad­i­cal, but in all cases grown from the seeds of tech­nol­ogy that al­ready ex­ists – you’ll find no fly­ing cars or nu­clear fis­sion here...

be in­te­grated into the shell and cus­tom-shaped for that par­tic­u­lar driver. Hell, the en­tire car could be cus­tom-sized to the driver’s mea­sure­ments, plac­ing the wheel and ped­als all in the per­fect po­si­tions with­out a booster cush­ion in sight.

If you’re a fan of the min­i­mal­ist F1 cars of the past, Re­nault’s got your back, too. Over to Stéphane Janin, head of con­cept de­sign: “In my team most of us were big fans of F1, but are a bit dis­ap­pointed, to be hon­est, by the look of the cars now. In the past you could un­der­stand how it worked just by look­ing at it. We wanted to go the op­po­site way of these modern cars with so many lit­tle winglets and stuf that you can’t un­der­stand the shape of, hence the soft and clean body.” Beau­ti­ful, isn’t it? It just looks fast, even parked up on the grid, and the lack of ob­vi­ous down­force adds just a soupçon of dan­ger.

Of course, it can still drill its tyres into the tar­mac, but via an ac­tive pop-up rear spoiler rather than a fxed one, and the aero isn’t the only thing that’s ac­tive; the sus­pen­sion is too, to al­low for set-up changes mid-race. And then there’s the clever stuf. A pure EV mode al­lows it to creep around cleanly and silently in the pits and on for­ma­tion laps, and an au­ton­o­mous set­ting – sig­nalled by the huge C-shaped LED lights at the front il­lu­mi­nat­ing – can be ac­ti­vated re­motely by the stew­ards, mak­ing safety cars re­dun­dant and erad­i­cat­ing false starts af­ter an ac­ci­dent and dodgy over­takes un­der a yel­low fag.

There’s also LED light­ing in­cor­po­rated into the wheels that forms an im­age when they spin, show­ing what po­si­tion the racer is hold­ing, how much en­ergy they have stored or – if the cofers are run­ning low – pro­vid­ing handy ad­ver­tis­ing space. There’s even a dig­i­tal dis­play in the cen­tre of the steer­ing wheel that tells each driver their “fan rank­ing” po­si­tion. This rank­ing is de­ter­mined by spec­ta­tors’ in­ter­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia, re­ward­ing driv­ers on the track with an ad­di­tional boost of power in the last laps if they do some­thing en­ter­tain­ing or ex­cit­ing. But also pun­ish­ing them if they’re id­iots.

Re­nault also wants to change the race for­mat. Fri­day night would see a Rookie Night Race, fea­tur­ing the teams’ re­serve driv­ers and driv­ers in their rookie year. The main race on Sun­day would be di­vided into two parts: a long race and a sec­ond, shorter sprint known as the Fi­nal Sprint.

So why do a con­cept like this? “Be­cause I have no doubt that F1 is a prod­uct that can be im­proved,” Abite­boul tells us. “I think we’ve al­ready made a big step be­tween last year and this year, but F1 is al­ways about con­stant refne­ment and im­prove­ments. I’m not say­ing what we have to­day is bad, I’m say­ing it will have to evolve. If you don’t evolve, you’re dead.”

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