Spoiler Alert!

Cres­cent Beach man in­vents air brake for su­per­cars

The Province - - Driving - An­drew Mc­Credie am­c­credie@sun­province.com

Ne­ces­sity the mother of in­ven­tion for Metro Van­cou­ver su­per­car owner

For most of us, spin­ning a half-mil­lion dol­lar su­per­car off the run­way of an air force base af­ter hit­ting 326 km/h might be enough to have us think­ing, “Well, I’m never do­ing that again!”

For Rob­bie Dick­son, his only thought was, “How do I solve it so I never do that again?”

An en­gi­neer by trade, the Cres­cent Beach res­i­dent was tak­ing part in the Race the Base event at CFB Cold Lake, Alta., in which car own­ers seek to set a straight-line top speed on a closed 3.2-kilo­me­tre run­way.

“I was driv­ing my brand new Lam­borgh­ini Aven­ta­dor, a $550,000 car that has 700 horse­power and a top speed of around 326 km/h,” Dick­son says of the fate­ful run. “I was de­ter­mined to beat my last top speed run of 320 km/h and pushed the car for longer down the run­way to give it more time.”

The gam­bit paid off as the speedo reg­is­tered 326 km/h, but as the old say­ing goes — ‘The hard part isn’t go­ing fast ... it’s stop­ping that’s the trick!’ — so get­ting the su­per­car back to zero proved a chal­lenge.

“As it turned out, the end of the run­way comes up very quickly when you’re do­ing 326 km/h, and I was too busy en­joy­ing my new top speed run to con­sider I’d need to brake re­ally hard to make the turn at the end of the run­way,” he con­tin­ues.

“I was trav­el­ling way too quick into the turn and spun the car around on the turn sev­eral times, slid­ing onto the grass and wreck­ing a cou­ple of sills on the car in the process.”

For­tu­nately, no one was hurt, the dam­age to the Lambo was min­i­mal, and best of all, a roof-mounted GoPro cam­era cap­tured the en­tire run (check it out at youtube.com/ watch?v=C64qQwrd83E).

Play­ing the in­ci­dent over and over in his mind, Dick­son came to a con­clu­sion: “If I’d of had an air brake I would of made the turn, and that’s when the light bulb went on.”

Cue that other old say­ing, the one about ne­ces­sity be­ing the mother of in­ven­tion. Dick­son de­cided he’d in­stall an air brake on his Lambo, and be­ing the en­tre­pre­neur he is — af­ter an en­gi­neer­ing ca­reer with the likes of Rolls-Royce, BMW, Ford and Isuzu he started his own com­pany de­vel­op­ing mo­tion con­trol equip­ment — he founded At­tivo De­sign with plans on cre­at­ing air brakes for su­per­cars.

He hired some peo­ple to help with the fi­nal de­sign for man­u­fac­tur­ing, and then sourced a com­pany in Asia to do the fi­nal car­bon fi­bre man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The com­pany will de­but its first such de­vice — for an Aven­ta­dor — at this week­end’s Lux­ury Su­per­car Week­end at VanDusen Gar­dens in Van­cou­ver (de­tails at lux­u­ry­su­per­car.com).

A kit for a Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lardo is also in the works and Dick­son ex­pects it to be ready for sale in a month’s time. They’re also work­ing on a Fer­rari 458 kit.

“Air brake wings are very ef­fec­tive at high speed,” he ex­plains. “Air­craft have used them for 50 years and only re­cently have Bu­gatti put one as stan­dard in their su­per­car.”

Dick­son’s air brake wing has a builtin speed sen­sor and comes on au­to­mat­i­cally when trav­el­ling over a cer­tain speed when the driver brakes.

“It only de­ploys when you’re over 100 kilo­me­tres an hour and you start to ap­ply the foot brake,” he notes. “When you take your foot off the brake it goes back down again.”

As to if the in­stal­la­tion will af­fect the ve­hi­cle’s war­ranty, Dick­son says no.

“You only af­fect the war­ranty if you’re do­ing things to the ac­tual ve­hi­cles them­selves, like drilling holes or play­ing around with the elec­tron­ics.”

The com­pany has a num­ber of new tech­nolo­gies in the pipe­line to go on new cars, Dick­son adds, in­clud­ing kits for the new Lam­borgh­ini that de­buts next year to re­place the Gal­lardo.


Cres­cent Beach res­i­dent Rob­bie Dick­son’s su­per­car air brake sys­tem, which can be fit­ted on cars such as this Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lardo, is set to be un­veiled at this week­end’s Lux­ury Su­per­car Week­end at VanDusen Gar­dens. ‘Air brake wings are very ef­fec­tive at high speed,’ he says. ‘Air­craft have used them for 50 years.’

En­tre­pre­neur and car en­thu­si­ast Rob­bie Dick­son shows off an air brake sys­tem fit­ted onto his Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lardo.

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