Crescent Beach man invents air brake for supercars
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.