A Rev­o­lu­tion for sports-rac­ers

Meet the new Bri­tish con­struc­tor – founded by a fami­lar name – aim­ing to ex­e­cute a rad­i­cal change in sports-pro­to­type rac­ing

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - MAR­CUS PYE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: RICHARD STYLES

Last Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 25, the fruits of a re­mark­able year’s graft un­der the radar man­i­fested them­selves when a new and in­no­va­tive sports-racer emerged from Snet­ter­ton’s Archie Scott Brown Cen­tre into the au­tumn sun­shine to spon­ta­neous ap­plause. Fol­low­ing yet an­other late night and hours of tweak­ing in its garage, the sense of team achieve­ment was pal­pa­ble. Rev­o­lu­tion

Cars MD Phil Abbott’s eyes moist­ened as his son James growled the fu­tur­is­ti­cally styled pro­to­type, cloaked in mar­que brand­ing, to­wards Riches cor­ner ac­com­pa­nied by a de­li­cious V6 sound­track.

“The past six weeks have been crazy with push­ing [to­wards this mo­ment]. Ev­ery­body in­volved in bring­ing this car to re­al­ity wanted a bit longer. But they didn’t get per­mis­sion from me,” says Abbott, 63, co-founder of Rad­i­cal Mo­tor­sport back in 1998.

His oust­ing in June 2016 from the em­pire he nur­tured – and which built 2000 race cars in its first 12 years, match­ing sin­gle­seater leg­end Van Diemen’s feat in 1985 – set him on an­other ex­tra­or­di­nary path, flood­lit via a valu­able learn­ing in­ter­lude with Jac­ques Ni­co­let’s Le Mans-based On­roak Au­to­mo­tive or­gan­i­sa­tion, par­ent of the Ligier sportscar mar­que.

“I’ve done it a few times be­fore, but bring­ing a brand-new con­cept to the market from scratch in 12 months was a chal­lenge,” he adds. “Ev­ery­thing about the process [its ges­ta­tion] was so dif­fer­ent, us­ing state-of-the-art ma­te­ri­als. Many peo­ple thought that pro­duc­ing a car­bon­fi­bre car for un­der £100k [plus VAT] couldn’t be done, so to­day is very spe­cial. And quite a re­lief!

“The Rad­i­cal SR3, of which we sold more than 1200, was a bril­liant car 15 years ago and is still a great piece of kit. But, as with [the evo­lu­tion of high-per­for­mance] road cars, the mar­ket­place has changed. If you are gear­ing up to sell a new rac­ing car for the next five years it’s got to be very dif­fer­ent.”

The tech­nol­ogy be­hind pro­duc­ing the first vac­uum-in­fused car­bon­fi­bre tub with Ger­man com­pos­ite pi­o­neer Do­minik Dierkes’s Dd-com­pound com­pany is con­stantly push­ing the bound­aries of man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. Dierkes in­tro­duced him­self when Abbott was still run­ning Rad­i­cal. Dd-com­pound’s patented meth­ods of mould­ing su­per-strong and com­plex struc­tures eco­nom­i­cally are hav­ing a trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect in the avi­a­tion, boat­ing and main­stream au­to­mo­tive fields. Adapt­able and af­ford­able, they are ideal for rel­a­tively low-vol­ume mar­kets.

“Now I re­alise that this was the key to some­thing I’d been look­ing at for about five years,” says Abbott. “There had to be a bet­ter way of do­ing a pro­duc­tion rac­ing car, mov­ing away from old-school tube­frame chas­sis. Once I saw DD’S process I was sold on it. While I was ‘cap­tive’ [at Rad­i­cal] we couldn’t put our heads above the para­pet, though. I guess I’ve al­ways been a bit of a mav­er­ick, so the tim­ing was right to start again, go for it.”

The cat­a­lyst for the Rev­o­lu­tion wasn’t purely the pos­si­bil­i­ties opened by new ma­te­ri­als: “We turned it round, start­ing with the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. What do they want and what are they pre­pared to pay for that? Then we set about find­ing the tech­nol­ogy – and cru­cially the right peo­ple to work with it – to match and hope­fully ex­ceed those ex­pec­ta­tions.”

The re­sult is also very dis­tinc­tive. “Si­mon Cox did a won­der­ful job with the styling. He’s a real artist,” says Abbott.

For­merly head of de­sign at In­finiti, Cox also has the Chevro­let Corvette C7 and Cadil­lac Cien on his CV. His land­mark Isuzu Vehi-cross con­cept pre­saged the SUV by over a decade. He now lec­tures to a new gen­er­a­tion of de­sign­ers at Coven­try Univer­sity.

“I GUESS I’VE AL­WAYS BEEN A BIT OF A MAV­ER­ICK, SO THE TIM­ING WAS RIGHT TO START AGAIN”

The mono­coque is the work of Pete Watts. A me­chan­i­calengi­neer­ing grad­u­ate who joined the renowned Ad­vanced Com­pos­ites in Derby in 1983, as car­bon­fi­bre’s mo­tor­sport in­flu­ence boomed, he rose to be head of com­pos­ites at the BAR For­mula 1 team, then con­sulted with Bent­ley, Mclaren and other mar­ques. One cru­cial dif­fer­ence in this car was that it had to ac­com­mo­date larger driv­ers than the pint-sized pro­fes­sion­als in LMP1’S or­bit.

Driver safety is king among de­sign cri­te­ria and the

Rev­o­lu­tion’s ROPS [roll over pro­tec­tion sys­tem] has achieved FIA Free For­mula Ar­ti­cle 227 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Also pack­aged within Cox’s en­ve­lope, re­worked for prac­ti­cal­ity and pro­duc­tion­i­sa­tion, is Ford’s com­pact Us-sourced 3.7-litre Ford V6 ‘crate engine’, which de­vel­ops 305bhp in stan­dard form and should run 100 hours or 10,000 miles be­tween re­builds. Mounted lon­gi­tu­di­nally, the dry-sumped unit is mated to a six-speed se­quen­tial transaxle by French com­pany 3MO – the WRC spe­cial­ist also cho­sen to sup­ply the gear­boxes for the widely hailed retro-style Alpine Re­nault A110 road car.

Jack Shaw, who worked with Si­mon Car­rier (pre­vi­ously with Rey­nard and M-sport) at Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing, was en­gaged on de­tail de­sign with Watts. Vet­eran Lo­tus sus­pen­sion guru Richard Hur­d­well – rooted, like Abbott, in the 750 Mo­tor Club, where he won the 1978 F1300 cham­pi­onship in the self-built Wells

Two car – mas­ter­minded the sus­pen­sion lay­out, aim­ing for a base­line set-up to open the Rev­o­lu­tion’s per­for­mance en­ve­lope to a wide range of driv­ers.

The dis­tinc­tive and fine-tune­able aero pack­age is the re­sult of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with To­tal­sim, the Brack­ley-based com­pu­ta­tional fluid dy­nam­ics (CFD) con­sul­tancy set up by Dr Rob Lewis in 2007.

“Rob’s a top, top, guy,” says Abbott. “The work his team has done over the course of hun­dreds of ‘runs’ is ex­cep­tional. The Rev­o­lu­tion’s 3:1 lift-over-drag ra­tio is not mas­sive by [LM]P2 stan­dards, but for a club car is huge.”

Viewed from track­side, James Abbott’s ini­tial shake­down runs in the pro­to­type at Snet­ter­ton demon­strated the chas­sis’s poise and flat at­ti­tude through the 300 Cir­cuit’s wide range of cor­ners, and its high-speed sta­bil­ity. While run­ning in com­po­nents and per­form­ing sys­tems checks, straight out of the box the Rev­o­lu­tion topped 150mph on the Bent­ley Straight with­out ex­it­ing the pre­ced­ing Wil­liams cor­ner at rac­ing speeds.

“Af­ter test­ing CN cars the first things that struck me on leav­ing the pit garage was how smooth it was with no vi­bra­tion through the chas­sis,” says Abbott Jr. “We had a cou­ple of mi­nor teething prob­lems, to be ex­pected with a brand-new car out of the box [the engine and trans­mis­sion had run on a rolling road], but I’m re­ally en­cour­aged.”

While the car’s body­work has yet to be fin­ished – miss­ing at Snet­ter­ton were the fair­ings be­hind the roll­hoop shroud, wing

end­plates mounted on the rear whee­larches and the front split­ter cover – these will be added and the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of de­tach­ing the engine cover ad­dressed when the pro­duc­tion pan­els are made.

“Work­ing hand in hand with DD we can re­spond quickly to these things,” says Abbott Sr. “Mak­ing pro­duc­tion pat­terns is now so much sim­pler than the old labour-in­ten­sive meth­ods in the days of fi­bre­glass.”

Build­ing the cars will not be done con­ven­tion­ally ei­ther. Con­struc­tion is be­ing out­sourced to trusted teams with whom Abbott Sr has built long re­la­tion­ships and who share his am­bi­tions. The first is Rob Whel­don’s RAW Mo­tor­sport con­cern, which com­pleted the pro­to­type in the days run­ning up to the un­veil­ing, fol­low­ing a change from the orig­i­nal plan to run it se­cretly at the Papen­burg prov­ing ground in Ger­many the pre­vi­ous week.

“I’ve known Rob for a very long time, since I spon­sored him in kart­ing,” says Abbott. “He coached James and man­aged the fac­tory Rad­i­cal team be­fore set­ting up on his own. Rob was re­ally ex­cited about the project and wanted to go on to the next level, so it [en­gag­ing RAW] was a nat­u­ral fit. Derek

White and Rich Webb [whom Abbott sup­ported in mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing] are cen­trally in­volved there too.”

In­deed, for a young com­pany aim­ing to go places fast, Rev­o­lu­tion Race Cars al­ready has a strong fam­ily feel, since Rad­i­cal France’s Ro­main Rousseau, for whom cus­tomer fo­cus is an ob­ses­sion, is on board too. And with Roger Green (an­other old Rad­i­cal hand) work­ing on its PR strat­egy and James Bai­ley-or­gan­ised twin rac­ing series to bring the prod­uct to Bri­tish and Euro­pean cir­cuits next sea­son (see panel), a fas­ci­nat­ing new era of af­ford­able highperformance sportscar rac­ing is on the hori­zon.

Al­though it of­fi­cially launches across me­dia plat­forms to­mor­row (Fri­day), in­ter­est is al­ready run­ning high. As the car hit the track for the first time, seven de­posits had been taken, with sev­eral more in the pipe­line. “Our plan is to have two or three cars run­ning by the end of Novem­ber, when we can start cus­tomer test­ing,” says Abbott. “Re­al­is­ti­cally Jan­uary’s build is sold, but we’re aim­ing to have 20 ready by the start of next sea­son.”

Is the Rev­o­lu­tion a game-changer? Time will tell, but the ini­tial im­pres­sions are that it fits a niche that Phil Abbott iden­ti­fied be­tween the uber-suc­cess­ful Rad­i­cal SR3 he pi­o­neered and the high-down­force LMP3 sports-rac­ers aimed at pro driv­ers on the global stage. With heavy fo­cus on LMP3 and its in­cred­i­bly phys­i­cal big sis­ter P2, On­roak was com­mit­ted to its Ligier brand, which is why Abbott boldly started again.

The re­sult is a grown-up prod­uct of­fer­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary per­for­mance at a low price point. At £89,000+VAT for a car­bon car with low run­ning costs and a ready-made rac­ing series from year one, surely its fu­ture is bright… Vive la Rev­o­lu­tion!

CFD im­age from To­tal­sims

Ford-sourced V6 makes 305bhp and should run 10,000 miles be­tween re­builds

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.