Well, the latest from the Bentley camp is that it is all very hush-hush, as Bentley’s Brian Gush, Director of Chassis, Powertrain & Motorsport commented, “We are involved in a feasibility study which is still some way off completion.” Developments at Crewe will be closely monitored and any info that leaks our way will be posted here, so stay close.
On 16 April, 2012, Nissan and PlayStation once again joined forces to run the fourth year of the innovative GT Academy virtual-to-reality racing competition which has been expanded to incorporate four separate competitions covering Europe, Germany, USA and Russia. The process follows an eight-step qualification programme that can be played online (using a PlayStation 3 and the popular Gran Turismo 5 as a base). The fastest gamers from each country then join winners from a number of live events to compete in the national finals in July. The action will then make the transition from the virtual world of PS3 to real Nissan sports cars when the winners of each National competition will participate in the international Race Camp competition at Silverstone Circuit in August. The ultimate winners of each of the GT Academy competitions from Race Camp will then be put through an incredibly intensive and thorough Driver Development Programme to prepare them for the chance to take part in the Dubai 24 Hours in January, 2013 – the ultimate competition prize. GT Academy is now established as a potential route into top-level motor sport. Lucas Ordoñez (Spain, winner in 2008) took second place at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hour and will be racing alongside father-and-son pairing Alex and Martin Brundle. Ordoñez must feel that he is floating on clouds right now because not only will he contest the full European LMS season in the Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan LMP2 car, but he has also been selected to join the test team for the Nissan DeltaWing – that’s an opportunity of a lifetime! Jordan Tresson (France, winner in 2010) is racing in the FIA WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours in the Signatech Nissan LMP2 car. So this academy is for real, and a totally innovative way of locating new talent.
Of course by now it is well-known that Audi steam-rolled the Spa 6-Hour race with their 1-2-3-4 finish, and although this was with the absence of any real or meaningful opposition, it was nevertheless an impressive result. What was interesting was the inter-team contest between the ‘traditional’ diesel R18s and the new e-tron quattros. While it was the TDI car that took the chequered flag, the e-tron quattro, which started from pole position, held the lead for a good portion of the race, showing that it held a slight advantage over its siblings in acceleration out of the corners courtesy of the added KERS drive to the front wheels.
You might feel that the men from Ingolstadt have been banging on about their ‘ultra’ lightweight race cars a bit much, but in reality this aspect of the R18 concept is quite crucial for several reasons. In motorsport, weight is enemy number one, and in spite of the 900kg minimum weight limit of the LMP1 class cars, the R18 comes in well below this limit. This, however, allows the engineers to play with the ballast weight and to move it around the car to best suit the car’s balance and so improve its performance. The R18 ultra and the R18 e-tron quattro are essentially the same car but the latter must carry the added weight of the hybrid system which one would expect to make that car heavier than the conventional R18 ultra, but in fact it doesn’t because the ‘ultra’ lightweight concept of the R18 allows a sufficient margin such that the standard diesel engined car (without the added weight of the hybrid system) has more ballast in the car. Both cars thus meet the 900kg minimum weight requirement. In an effort to make the car even lighter, the R18 is fitted with a flange-mounted new carbon fibre transmission housing, a significant technological leap compared with its predecessor. What differentiates this design from a formula race car, in which this technology is already used, is that the fully structural transmission not only has to bear a much higher base load of 900kg, but it must also hold up over an endurance distance of several thousand kilometres. And with more than 850Nm the engine torque that acts on the transmission in the R18 far exceeds the corresponding torque level in a Formula 1 car.
The No.77 of Felbermayr-Proton Porsche snatched the GTE Pro class victory at Spa last weekend by just 0.6 seconds from the hard-charging Ferrari 458. So…do Porsche have the edge over their Italian rivals this year? This will be the big question at Le Mans as the 911 GT3 RSR won both the GTE Pro and GTE Am classes at Spa last week, so a tight tussle with the Ferraris as well as the resurgent Corvettes is expected at the Sarthe circuit in June. As a result of the new GTE regulations introduced by the ACO, the GT3 RSR has grown 48mm in width, which will help with the car’s stability and cornering performance. The Porsche is powered by the same six-cylinder 4.0-litre boxer engine generating 460 hp (338 kW) driving the 310mm wide rear wheels, while the front wheel diameter has increased by 30mm to measure 680mm. If you want one, it will cost you a cool €498,000.
As if the Toyota Motorsport Group (TMG) had not already had enough curved balls thrown at it, what with the devastating accident at Paul Ricard which set them back weeks at a crucial tie in their testing schedule, but they now have another hurdle to jump. One of the key drivers, Hiroaki Ishiura has been forced to withdraw from the team’s line-up for Le Mans due to a back complaint incurred while testing the TS030 Hybrid, apparently due to the high g-forces experienced. Ishiura was to share the seat with Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson, but now a replacement driver will have to be sought by TMG so close to the race itself.