Formula Drift driver Matt Powers has successfully driven his Roush Stage 3 Mustang at high speed in the real world while immersed in a 3D virtual world through an Oculus Rift headset. Instead of the test track that he was actually driving on, Powers saw falling boulders, sheer cliff drops, crumbling and collapsing track and other game-like elements. It was all part of the Titanium Trials series by motor oil company Castrol, designed to push the boundaries of what's possible [ read more ]
Celebrities are always a good way to draw attention to a particular vehicle which is why the UK arm of French carmaker Renault has made a short video about a very well-known driver of its Twizy electric car…and it’s none other than Sir Stirling Moss, one of the most famous racing drivers of all time, that is seen ‘racing’ around London. Moss won the 1955 Mille Miglia, not to mention 16 individual grand prix races and he is probably [ read more ]
The Gumball 3000 is one of those events in which racers, a’la Lewis Hamilton and his 1996/Shelby Cobra 427, rappers, rock stars and the ridiculously rich, in their exotic vehicles, meander around the globe. This year's event kicked off last week in Stockholm and will pass through Oslo, Copenhagen and Amsterdam before heading to the US and Reno, San Francisco, Los Angeles and ending up in Las Vegas. Sometimes billed as the most glamorous rally in the world, the event is open [ read more ]
Formula Drift driver Matt Powers has successfully driven his Roush Stage 3 Mustang at high speed in the real world while immersed in a 3D virtual world through an Oculus Rift headset. Instead of the test track that he was actually driving on, Powers saw falling boulders, sheer cliff drops, crumbling and collapsing track and other game-like elements. It was all part of the Titanium Trials series by motor oil company Castrol, designed to push the boundaries of what’s possible in driving a vehicle whilst at the same time promoting the company’s premium product, Castrol Edge.
This Virtual Drift challenge required development of a custom system to track the car’s movements in minute detail and simulate them in real time in the virtual world. To make it work with the Oculus Rift, creative technologists spent two months testing and installing a variety of sensors into the car to monitor the steering angle, wheel spin, brake, throttle position, dynamic damping, and more, essentially turning the vehicle into a giant game controller.
Powers noted that the experience forced him to rely on his instincts and an intimate familiarity with the car: “Virtual Drift was exhilarating and challenging like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s been awesome not only being involved and testing this next generation of gaming technology, but also the possibilities this opens up for motor sport in general are mind blowing.” You can watch the full film of the challenge below.
Celebrities are always a good way to draw attention to a particular vehicle which is why the UK arm of French carmaker Renault has made a short video about a very well-known driver of its Twizy electric car…and it’s none other than Sir Stirling Moss, one of the most famous racing drivers of all time, that is seen ‘racing’ around London. Moss won the 1955 Mille Miglia, not to mention 16 individual grand prix races and he is probably the greatest driver never to win a Formula 1 world championship.
Renault’s clever two-minute video intercuts black and white historic footage of Moss’ races in the ‘50s and ‘60s with modern interview clips where Sir Stirling and Lewis Hamilton discuss their race cars. Now 85, SSM describes using his Twizy around London, where he lives, although it’s not mentioned, that as a battery-electric car, the Twizy is exempt from central London’s stiff congestion charge. The real fun begins when, using either authentic audio or cleverly recreated lines, the video shows Sir Stirling zooming around London in the Twizy as if he were in a race.
Britons of a certain age will recognise the resonant, ever so slightly pompous tones of what used to be called ‘BBC English’, now long gone. A 30-second ‘pit stop’, complete with countdown clock, is revealed to be SMM picking up his morning newspaper. He says he likes the car, now his only vehicle out of 184 racing cars he drove during his career. The racing side of Moss soon asserts itself: “I’d like some more power. You know, that would be nice.”
So Renault, you have been officially put on notice by a living legend: More power for the Twizy, please.
Building cars by hand is an increasingly endangered art, and the few carmakers that still persist tend to charge rather a lot for their products. Renault’s Twizy electric minicar doesn’t quite feature hand-rolled fenders or curvaceous aluminum bodywork, but unusually it uses far less automation than you’d expect of a modern vehicle–in fact, the whole car is built up by humans, rather than robots.
The Gumball 3000 is one of those events in which racers, a’la Lewis Hamilton and his 1996/Shelby Cobra 427, rappers, rock stars and the ridiculously rich, in their exotic vehicles, meander around the globe. This year’s event kicked off last week in Stockholm and will pass through Oslo, Copenhagen and Amsterdam before heading to the US and Reno, San Francisco, Los Angeles and ending up in Las Vegas. Sometimes billed as the most glamorous rally in the world, the event is open to the public, but at a cost of around $70,000 per head, the field narrows somewhat.
The starting grid is usually stacked with hardware such as the Rebellion R2K and McLaren P1s and is probably one of the very few places in the world where an Aston Martin DBS might be considered a bit downstairs. But what if the said DBS glows in the dark? That might help level the playing field. So David Morgan of Team 46 got onto Hamish Scott of Nevana Designs, who has previously won awards for his innovative Starpath UV products and he came up with a very special paint.
While it definitely looks cool, but not unique, Scott is looking far beyond the wow factor for applications: “Should a car break down on a dark road or motorway, or indeed a boat be stranded at sea, the UV coated surface can be seen from miles away and after it is charged during the day remains luminescent for at least 10 hours.” There’s no word on the finish’s cost, care, or durability at this point, but Scott has reached out to partner with Samsung and Nissan, so we’ll hopefully see some mainstream applications in the near future.
Uber isn’t being shy about its work developing self-driving cars. In February, the company announced plans to create autonomous vehicles and now, one of its research cars has been seen cruising the streets of Pittsburgh. The vehicle, spotted by a Pittsburgh Business Times reporter, has the words: Uber Advanced Technologies Center splashed across one side and what looks to be a box of electronic components on the roof.
The newspaper notes that the device at the very top of the car was rotating, suggesting that it’s a Lidar sensor being used to map the immediate surroundings. The device has an identical profile to Lidar components deployed in Google’s self-driving vehicles but looks completely different to the equipment seen on the so-called Apple car. Uber, however, wants to be clear that this particular vehicle isn’t autonomous and is not a self-driving test car: “This vehicle is part of our early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems. So, while this car is being used to research ‘autonomy systems’, it’s not a vehicle in which you’d be safe falling asleep at the wheel.
Uber’s plans to build a self-driving car in Pittsburgh have so far been supported by borrowing engineering talent from the city’s Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics center. The company has set up its own research centre in a partnership with CMU and plans to lease a 53,000 square foot facility to carry out its work. While not much more than this is known about Uber’s research, the endgame for the company looks pretty clear. As of the end of 2014, Uber was employing some 160,000 drivers. Replacing these with self-driving vehicles would not only be safer, but would also eliminate the company’s top expense.
It seems that the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid coupe has proven particularly popular with buyers who can afford its six-figure price, so much so that the company recently announced plans to further increase production. BMW recently doubled i8 output to 20 cars a day…big deal… in what is seen as an effort to delivery delays, currently running up to four months, down from 18 months just prior to Christmas last year.
BMW will likely keep the i8 as a low-volume model, with the all-electric and range-extended i3 city car serving as the ‘I’ sub-brand’s volume model. The i8 went on sale in Europe in June of last year, and the US in August where it sold 555 units, which is pretty good considering the considering a $137,450 base price and a somewhat impractical coupe body style. US sales in February reached 750 taking the to overall total well past the 1000-mark.
When Mazda first released the Miata more than two decades ago, no manufacturer was selling anything like it. The four-cylinder roadster was affordable, reliable, and handled like a go-kart. It was a little British sports car, without the legions of electrical gremlins and oil leaks which came standard with the Union Jack badging. Surprisingly, over a quarter century later, the MX-5, as the Miata is now officially known, is still unique. And whilst the original model was born of the nostalgia for rickety old MGs, Triumphs and Austin-Healeys, Mazda’s plucky little contender is now old enough to produce some sepia-toned memories of its own. A generation of drivers grew up with the MX-5 Miata and Mazda plays off those sentiments beautifully in the just-released spot for its newest family member: ‘A Driver’s Life.’
Brown & Watson International has been bought by GUD Holdings that will add the Narva and Projecta brands to its Ryco and Wesfil/Cooper filters, Goss fuel pumps and engine management products. According BWI, the purchase of this private Australian company, with around 160 personnel, will result in it remaining Australian-owned, create further opportunities for the expansion and development of these major brands throughout Australia and New Zealand and further strengthening the GUD Automotive product offering to its customers. With the retirement of Brown & Watson’s ‘driving force’ Steve Waterham, GUD’s Bob Pattison will become CEO.
Being on a never-ending quest to develop motorcycle gear that can be taken as far as you want to travel can be a bit of a burden, but not if your Dutch company Revit that revels in such a quest. Project Double Dare was initiated last October, when a Super Enduro, christened the Revit #95 in tribute to the year that the company was founded, arrived at Chris Cosentino’s custom shop on the outskirts of New York.
This was intended to be a motorcycle that embodied the company’s core values, so a typical aesthetic customisation would seem a bit trivial. Having the luxury of working with the builder who first installed a two-wheel drive system on a customer’s KTM 990 Adventure, Cosentino’s expertise was put to good use. A similar application would be the key to transforming the Super Enduro to a no-boundaries adventure bike.
The first step was the choice of Christini AWD, a race-proven kit that transfers motion from the transmission to the front wheel through a series of gears, chains and shafts. Commercially available as a kit for Honda and KTM 450 Enduro bikes, in this case its application required a lot of hard work, including modifications to the frame in order to make room for the whole kit to be fitted behind the side tubes. An extra feature includes a lever on the handlebars that activates the AWD system at will and when active allows the front to freewheel until the rear has lost 80% of its traction. At this point, a one-way clutch installed, in the front wheel hub, disengages allowing the transfer of motion to the front until the rear finds grip again.
In its new form, the Super Enduro has a new set of wheels that include a 19” front and 17” rear, equipped with a set of Continental TKC80 knobbies. This choice in wheel dimensions is compatible with a wider variety of tyres, as the two-wheel drive compensates for the loss of the original 21” front. Another showstopper on the #95 is undoubtedly the hand-made aluminum fuel tank, a central feature that underlines both the adventurous and customised feel of the bike. The stock Keihin THB 46mm carburetors were replaced by Keihin’s most famous product, a couple of FCR flat sides 41mm, paired with a set of custom-made velocity stacks. The engine’s breathing was completed with the fabrication of a custom pair of exhausts.
The transformation of two elbow pads as hand guards on the handlebars is a really nice touch, especially since these are the Seeflex limb protectors, a brand new line recently honored with the Red Dot ‘Best of the Best’ 2015 design award. Equally refreshing is the use of an iPhone in the place of regular instruments. The smartphone already includes a GPS and with the right apps can be whatever the rider needs it to be.
A working replica of the famous Lightcycle form the movie TRON: Legacy has smashed expectations by selling for US$77,000. RM Auctions’ pre-sale guide for the chunky electric bike put the expected price at US$25,000 to $40,000, with the result proving once again that a big screen appearance can have a big impact at the auction block. The TRON: Legacy motorcycle is powered by a 96v direct-drive electric motor with lithium-ion batteries and features a computer controlled throttle. The bike has only ever been ridden/driven under test conditions to ensure that it is ‘functional’, which is still a bit of a stretch. But in this case, it’s all about aesthetics and investment potential and there’s little doubt that the Lightcycle ticks those boxes.
Victory Racing will make its professional debut in European motorcycle racing at this year’s Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. A newly formed two-rider team on prototype electric race motorcycles will take on the infamous Mountain Course on June 10.
In order to tackle its first ever-electric motorcycle race, Victory has teamed up northern Irishmen William Dunlop and Lee Johnston. Dunlop is a seasoned Isle of Man TT contender and nephew of the Island’s biggest legend, the late Joey Dunlop. Johnston enjoyed his first Mountain Course win during last year’s Classic TT and proved his current form after winning the North West 200 Superstock on Saturday.
The prototype race bike has a new battery pack offering 20% percent more capacity, now up to 17kWh, while the motor has been detuned to 150hp in order to last the full 60.72 km of the Mountain Course. The main opponent Victory Racing has to overcome is Team Mugen, the Japanese outfit that dominated last year’s TT Zero. The Shinden San race motorcycle features an updated oil cooling system that allows for a 15hp increase, bringing the maximum output to 149.6. Below: Lee Johnston describes his experience with the Victory electric motorcycle in the video below.
When Nissan took the wraps off its GT-R LM Nismo, many observers questioned why the company would make a front engine, front-wheel-drive racecar when the established benchmarks in the endurance game were all using all-wheel drive hybrid setups. With Nissan’s release of the full specifications have come some answers about how the carmaker hopes to make its extraordinary creation succeed on endurance racing’s biggest stage. The petrol component of the vehicle’s power setup is made up of a twin-turbo, 60-degree V6 engine codenamed the VRX 30A Nismo, which powers the front wheels through a five-speed, pneumatic paddle shift, gearbox with a three-plate, carbon clutch assembly from Tilton. For even more punch down the long straights at Circuit de la Sarthe, the ICE is augmented by electric power harvested by a KERS system.
At 4.65m long and 1.9 wide, with a weight of 870kg, rather than running an exhaust system under the car to the rear, or fitting it with side pipes, Nissan has placed the engine’s exhaust directly in front of the vehicle’s cabin. The side of the car is also used to channel air through tunnels within the carbon-composite bodywork to reduce aero drag. A Cosworth engine management system is in charge of the anti-lag system, fuel-saving ‘lift and coast’ systems and the driver-adjustable traction control system, while stopping power is provided by six-piston front brakes and four-piston rears. In keeping with its quirky front-wheel drive setup, the Nismo’s front tyres are wider than the rears.
Nissan is running a 16-inch rear wheel, with tall-sidewall tyres measuring only nine inches (228.6mm) wide, which is five inches (127mm) narrower than the tyres on the 18-inch front wheels. This unconventional tyre geometry combines with multi-adjustable Ohlins dampers up front and Penske dampers at the rear, as well as a hydraulic anti-roll bar system, to hopefully quell the under steer usually associated with front-wheel drive. Inside the car’s safety cell, the driver is held in place by a five point Nismo harness, and is seated on the right hand side of the cabin for easy entry and egress during the chaos of a driver change. Nissan has a history of running crazy concepts. Its DeltaWing was unlike anything seen before, and the GT-R LM Nismo has the potential to change the way we look at endurance racers. By the same token, Nissan’s crazy front-wheel-drive experiment may be a huge flop on the big stage. We’ll just have to wait until Le Mans next month to see which it turns out to be.
Below is a video from Nissan explaining some of the challenges that come with front-wheel drive.
Just when you thought Porsche’s 911 range couldn’t be expanded further, the German marque has managed to squeeze another model into the lineup and it’s not just a road-going special. This time around Porsche has taken the production GT3 RS and turned it into a fully-fledged GT3 racer, designed to be quicker and easier on the wallet than the car it replaces.
The GT3 R package is mechanically very similar to the setup in the road-going version with the racecar powered by a lightly modified version of the RS’ four litre, six-cylinder, Boxer engine, which can produce over 368kW (500 hp) depending on how tightly or loosely the FIA’s balance of performance rules restrict it. Just like the road vehicle motor, the GT3 R’s engine is chasing improved fuel efficiency by using direct injection running at pressures of up to 200 bar. Porsche claim the new R’s motor is also more ‘driveable’ than the unit it replaces thanks to power being available across a broader rev range.
As is the case in the road-going GT3 RS, drivers needn’t worry about a gearstick as the vehicle is fitted with a six-speed sequential paddle shift gearbox that channels power to the 310/710 R18 rear wheels through a mechanical limited-slip differential. As a racecar, Porsche has afforded owners a lot more flexibility in the GT3 R’s setup, with the front and rear suspension’s height, camber and toe able to be tweaked to suit the track it’s on.
Although the GT3 R’s body is based around the road-going RS’ aluminum-steel construction, the racecar’s CFRP body kit is far more dramatic than the setup on the road-going car, whilst the racer’s windows and windscreen are both made of weight-saving polycarbonate. More extreme it may be, but the GT3 R’s aerodynamics package still follows the example set by its road-going stalemate, with the front wheel arch vents from the GT3 RS also making an appearance for improved downforce over the front wheels. The racecar’s two-meter wide rear wing is more focused than the unit on the road car, however, as is the rear diffuser.
In a feature drawn directly from the 911 GT3 RSR that sits above it in Porsche’s range, the GT3 R’s radiator is positioned centrally to improve weight distribution, although the move also makes the radiator less likely to get damaged if the car gets knocked around on the track. The brakes have also been given the full race treatment, with Porsche claiming that the system’s extra stiffness and more precise ABS actuation improve its endurance racing credentials over less focused road-going systems.
Up front, six-piston monobloc racing calipers clamp on 15” (380 mm) ventilated and grooved steel discs, while the 14.6” (372 mm) rear discs are grabbed by four-piston calipers. To let drivers tweak the brake balance on the move, the front and rear systems are on separate circuits, and can be adjusted from the cabin. For safety in potential crashes, the 911’s larger fuel cell has been reinforced over the unit on its predecessor, and the tank is now fitted with a fuel cut off valve. The R’s doors and side windows can now be removed, and the roof escape hatch is larger as well. The 911 GT3 R is on sale right now in Europe and the US with a sticker price of $616,500.
It’s one of the big unknowns about plug-in hybrids: How much do they actually get plugged in? Battery-electric cars have to plug in to remain usable, but plug-in hybrids and range-extended electric vehicles don’t. And whilst some vehicle manufacturers release data showing driver plug-ins, others do not. Green Car Reports says it has some data covering four different plug-in hybrids and the range-extended electric first-generation Chevy Volt, courtesy of Idaho National Labs that lead advanced vehicle testing activity for light duty vehicles on behalf of the US Department of Energy. The data was collected and analysed from on-road usage encompassing 158,468,000 miles (255,029,525kms) total vehicle by 21,600 vehicles.
The cars included three battery-electric vehicles as well: the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, and Nissan Leaf. The five other cars were the Chevrolet Volt, Energi plug-in hybrid versions of the Ford C-Max and Fusion, Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid. The Labs data, presented at the recent Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, showed that the electric miles traveled by those five were roughly proportional to their electric range.
The plug-in Prius, with only 11 miles (18kms) of electric range, averaged 207 (333kms) electric miles out of 1261 total monthly miles. The Volt, on the other hand, averaged 759 electric miles (1221.5) out of 1020 each month, roughly in line with Chevrolet’s own data from the tracking of Volt travel it does through the Onstar system. Volts for the 2011 and 2012 model years were rated at 35 miles of range (53kms), rising to 38 miles (61kms) for the 2013 and 2014 model years. Interestingly, the Volt’s average of 759 monthly electric miles was close to the totals of the three all-electric models: 808 for the Leaf, 807 for the Fit EV, and 796 for the Focus Electric.
The pair of Fords and the plug-in hybrid Honda came in the middle: 339 electric miles of 1033 for the C-Max Energi (now rated at 20 miles of electric range), 361 of 1,033 for the Fusion Energi (also 20 miles), and 278 of 1,249 for the Accord Plug-In Hybrid (13 miles). These results match what might be expected: The more electric range you have, the more electric miles you can drive. But they do point out that the 11-mile plug-in version of the Prius hybrid is by far the least electric of all the cars with both battery power and engines, closely followed by the 13-mile Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, whilst the Volt is by far the most electric. Ford and General Motors both provided data on the electric miles driven but Toyota refused, which is not surprising in view of the results for the Prius hybrid.
When you first started riding a bike they used to say that the ideal seat height is when you can sit on it and put your toe on the road. Not so today, say the serious bikers, who reckon that you’re actually supposed to be able to fully extend your leg when the pedal is all the way down, to get full use of your leg muscles, because pedalling with your knees bent means you’re not fully using your muscles. Since the pedal is several inches above the ground and if your seat is at the proper height and you come to a stop and try to put your foot down, you will fall over and give everyone else a good laugh. Which is all well and good if you’re into masochism and after all it’s not really that serious. What is serious is how you look after your expensive two-wheeled wonder, especially when transporting it from place to place.
Sometimes the best bike trips require you to go far and away from the city for the ideal ride. Whether single day trips or weeklong bicycle marathons, you can’t always squeeze your flying machine into the backseat. Sometimes you need a heavy-duty helper to take your bikes to your launch site. And this where the new Dual Trekker from Rhino-Rack comes in. Apparently it’s an extremely sturdy hitch bike carrier that safely and securely mounts to your vehicle using with two simple ratcheting arms that secure the bike’s front and back wheel, preventing movement and rattling during transit.
With the ability to carry two bikes at once, the Dual Trekker fits all road and mountain bikes from kid’s bicycles to big-wheeled mountain bikes, weighing up to 20kg per bike. Much like the rest of Rhino-Rack’s range, the Dual Trekker is ultra tough and surprise, surprise, designed to stand up to ‘rigours and tests that any road might throw at it’, and perhaps, even more important, keeping your car, bikes and the rack scratch-free.
Fitting both 2″ and 1-1/4″ receivers, access to the rear of the vehicles is always available, even when your bikes are loaded and the carrier folds up snuggly against the car when not in use, making squeezing into those tight parking bays simple as strapping the bikes in. It even is able to tilt to 90 degrees for compact storage. Featuring a heavy-duty cable lock and a locking hitch pin, Rhino-Rack has ensured that your bikes won’t be going anywhere until you’re ready to jump in the saddle…and not fall off. More details @ www.rhinorack.com.au