Recent updates
14 days
News and results
News Flash
Michael & Andrew Cotton
Scrutineering Bay
Kerry Morse
Not that it's any of
my business

John Brooks
Notes from the

Across the Border
Focal Point

Mail  to a friend

Baby You Can Drive
My Car

Family and friends
Your comments
Index Index
Back Back
Top of Page
Rocket Man

Rocket Reducer Number 62         David Soares on Sebring

  After this month’s debut of the Audi R10 at the Mobil 1 Sebring 12 Hours I drove
out to the Florida coast to remember another moon-shot thirty-seven years ago.
In the SaturnV launch control building we were herded into a theater for a history
lesson about how changing the rules can drive technology in new directions.  It
wasn’t a forgone conclusion that we were going to the moon in 1962 when JFK
asked a crowd at Rice stadium, “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this
as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35
years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?”

  Werner Von Braun hadn’t been kidnapped from Peenemunde because of Tom
Corbett: Space Cadet.  The rockets the first astronauts rode into orbit had been
developed during the previous administration with a different payload in mind than
space capsules.  The Atlas and Titan II were invented as instruments of American
foreign policy, a way for General Ripper to rain fire on Moscow without having to
rely on Major Kong’s ability to thread Russia’s air defenses.  John Kennedy’s Rice
speech tweaked the rules package in a way that inspired a generation of

Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa…..
  Motor Racing is always an exercise in high-tech.  Some would say that it takes
better science to make a rules-restricted NASCAR stocker or Daytona Prototype
faster than the other guy than simply being able to engineer a better mouse-trap
like the BMW-LMR vs. Toyota GT-One vs. Mercedes LMR tech-fest of a few years
ago.  Certainly Larry Holt’s Multimatic Motorsports displayed a lot of technical
mastery in tuning up  the relatively low-tech front-engine pushrod V-8 Panoz
Esperante and win GT2 at Sebring this year.  Some of the best technicians in the
business are in Grand Am GT.  But I think that the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has
done something extraordinary and important by encouraging the development of
diesel technology and Dr. Ullrich’s 2006 moon-shot.

  Somebody’s got to get Americans’ magical-thinking heads out of their Hybrid-
Synergy asses.  I know that I’m not the only one who thinks that our infatuation
with gas-electric hybrids is typical of our spendy, easy credit short-term thinking.
These cars save a little bit of gas at great acquisition expense (subsidized in
some states by some of the best legislative social engineers money can buy) in a
way that may not do anything financially for the buyer over the life of the car.
Meanwhile we’re just waiting to pile our landfills with 80,000 mile-old battery
packs ready to leach acid that will stay in the water table for centuries.  At the
same time the populations of China and India are getting wealthier and starting to
demand the mobility Americans claim as their birthright.  The Europeans haven’t
been able to take advantage of real estate and stock speculation and wacky (and
often predatory) lending to buy hybrids that don’t make economic sense.  Neither
have they been able to base an energy policy on the philosophy of “Let’s go kick
their ass and take their gas.”

Water, paper and clay…
  When we ask ourselves, “is racing relevant?” we’ve had a similar set of answers
since Emille Levassor drove his Panhard from Paris to Bordeaux and back.  The
first is that it is  a dog-and-pony show to tout product, although not necessarily the
product being raced.  The second is that it is the indulgence of the wealthy
sportsman who wants an adrenaline rush like the rest of us get from trying to
make the rent and wants to show the rest of us his money.  Both of these
historical threads have always been accompanied by the desire for “equal
competition” and “cost containment” that results in most racing, from Karting-with-
Bernie F-1 through NASCAR, Grand Am, Champ Car, and IRL, to A1 GP being
nothing more than spec racing.

  Every once in a while racing rises to something more relevant, when the powers-
that-be encourage something more.  Racing can be a catalyst for the introduction
or encouragement of new technologies and new ways of thinking.  The ACO has a
longstanding tradition of promoting technology and efficiency through its various
Indices of Performance and Thermal Efficiency.

  And no, I’m not predicting that we’re all going to be driving TDI’s in California next
year.  But just like JFK’s challenge forged ICBM’s into the technology that created
the web of hard- and soft-ware that lets us share the sportscar racing dream that
we until recently had to see in black and white, the ACO’s willingness to look
beyond simple spec racing cannot help but create synergies that force us all to
think outside the box, beyond stinking  Rabbits and 240D’s.

Audi's Arkestra
  People have been making huge power and torque from Rudolf Diesel’s
compression ignition idea for a century.  Certainly Ulrich Baretzky’s team has
created something special with their aluminum V-12 generating 650 hp and 1100
Newton meters of torque, but the engine really isn’t a surprise.  It’s the other
technology partners that make this motor a winner.  The insane power and torque
of a compression ignition racing engine pushed Audi’s partners into developing
the complementary components that made it possible for this monster to be
successfully driven to a Sebring lap-record and to survive  12 hours of heat and

  Putting the V-12’s enormous twist onto pavement required collaboration
between Audi engineers and partners Bosch, Megaline, ZF Sachs, X-trac, and
Michelin to develop electronics, traction control, electro-pneumatic shifting, clutch,
gears, and tires all capable of being controlled out of the slowest corners by its
drivers.  I was in Sebring’s turn 5 during Alan McNish’s fast-lap stint and later
review of my photos revealed the extraordinary way that the Michelin sidewalls
accommodated the Lowland Scot’s right foot through the transitions.  Baretzky’s
brilliant motor wouldn’t mean a thing without the ability to transfer all that power to
the road.  That the R10 was able to do so with such authority speaks of a cost-no-
object will to put a man on the moon.

  Even the fuel used to power Dr. Ullrich’s moon-shot was something special.
Shell’s V-Power diesel fuel represents the world’s first practical mass-refined
Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) fuel featuring virtually no sulfur content and an exceptionally
high cetane efficiency.  Rather than the rattling smoke-screens and stink we
Americans associated with diesels in the Seventies, the R10 whispered down
Sebring’s runways.  But Shell’s flaks weren’t just touting GTL diesel to the hacks,
they also wanted to talk about bio-ethanol, solar, and hydrogen.  The V-Power
schtick was just an opener to talk about technology.

Punky's Dilemma
  Porsche’s RS Spyder run by Roger Penske is as good a marketing hook as
anybody has come up with in many years and was probably responsible for the
infield and North Paddock being packed to the gills with motorhomes full of
sweaty middle aged men.  It also seems to have paid for itself with 50-odd
“customer cars” already paid for – the paddock was chock-full of brand-spanking
new 997 GT3 Cups at a buck-forty a pop, one of their handlers gleefully pointing
out that the “customers” had already written-off five in the first race weekend of the
year (ka-ching).  In case the Seventies connection was lost on anybody, one was
decked-out in nostalgically perfect Gulf blue and orange.  The RS Spyder itself
turned out to be no moon-shot, both cars ignominiously parked out on course in
the latter stages of the race after posting LMP1-grade lap times that surprised a
bunch of people. Good for the series, good for the gate, good for the bottom line in
Zuffenhausen, but a look backward.  Old thinking and built as a marketing
exercise to make a splash on a budget, and certainly nothing as audacious as
showcasing air-cooling by springing an air-sucker flat-12 on an unsuspecting
world.  Liz Halliday and the Fields pere et fils, turned out to be the sentimental
favorite LMP2 winners hanging in there to cross the line a respectable second

Don’t fight it, do it… don’t bite it, chew it…
  In the end the R10 makes about as much sense as perching on top of a Saturn
V to go hit golf balls or trying to summit Everest in hobnail boots.  Audi doesn’t
even have a TDI for Americans to buy, but the mere presence of the car on racing
circuits this year is a challenge to everyone who sees it to start thinking different
about the automobile.

                                                                 David Soares
                                                                  March 2006

R10 Cabriolet
marked car(d)s
sportscarpros Across the Border

Features on or from Guests
Sun Ra
what we did on our holiday
low mama
The Great Pretender
watching the wheels go round
in living color
mission control
well, on the 9th hole