AN ATTEMPT TO PEEP INTO THE FUTURE
RACING cars are of so many categories that it is necessary before entering upon a consideration of their future development to define the type of vehicle to which that development will more immediately apply.
Broadly speaking, the racing vehicle designed and constructed either for sport or profit (and this word may embrace many different commercial phases) is one of three things-1, a machine of unlimited power ; 2, an ultra specialised machine of limited capacity ; and, 3, a ” hotted-up ” standard model. To this might be added a class of car which is a racer pure and simple, and which has done much interesting work at Brooklands, but has to be dismissed from the consideration because it belongs to the past.
As to the above, I will frankly say that I see no future whatever for the unlimited powered racer. It may or may not be a good advertisement for its makers, but it is hardly to be pretended that it serves a useful or practical purpose except to demonstrate that something approaching its theoretical maximum speed can be obtained under very exceptional conditions.
The sort of vehicle that can only show its paces in one place in the world is not very long going to engage the attention of serious engineers. May I be pardoned for putting here a view that extreme speed records might well be confined to engines having a definitely limited capacity, as for example, 7 litres, which at all events would bring them into a closer relationship with existing touring cars.
When we turn to the second class, we find a type of vehicle in which very few car constructing firms are now interested since the races in which they formerly engaged have, through lack of entries, largely fallen into disfavour. The reason for this is not far to seek. To build a team of 14 litre vehicles is a very costly proposition, especially having regard to the very minute miscalculations which may cause them to score a hopeless failure instead of a B triumphant success. Nevertheless, it must be conceded that what I may call the Grand Prix type of machine has done much to encourage progress in touring car design, and it has therefore served a very valuable purpose, I doubt very much whether we should have
seen the present movement in favour of the multiplication of cylinders, even in quite cheap cars, attain so great a vogue had it not been that road racing cars proved so conclusively the advantage of that principle. Mark that I say “road racing ” : mere track work would never have called for 12 cylinder motors of 1,500
c.c. capacity. It was only when turns had to be negotiated, gradients climbed, and the conditions demanded a high degree of controllability, that the multi-cylinder motor came into its own.
In these circumstances it is good that at our own Brooklands some of the greatest events are decided upon a course which to a certain degree approximates to the road. 14hen we have the specialised touring car warmed up by various means, and even possibly denominated as a
standard product in the catalogues of its makers. In. the developments of these various types the conditions are somewhat similar to those which exist between the designer of big guns and the producer of armour plate.
Directly an automobile engineer ascertains some method of obtaining unheard of power from his machine, racing authorities devise some system whereby his efforts will be to some extent defeated. They give him a very twisty course to run upon. They insist upon him using a certain kind of fuel, and so forth. It may be that in course of time they will forbid supercharging.
Their restrictions in the matter of fuel, that is to say, insisting upon racing vehicles consuming what is normally known and bought as ” petrol,” is, in my judgment, a very good thing for all concerned. In automobile engineering many unexpected things can happen, but I do not think there is very much probability of engines with a compression ratio of over
10 to 1 being employed for ordinary purposes for many years to come. Such a ratio demands a very specialised and a very expensive form of fuel.
I would not go so far as to say that we ought in racing to get as near as we can to stock car competitions, but it is no great hardship if we have to use stock fuels, stock oils and stock tyres.
Allowing for these factors, what, then, can be done to get higher speeds ? There are many legitimate means which assert themselves. If a race involves turns and corners, obviously something can be done in the direction of improved performance by enhancing the power weight ratio. There are three ways of doing this. One is to enlarge the power and keep the weight the same. Another is to lighten the weight and keep the power the same. The third, and manifestly the most effective, is to enlarge the power and simultaneously lighten the weight.
I am quite certain that the second method has not received anything like the attention it deserves. There are few racing cars to-day in which a certain amount of weight could not be shaved off by intelligent methods.
Can it, for example, be for a moment pretended that an adequate springing system could not be made very much lighter than it is at present. Here the aeroplane designer gives a tip which I am rather surprised to see has not been followed.
Then with regard to the engine, what possibilities present them.selves—one at least is prominent enough ! It is the use of a super discharger, which from every point of view is as logical a development as the employment of a supercharger. The latter is used because, normally, something less than 15 pounds to the square inch is all that is available to drive the gas into the cylinders, but when the greatly expanded gases have to make their exit to the atmosphere they meet with the same 14.7 pounds to the square inch. By some means or other this resistance must be decreased. An immense amount of additional power could be got if it were reduced to, say, 5 pounds, and this could undoubtedly be done by the application of a super exhauster, the function of which would be to create a partial vacuum, thus encouraging the burnt gases to leave the combustion chambers as rapidly as possible. It is conceivable that a supercharger and a super discharger could be united in one component. True, certain problems would be introduced by heat distribu
tion, but no one who looks into this proposal would for a moment claim that such problems were insoluble.
Next there is the further multiplication of cylinders. The object aimed at in this case being the reduction in the weight of reciprocating parts in relation to the cubic capacity, or if you prefer it, to the power developed and to minimise fluctuations in load. Here, of course, the principal objection to be met with is expense. Twelve cylinder motors are not cheap to manufacture, and 24 cylinder motors, which are by no means beyond the scope of practical realisation, are even less so.
Nevertheless, even if we restrict our thoughts to sixes and eights, there are, in the phrase of the politicians, “other avenues ready to be explored.”
Beyond question an addition of power can be obtained by using some cooling medium, which, whilst not having the same specific heat as water, boils at a much higher temperature, and thus increases the working temperature of the engine.
The work that has been done in this direction, particularly in America in connection with aircraft motors, is extremely promising, and indicates the strong probability of further big developments along this line.
In motors capable of very high speeds, and it is clear that that is the type which must come into greater and greater vogue, it might be feasible to economise quite a measurable amount of power by introducing into the crank chamber an atmosphere of helium. This being of very much lower density than air, would considerably reduce the resistance to rotation imposed upon the crankpins, webs, and connecting rods and to the movements of the pistons.
The idea may seem at first blush fantastic, but when one considers the speed of these components, one has no difficulty in perceiving that the atmospheric resistance which they have to overcome is quite substantial.
With regard to transmission, it can reasonably be said that there are no developments which are likely to offer themselves for immediate adoption. Perhaps the most promising, however, is that type of differential which embodies a free wheel principle, and which is therefore capable of reducing the slip of the driving wheels. It is, of course, well known that at high speeds this reaches a formidable percentage. Such a thing would be desirable also from the point of view of saving wear and tear on tyres, which in themselves exercise so profound an influence upon the performance of a racing car.
THE EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX.
THIS year the Automobile Club of Belgium is being entrusted with the organisation of the Grand Prix of Europe. The event is due to take place on the well-known Spa circuit on the 30th July, and will of course be run on the limited fuel consumption basis-14 litres of oil and petrol per 100 kilometres— decided on by the International Sporting Commiss’on for 1929 and 1930. The first entry to be received by the Club is that of a team of three Imperia cars, and this firm is to be heartily congratulated on entering the lists of the real Grand
Prix races. It is to be hoped that some competition will materialise, and probably Peugeot and Bugatti will enter teams.
The Imperia Company has doubtless been encouraged to run by the fact that the club’s sporting commission has decided to present a cup in memory of their colleague Jacque de Liedekerke, which is to go to the first Belgian car to finish in the Grand Prix of Europe.
As well as the European Grand Prix, the Belgian 24-hour Grand Prix for touring cars will be run at Spa as usual, the dates being 5th and 6th July.