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"F1 stimulates innovation" says Gordon Murray, and his new concept car proves it

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"F1 stimulates innovation" says Gordon Murray, and his new concept car proves it
Jul 1, 2016, 7:46 AM

Legendary Formula 1 designer Gordon Murray believes the sport continues to stimulate innovation in the automotive industry, but says it is more rel...

Legendary Formula 1 designer Gordon Murray believes the sport continues to stimulate innovation in the automotive industry, but says it is more related to power unit technology than aerodynamics.

Murray, who designed championship winning cars for Brabham and McLaren during his 20-year career working in F1, was speaking at the Shell ‘Make the Future’ event in London.

“Formula 1 stimulates innovation – certainly engine technology and the lubricants and fuels absolutely – and that’s probably the most important sector that follows through to road cars,” Murray told JAonF1.

Mercedes engine

“Things like aerodynamics are completely irrelevant from Formula 1 now because they are all about downforce and not so much about efficiency. It’s efficiency in Formula 1 terms, which is lift over drag, which actually on a road car is not important at all.

“There are definitely areas – like power train, lubricants and fuel technology and transmissions technology [where] we should be able to get a crossover.

“Now of course structures for the first time. This is the first time there has been a structural lead by Formula 1 that’s now available for everybody – the first time in the history of the car.”

Shell Concept Car_Side Angled - 5MB

Murray was describing Shell’s concept car, an ultra energy efficient vehicle, which his company helped to develop. The concept is a working petrol-burning machine that Shell says uses 34 per cent less primary energy over the course of its entire lifecycle versus a typical city car.

The car weighs just 550kg and is based on the T25, a city car produced by Murray’s company, Gordon Murray Design. Shell produced the concept to be a “thought leader” on future city transportation.

It has a top speed of 156km/h, which is restricted to 145km/h, and does 0-62mph in 15.8 seconds. It’s economy figures are 107mpg, based on a car moving at a steady speed of 70kph or 45mph.

Shell Concept Car_Front - 5MB

One of most important innovations used in the car to generate its headline weight and efficiency numbers is called iSTREAM, a development of carbon fibre technology from Murray’s company that has filtered down from F1. Over 130 iSTREAM components were used to produce the concept car’s chassis, which features a recycled carbon fibre frame and 3D printed body panels.

“What we’ve done is take Formula 1 technology and bring it down to something affordable for the everyday motorists,” says Murray. “We’ve watched people step out of Formula 1 accidents from 200mph – that is honeycomb panel technology in the monocoque, that’s what saves those people and that’s where you get the stiffness and the light weight.

“The cycle time to make these panels has gone from five hours to 100 seconds – and that’s iSTREAM, just by nine years of development. And the cost is one thirtieth of Formula 1 technology.

“This [structure] comes from Formula 1 technology – if there was a budget limit in Formula 1 you’d probably find they would all be made like this in the future.”

Shell has built its concept car to generate debate and innovation around future vehicles, and Murray believes this draws a parallel with F1. The 70-year-old Briton designed some of the sport’s most famous cars during his career, including the infamous Brabham BT46B, also known as the 'fan car', and during his reign as McLaren’s technical director the team built the dominant MP4-4 in 1988.

Gordon Murray Bernie Ecclestone

“What [F1] should do, and what it does do, is stimulate the industry because it is at the leading edge,” he says. “Whether its engine technology, lubrication, fuels, materials, aerodynamics – it’s pushing people to think harder about road cars all the time, that’s what Formula 1 does.

“In a way, this is [car] doing exactly the same thing. That’s what gets me excited about it because it gets people thinking.

“You cannot argue with figures. You can do a show car and you can talk about potential energy saving, but when you actually demonstrate this and benchmark it in real life on real roads and prove that you can get this fuel consumption and low emissions with a real vehicle, I find that really exciting.

“If that doesn’t stimulate the OEMSs to try harder, nothing will.”

Shell Concept Car_Dashboard - 5MB

Before he headed off to the Austrian Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took the car for a spin around the Make the Future event, which is also hosting the European leg of the Shell Eco-marathon challenge. The 2007 world champion was reportedly impressed by the concept, according to Shell’s vice president of technology Andrew Hepher.

He said: “We had Raikkonen here driving the car yesterday – he said it was very different, but he did like it.”

What do you make of Murray’s comments? Do you think F1 encourage innovation? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation