• The Rescogs Guide to Winter Biking

    Riding a motorcycle in Winter happens for a variety of reasons. For some of us, the lack of a car or car license makes it a necessity. Scottie went through almost 20 years relying solely on two-wheeled transport, come rain, wind, sleet and snow. For others, it’s still worthwhile to avoid the endless traffic jams and the joys of public transport. But it isn’t all doom and gloom when the days get shorter, especially if you do it right.

    Good Reasons to Ride in Winter:

    • A dry, sunny Winter day is awesome. A dry, sunny Christmas day is even better, as most car drivers (And law enforcement operatives) seem to either be in front of the TV or in the pub. Which means empty roads away from town centres.
    • You’ll still be sharp come Spring, rather than spending the first couple of weeks getting used to being back on a bike.
    • You’ll also build up a good feeling of smug superiority over fair weather riders, and endless tales of Winter riding to bore them with when you speak to them.
    • Winter Hacks: A chance to pick up something different and cheap, and then abuse it.
    • Winter kit: It gets better, and cheaper every year.
    • You might have to be a bit more careful, but you’ll still get there faster without having to worry about traffic jams.

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  • 1938 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide Almost Breaks World Record

    Imagine buying a job lot of motorcycles from Japan, and almost breaking a world record price with one of them. This 1938 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide was sold for £267,696, just below the highest ever £275,000 price. It was part of a recently acquired collection, and former owners include TV presenter and vintage racer Alain de Cadenet.

    1938 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide

    Obviously it’s an attractive bike, but what makes it so valuable? Well, just 78 of the Series A Rapide were made between 1936 and 1939, and around 50 are thought to still survive.

    The 998cc V-twin produced 45bhp at 5,500rpm, with a top speed of 110mph, which made it the fastest production vehicle around when it launched. The engine was built by Vincent by fitting two HRD Meteor cyclinders onto a common crankcase remained the basis for the B, C and D models until 1955.

    This particular bike was the only example photographed with Phil Vincent aboard, appearing in an article in ‘The Motorcycle’ in September 1940. And not only do the frame and engine numbers match, but the gearbox, oil pump and magneto numbers are the same as those on the original Works Order Sheet.

    Having been discovered as a non-runner by classic bike dealership owner Brian Verrall, it was bought and rebuilt by Vincent enthusiast Bill Cakebread before being sold back to Verralls in 1993 and then to a private collector in Japan.

    The sale of the 1938 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide at a recent H&H auction even overshadowed the sale on the same day of a 1934 Brough Superior Black Alpine which raised £131,560

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  • ’17 MERCEDES-BENZ SL65: SUNSHINE SUPERCAR!

    “Dial ‘SL65’ if you want a classic aluminum-bodied two-seat roadster with an abundance of luxo-tech and V12 power,” blogs Dan Scanlan.

    Inside the ‘17 Mercedes-Benz SL65 Roadster’s sleek-but-familiar frame resides a supercar’s worth of power – a handcrafted twin-turbocharged 6-liter V-12 with, delivering 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque at a low 2,300 to 4,300 rpm. And, builder Antonio Donadai’s signature on its carbon fiber engine cover!

    This SL is the seventh in a series of arguably the best known Benzes, born in 1954 as the 300 SL Gullwing coupe. Tests of uber-SLs are rarities, the last one we had an SL550 three years ago with 429 horsepower. It hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and 100-mph in 9.7 seconds, averaging 20 mpg on premium fuel with auto engine shutoff engaged. Now we had the latest SL65 with five different driving programs – Comfort, Sport, Sport +, RACE and Individual.

    Each successive selection makes engine and transmission response a bit quicker and tightens the suspension and via software. SPORT+ mode really firms up the suspension, snaps off firm upshifts and throttle-blipping downshifts with some serious snarl. INDIVIDUAL mode lets the driver mix how they want the steering, drive system and suspension. Then RACE mode slams shifts at full throttle and backs off stability control as it sets suspension on full firm. RACE also likes you to paddle shift, guided by a handy upshift light.

    Set it in Sport+ and we sprinted to 60-mph in 4 seconds flat with wheelspin in the second and third gear shifts, reaching 100 mph in 8.2 seconds. Passing power was abundant, the engine snarling, the wide rear rubber giving just a wiggle of traction squirm. We averaged 10 mpg on premium. Sport, Sport + and RACE also allowed the exhaust to really roar, with an explosive “pop-pop-SNAP!” from the pipes when you backed off.

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  • Lamborghini Sesto Elemento – Super Cool Concept Car!

    Showcasing pictures and videos of the super cool concept car, the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento. Revealed at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, this Lambo is known as the Sixth Element Concept in English, the concept will boast advanced carbon-fibre construction technology which allows for a total curb weight of 999kg. Estimated cost is a cool $3.44 million

    This concept signals Lambo’s intention to withdraw from the Top Speed War which the world’s supercar makers have been embroiled in for some time, and instead focus on something much more doable – power-to-weight.

    As such, this Sesto Elemento gets the Gallardo’s 5.2-litre V10 wrung out to 562bhp, but sits on a carbon-fibre body weighing a paltry 999kgs, meaning rocket-powered performance in a go-kart shell. 0-62mph is sliced in just 2.5 seconds, which, as you’ve guessed, is the same as a friggin’ Veyron. Top speed is ‘over 186mph’.

    But, says Lambo, “what the figures cannot convey is the Sesto Elemento’s razor-sharp handling, voracious turn-in and huge braking power”. An understanding of basic physics will tell you this is right. So, so Right.

    Lamborghini Sesto Elemento Videos
    Here’s some cool videos of the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento at the Paris 2010 Motor Show

    Lamborghini Sesto Elemento Engine
    5.2-litre V10 engine from the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera which sports 419kW with permanent all-wheel-drive. Because of the overall weight of under one tonne, the 0-100km/h time amounts to 2.5 seconds where the top speed is 300km/h.

    The Sesto element Concept from Lamborghini is meant to represent the sixth element in the periodic table and that is occupied by the element carbon. The total weight of the concept is 999 kg which translates into a healthy 2,202 lb. This weight is inclusive of the engine unit which is a V10 and also the all wheel drive transmission. The V10 delivers 570 hp and accelerates the car from 0 to 100 kmph in just 2.5 seconds which is the same for the Gallardo Superleggera. The top speed of the concept is well over 300 kmph or 200 mph.

    The car is supposed to have perfect aerodynamics as per the cars maker. The ribs up front, two of them which helps to improve the stiffness of the component as well as in guiding the cool air directly to the radiator which is located behind them and to the brakes as well. Right beneath the front windscreen there are two red color triangular shaped openings. It is through these openings that the cool air is flowing.

    For the rims it is made up of complete carbon fiber and incorporates a five spoke design. The interior of the car is also done up to a very minimal standard. Ergonomics has been attended to in the design of the steering wheel which can be adjusted both for height and reach. The pedals also can be adjusted longitudinally. There are just three switches embedded in the central console. These are piezoelectric ones and are to start the engine, throw the car into reveres gear and the third to switch on the lights.

    The president and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, Stephan Winkelmann had this to say of the Sesto Elemento: “The Lamborghini Sesto Elemento shows how the future of the super sports car can look – extreme lightweight engineering, combined with extreme performance results in extreme driving fun. We put all of our technological competence into one stunning form to create the Sesto Elemento.

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  • BMW’s F1 ‘rocket fuel’ and aromatic hydrocarbons

    The story of BMW’s turbo ‘rocket fuel’ has long since passed into Formula 1 legend, but there’s a longer and deeper story here, involving the German war effort, some organic chemistry, and the history of oil refining techniques. But let’s begin with the legend, and the breakthrough which enabled the Brabham-BMW of Nelson Piquet to win the 1983 Drivers’ Championship:

    [BMW motorsport technical director, Paul] Rosche telephoned a contact at chemicals giant BASF and asked if a different fuel formulation might do the trick. After a little research, a fuel mix was unearthed that had been developed for Luftwaffe fighters during World War II, when Germany had been short of lead. Rosche asked for a 200-litre drum of the fuel for testing and, when it arrived, he took it straight to the dyno.

    “Suddenly the detonation was gone. We could increase the boost pressure, and the power, without problems. The maximum boost pressure we saw on the dyno was 5.6 bar absolute, at which the engine was developing more than 1400 horsepower. It was maybe 1420 or 1450 horsepower, we really don’t know because we couldn’t measure it — our dyno only went up to 1400.” (‘Generating the Power’, MotorsportMagazine, January 2001, p37).

    An aromatic hydrocarbon called toluene is commonly held to have been the magic compound in this fuel brew, but erstwhile Brabham chief mechanic Charlie Whiting goes further:

    “There were some interesting ingredients in it, and toluene has been mentioned. But it would have had far more exciting things in it, I think, than toluene. I suspect – well, I know – that it was something the BMW engineers had dug out of the cupboard from the Second World War. Almost literally rocket fuel,” (‘Poacher Turned Gamekeeper’, MotorsportMagazine, December 2013, p74).

    Before we delve into the chemistry of fuels, let’s establish some context here. The current F1 turbo engine regulations require detonation-resistant fuels with a high calorific value per unit mass. Detonation resistance enables one to increase the compression ratio, and thereby increase the work done on each piston-stroke, while the limits on total fuel mass and fuel mass-flow rate require fuel with a high energy content per unit mass.

    In contrast, in the 1980s the regulations required detonation-resistant fuels with a high calorific value per unit volume. From 1984, the amount of fuel permitted was limited, but the limitation was defined in terms of fuel volume rather than mass, hence fuel with a high mass-density became advantageous. By this time, the teams had already followed BMW’s lead and settled upon fuels with a high proportion of aromatic hydrocarbons.

    To understand the significance of this, we need to start with the fact that there are four types of hydrocarbon:

    (i) Paraffins (sometimes called alkanes)
    (ii) Naphthenes (sometimes called cycloalkanes)
    (iii) Aromatics (sometimes called arenes)
    (iv) Olefins (sometimes called alkenes)

    Methane, ethane and propane. Each larger disk represents a carbon atom; each white disk represents a hydrogen atom; and each black disk represents a covalent bond.

    Each hydrocarbon molecule contains hydrogen and carbon atoms, bound together by covalent bonds. The hydrocarbon types differ from each other by the number of bonds between adjacent atoms, and by the overall topology by which the atoms are connected together. So let’s briefly digress to consider the nature of covalent bonding.

    The electrons in an atom are stacked in so-called ‘shells’, each of which can contain a maximum number of members. The first shell can contain only two electrons, while the second can contain eight. If the outermost electron shell possessed by an atom is incomplete, then the atom will be disposed to interact or bond with other atoms.

    A neutral hydrogen atom has one electron, so its one and only shell needs one further electron to complete it. A neutral carbon atom has six electrons, two of which fill the lowermost shell, leaving only four in the next shell. Hence, another four electrons are required to complete the second shell of the carbon atom.

    In covalent bonding, an electron from one atom is shared with an adjacent atom, and the adjacent atom reciprocates by sharing one of its electrons. This sharing of electron pairs enables groups of atoms to complete their electron shells, and thereby reside in a more stable configuration. In particular, a carbon atom, lacking four electrons in its outermost shell, has a propensity to covalently bind with four other neighbours, while a hydrogen atom has a propensity to bind with just one neighbour. By this means, chains of hydrocarbons are built.

    Methane, for example, (see diagram above) consists of a single carbon atom, bound to four hydrogen atoms. The four shared electrons from the hydrogen atoms complete the outermost shell around the carbon atom, and each hydrogen atom has its one and only shell completed by virtue of sharing one of the carbon atom’s electrons.

    If there is a single covalent bond between each pair of carbon atoms, then the hydrocarbon is said to be saturated. In contrast, if there are more than one covalent bond between a pair carbon atoms, the molecule is said to be unsaturated.

    Saturated ethane in a state of unconcealed glee compared to the glum unsaturated ethylene, and the vexatious triple-bonded acetylene, (this and the above taken image from ‘BP – Our Industry’, 1958, p69).

    Now, to return to our classification scheme, paraffins are non-cyclic saturated chains, (there is a sub-type called iso-paraffins in which the chain contains branching points); naphthenes are cyclic saturated chains; aromatics are cyclic (semi-)unsaturated chains; and olefins are non-cyclic unsaturated chains, (with a sub-type of iso-olefins in which the chains have branching points).

    Aromatic compounds possess a higher carbon-to-hydrogen ratio than paraffinic compounds, and because the carbon atom is of greater mass than a hydrogen atom, this entails that aromatic compounds permit a greater mass density. This characteristic was perfect for the turbo engine regulations in the 1980s, and toluene was the most popular aromatic hydrocarbon which combined detonation-resistance and high mass density.

    To put toluene into context, we need to begin with the best-known aromatic hydrocarbon, benzene. This is a hexagonal ring of six carbon atoms, each one of which is bound to a single hydrogen atom. Toluene is a variant of this configuration in which one of those hydrogen atoms is replaced by a methyl group. The latter is one of the primary building blocks of hydrocarbon chemistry, a single carbon atom bound to three hydrogen atoms. The carbon atom in a methyl group naturally binds to another carbon atom, in this case one of the carbon atoms in the hexagonal ring. Hence toluene is also called methyl-benzene.

    Closely related to toluene is xylene, another variant of benzene, but one in which two of the hydrogen atoms are replaced by methyl groups. (Hence xylene is also called dimethyl-benzene). If the two methyl groups are bound to adjacent carbon atoms in the ring, the compound is dubbed o-xylene; if the docking sites of the two methyl groups are separated from each other by two steps, then the result is dubbed m-xylene; and if the docking sites are on opposite sides of the ring, the compound is called p-xylene.

    Most teams seem to have settled on the use of toluene and xylene. By mid-season 1987, for example, Honda “reached an 84% level of toluene,” (Ian Bamsey, McLaren Honda Turbo – A Technical Appraisal, p32).

    With respect to the Cosworth turbo used by Benetton in 1987, Pat Symonds recalls that “the problem was the engine had been developed around BP fuel, and we had a Mobil contract. Fuels then weren’t petrol, they were a chemical mix of benzene, toluene and xylene. We kept detonating pistons, and it wasn’t until mid-season that we got it right,” (Lunch with Pat Symonds, MotorsportMagazine, September 2012). In fact, Pat attests that the Cosworth fuel was an equal mix of benzene, toluene and xylene, (private communication).

    At Ferrari, AGIP later recalled that their toluene and xylene based fuel reached density values of up to 0.85, in some contrast with the paraffinic fuels of the subsequent normally-aspirated era, with density values of 0.71 or 0.73. “Given the ignition delays of heavy products, we had to add more volatile components that would facilitate that ignition,” (Luciano Nicastro, Head of R&D at AGIP Petroli, ‘Ferrari Formula 1 Annual 1990’, Enrico Benzing, p185).

    Renault, in contrast, claim to have used mesitylene, as Elf’s Jean-Claude Fayard explains:

    “We found a new family of hydrocarbons which…contained a strong proportion of mesitylene [trimethyl-benzene] and they had a boiling point of 150C, but with a combustion capability even higher than that of toluene,” (Alpine and Renault, Roy Smith, p142).

    Mesitylene is a variant of benzene in which three methyl groups are docked at equal intervals around the hexagonal carbon ring, (naturally, mesitylene is also called trimethyl-benzene).

    Now, the fact that Paul Rosche grabbed a barrel of aviation fuel used by the Luftwaffe is significant because German WWII aviation fuel differed substantially from that used by the allies. Faced with limited access to crude oil, and a poorly developed refining industry, the Germans developed war-time aviation fuels with a high aromatic content.

    Courtesy of the alkylation process, the original version of which was developed by BP in 1936, the allies could synthesise iso-octane from a reaction involving shorter-chain paraffins, such as iso-butane, and olefins such as butene or iso-butene. By definition, iso-octane has an octane rating of 100, defining the standard for detonation-resistance. Using 100-octane fuel synthesised by the alkylation process, the British were able to defeat the Luftwaffe in the 1940 Battle of Britain.

    In contrast, German aviation fuel was largely obtained from coal by applying hydrogenation processes. With limited capacity to produce paraffinic components, the initial B-4 grade of aviation fuel used by the Germans had an octane range of only 87-89, a level which itself was only obtained with the addition of the anti-detonation agent, Lead Tetra-Ethyl. A superior C-3 specification of aviation fuel was subsequently produced, with an octane rating of 95-97, but only by substantially increasing the proportion of aromatic hydrocarbons:

    “The B-4 grade…contained normally 10 to 15 percent volume aromatics, 45 percent volume naphthenes, and the remainder paraffins…The C-3 grade was a mixture of 10 to 15 percent volume of synthetic isoparaffins (alkylates and isooctanes)…[and] not more than 45 percent volume aromatics,” (US Navy, Technical Report No. 145-45. Manufacture of Aviation Gasoline in Germany, Composition and Specifications).

    The Germans, however, also included some interesting additives:

    “The Bf 109E-8’s DB601N engine used the GM-1 nitrous oxide injection system…Injected into the supercharger inlet, the gas provided additional oxygen for combustion at high altitude and acted as an anti-detonant, cooling the air-fuel mixture,” (‘The Decisive Duel: Spitfire vs 109’, David Isby).

    “Additional power came from water-methanol and nitrous-oxide injection,” (‘To Command the Sky: The Battle for Air Superiority over Germany, 1942-44‘, Stephen L.McFarland and Wesley Phillips, p58).

    At which point, one might recall Charlie Whiting’s suggestion that the 1983 BMW fuel brew “had far more exciting things in it” than toluene. This, despite regulations which explicitly stated that fuel should be 97% hydrocarbons, and should not contain “alcohols, nitrocompounds or other power boosting additives.” Still, there’s breaking the rules, and then there’s getting caught breaking the rules. Perhaps BMW were a little naughty in 1983, before settling down with an 80% toluene brew.

    The current turbo regulations, however, require a much lower aromatic content, stipulating the following maxima:

    Aromatics wt% 40
    Olefins wt% 17
    Total di-olefins wt% 1.0
    Total styrene and alkyl derivatives wt% 1.0

    Which entails, in a curious twist, that the current maximum aromatic content almost matches that of the C-3 aviation fuel developed in war-time Germany…

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