5 Best Sport Versions of Small Cars

Small cars have always been dubbed as superior when it comes to sports cars, thanks to their compactness and lightness which helps them to be speedy and nimble, meaning they can work their way around the track with immeasurable precision and accuracy.

Therefore it’s no surprise that so many car manufacturers create sports versions of their most dynamic and popular small cars, to bring the excitement and thrill of track driving into the mix of every day driving.

We’ve taken a look at 5 of the best sport versions of small cars to show you that you don’t need a big garage space to have a thrilling ride, and you don’t always even need a big wallet to afford one, either!

1. 2014 MINI Cooper Coupe John Cooper Works

A pretty long winded name for such a compact car, the MINI Cooper Coupe John Cooper Works is so small it doesn’t even have a backseat. Though, owners tend not to find this such a problem, as it’s not a car that’s usually chosen for its practicality factors.

According to the website, it ‘looks fast even when standing still, thanks to features including Cross Spoke Challenge allow wheels, black radiator grille and special aerodynamic kit.’

2. Fiat 500 Sport

The Fiat 500 is a car we’re starting to see more and more of on the road, and with the Fiat 500 sport now introduced, we’ll soon be seeing more of it in the fast lane too. The Abarth 500 Custom is a winning blend of style and performance, enhanced with new technology and customisation options.

The satin steel rear exhaust trim adds impact and style to the car, with new colours offering an upgraded customisation experience, so you’ll have no trouble picking yours out from the crowd. You can also enjoy ‘New instrument panel with 7” digital display and TFT technology as standard’ and ‘a multipurpose backlit dual mode colour display that all Abarth enthusiasts will love.’

3. Ford Focus ST

Set to enhance the Ford Focus experience even further, the new Ford Focus ST ‘incorporates a new technology called Electronic Transitional Stability (part of the advanced three-stage ESP programme). By sensing vehicle stability and driver inputs, the system can react and respond to help you maintain precision and control when changing lanes, or overtaking.’ Therefore it’s not only efficient when driving on the track; it’s also efficient and practical enough for every day driving.

4. 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Still my favourite small car (I used to have a MX5 Mark 1), no list of compact sports versions of small cars would be complete without the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and it has a staying power in this category that few of its rivals can match. It may be due to the intense attention to detail that goes into each and every vehicle – ‘Mazda engineers took into account every bolt, wire and upholstery stitch to achieve near-perfect front-to-rear weight distribution and handling that seems to anticipate the driver’s every move.’

5. VW Golf R

Renowned for making cars with an eye-catching design and quality that is hard to beat, the VW Golf R is no exception to the VW Golf’s before it. The levels of luxury just got turned up a notch with this model in particular, as it boasts a leather multi-functioning steering wheel and 18” ‘Cadiz’ alloy wheels.

It also has one of the best engines in terms of efficiency and performance, and you can read more about it on their official website here.

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Optimal control theory and Ferrari’s turbo-electric hybrid

The Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, published an interesting paper in 2014 which appears to shed some light on the deployment of energy-recovery systems in contemporary Formula One.

Entitled Optimal control of Formula One car energy recovery systems, (a free version can be downloaded here), the paper considers the most efficient use of the kinetic motor-generator unit (ERS-K), and the thermal motor-generator unit (ERS-H), to minimise lap-time, given the various regulatory constraints. (Recall that the primary constraints are: 100kg fuel capacity, 100kg/hr maximum fuel flow, 4MJ Energy Store capacity, 2MJ per lap maximum energy flow from ERS-K to the Energy Store, and 4MJ per lap maximum energy flow from the Energy Store to the ERS-K). The paper outlines a mathematical approach to this Optimal Control problem, and concludes with results obtained for the Barcelona track.

In the course of the paper, a number of specific figures are quoted for engine power. For example, the power of the internal combustion (IC) engine under the maximum fuel-flow rate, with the turbo wastegate closed, is quoted as 440kW (590bhp); it is claimed that by having the turbo wastegate open, the power of the IC engine can be boosted by 20kW (~27bhp), but in the process the ERS-H has to use 60kW of power from the Energy Store to power the compressor; and with the wastegate closed, the 20kW reduction in IC power is compensated by the 40kW generated by the ERS-H. (Opening the wastegate boosts IC power because the back-pressure in the exhaust system is reduced).

Running with the wastegate closed is therefore considered to be the most efficient solution for racing conditions. However, the paper also considers qualifying conditions, where the Energy Store can be depleted over the course of a lap without any detrimental consequences:

“In its qualifying configuration the engine is run with the waste gate open for sustained periods of time when maximum engine power is needed. During these periods of time the energy store will be supplying both the MGU-K and the MGU-H, with the latter used to drive the engine boost compressor…In contrast to the racing lap, the waste gate is typically open when the engine is being fully fuelled. On the entry to turns 1, 4, 7 and 10 the waste gate is being closed a little before simultaneously cutting the fuel and the MGU-K.”

Professor of Control Engineering David Limebeer delivered a presentation of the work at a Matlab conference the same year (video here). Another version of the work, Faster, Higher and Greener, featuring Spa rather than Barcelona, was published in the April 2015 edition of the IEEE Control Systems Magazine. In his Matlab presentation, Professor Limebeer also credits Peter Fussey, Mehdi Masouleh, Matteo Massaro, Giacomo Perantoni, Mark Pullin, and Ingrid Salisbury.

After reading their work, I e-mailed Professor Limebeer, and asked if he’d considered collaborating with a Formula One team. I received a slightly odd response. After a further internet search, I found out why. In the November 2014 issue of Vehicle Electronics, David reports “We have done this work with one of the Formula One teams, but we can’t tell you which one.”

Which is totally understandable. University departments have to protect the confidentiality of their work with Formula One teams. Unfortunately, however, the University of Oxford, Department of Engineering Science Newsletter 2013-2014, proudly reveals:

The Ferrari F1 Connection.
Mr Stefano Domenicali, Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal, visited the Department in May 2013 to deliver the annual Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture. During this lecture he announced the evolving research partnership between the University and Ferrari.

DPhil Engineering Science students Chris Lim, Giacomo Perantoni and Ingrid Salisbury are working with Ferrari on novel ways to improve Formula One performance. Chris Lim said: “I’m very excited that I’ll be the first student working with Ferrari in the Department’s Southwell Laboratory, under the supervision of Professor Peter Ireland, the Department’s Professor of Turbomachinery. It’s a privilege to work with a prestigious manufacturer such as Ferrari in an industry like Formula One where the application of thermo-fluids has such a large impact”.

Pictured from left to right are: Chris Lim (postgraduate), Ingrid Salisbury (postgraduate), Mr Stefano Domenicali, Giacomo Perantoni (postgraduate) and Professor David Limebeer (supervisor to Giacomo Perantoni and Ingrid Salisbury).

In light of this, then, the figures quoted in these papers can be interpreted as pertaining to Ferrari’s turbo-electric hybrid. The first paper was submitted for publication in late 2013, and the assumptions used there are the same as those used in the 2015 paper, so it appears that Ferrari development data from no later than 2013 was used throughout.

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Confirmed: Ferrari President to Step down

After 23 years Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has confirmed that he is stepping down from his position.

His future has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks, prompting an impromptu press conference at Monza, where the 67-year-old spoke of his “commitment” for another three years.

Di Montezemolo made the announcement in the form of a press release, published on Wednesday morning.

“This is the end of an era and so I have decided to leave my position as Chairman after almost 23 marvellous and unforgettable years in addition to those spent at Enzo Ferrari’s side in the 1970s,” said di Montezemolo

“My thanks, first and foremost, to the exceptional Ferrari women and men from the factory, the offices, the race tracks and the markets across the world. They were the real architects of the company’s spectacular growth, its many unforgettable victories and its transformation into one of the world’s strongest brands.

“A warm farewell and my thanks also to all of our technical and commercial partners, our dealers across the globe and, most particularly, the clients and collectors whose passion I so wholeheartedly share.

“But my thoughts go also to our fans who have always supported us with great enthusiasm especially through the Scuderia’s most difficult moments. Ferrari is the most wonderful company in the world. It has been a great privilege and honour to have been its leader. I devoted all of my enthusiasm and commitment to it over the years. Together with my family, it was, and continues to be, the most important thing in my life.

“I wish the shareholders, particularly Piero Ferrari who has always been by my side, and everyone in the Company the many more years of success that Ferrari deserves.”

Second to Mr Enzo Ferrari himself, Luca di Montezemolo will leave a legacy behind that will forever be remembered.

Thanks to formula1blog.com

Mid-season team mate comparisons- Marussia, Sauber & Caterham

According to the popular maxim, the first person any Formula One driver wants to beat is his team mate, and never has that been truer than in 2014 where we’ve seen sizzling intra-team battles taking place up and down the grid. But who has done well and who must do better? Read on for the verdict…

Jules Bianchi, 2 pts, 16th, best result 9th (Monaco)
Max Chilton, 0 pts, 21st, best result: 13th (Australia, Bahrain)
Qualifying: 8 -3 Bianchi
Race: 7-1 Bianchi

Both drivers are in just their second season of F1 competition, but there is little contest here, with Ferrari protege Bianchi showing Chilton the way in both qualifying and race. The Frenchman scored the team’s maiden points with a spirited drive in Monte-Carlo, coming from 21st on the grid to finish ninth – points that will likely prove invaluable in the all-important fight for 10th in the constructors’ championship.

He also put in a very credible testing performance for Ferrari, topping the second day of July’s Silverstone session. Chilton may not have his team mate’s ultimate pace, but to his credit he has been seen off the well-regarded Frenchman on a couple of occasions and is largely as consistent as ever – his clumsy lap-one crash with Bianchi in Canada remains the only DNF of his F1 career to date.

Adrian Sutil, 0 pts, 17th, best result 11th (Australia, Hungary)
Esteban Gutierrez, 0 pts, 20th, best result 12th (Australia)
Qualifying: 6 – 4 Gutierrez
Race: 3 – 1, Sutil

On paper one would have expected the far more experienced Sutil to dominate. However, in qualifying at least, it’s Gutierrez who has had the upper hand on his German team mate. Comparing race form is less straightforward, given that Sauber, like Lotus, have only got both cars to the finish on a paltry four occasions, but it’s here that Sutil’s experience has counted, bringing the Swiss squad painfully close to their first points of the year as he came home 11th in Hungary, less than a second behind Jenson Button’s McLaren.

Gutierrez’s best – 12th at the season opener – suggests he needs to raise his game in the second half of the year. Keeping away from Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado – with whom he’s clashed twice in 2014 – might be a good start…

Kamui Kobayashi, 0 pts, 22nd, best result 13th (Malaysia, Monaco)
Marcus Ericsson, 0 pts, 18th, best result 11th (Monaco)
Qualifying: 9 -2 Kobayashi
Race: 4-1 Kobayashi

Perhaps not surprisingly, the experienced Kobayashi – back on the grid after a one-year hiatus – has dominated his rookie team mate. Nevertheless, Ericsson’s 11th place in Monaco – equalling Caterham’s best-ever finish – means he stands four places above his Japanese colleague in the championship table. In truth, Caterham’s poor reliability, mid-season management change and general lack of pace have made it hard for either driver to really establish any kind of momentum, let alone take the fight to perennial rivals Marussia, though in typical style Kobayashi has continued to give it his all.

Ericsson too has pushed hard – often too hard. Every rookie makes mistakes (see Ericsson’s clumsy collision with Massa during qualifying at Monaco) but smashes like the one he had in Hungary will do nothing do boost his confidence or bring him closer to Kobayashi’s level.