Fleet News

Grand Prix power fuels your fleet

AT last! The answer to why some of your drivers treat cars as if they are on the racetrack. It is simply in the car's genes.

Although your everyday transport may seem a bit mundane, the chances are there is racing blood flowing through its metallic veins. From engines to suspension, oil and tyres to the humble spark plug, the roar of the racetrack is not far from the fleet car's ears.

Admittedly, the closest relationship belongs to the world's supercars, with the most obvious connection being the newly-launched Enzo Ferrari. Not only does it look like a Formula One car, much of the technology inside is based on the same equipment used on the racetrack.

Bridgestone is supplying the tyres for the Enzo Ferrari, with its Potenza RE050 Scuderia rubber, to cement its relationship with the car manufacturer on the track where its tyres have helped Michael Schumacher to a record number of wins.

Michelin is a rival on the track and on the road and a spokesman said: 'Racing is the best laboratory for testing the latest tyre innovations in extreme conditions. To this end Michelin is involved in, amongst others: F1; World Rally Championship; Le Mans 24hrs (cars and bikes); MotoGP; WorldSuperbikes; trials; enduro and the Paris Dakar Rally.

'The most obvious cross-over between competition car tyres and road tyres is the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup. Using technology developed in Touring Car and GT racing, this tyre combines race rubber compounds with road construction to offer a road legal tyre ideally suited to track-day use.'

Although it has only recently returned to supplying Formula 1, Michelin is expecting to see potential developments after about two years.

For many manufacturers, the lure of the racetrack also lies in the halo effect it creates for the rest of the range. For example, Toyota has recently boosted its image with a new Formula One team, a multi-million pound investment.

Other brands on the Formula 1 grid include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Honda and Renault.

A spokesman for Mercedes-Benz, which has worked in an alliance with McLaren since 1995, said: 'We have actually been in motor sport for a century and the halo effect and prestige from that investment filters down to our road cars, particularly as Mercedes-Benz cars are used by Formula 1 officials.

'This is highlighted by cars such as the SLR McLaren. Fuel and material developments can also filter down to road cars, such as the use of synthetic oils. We are also involved in touring cars in Europe. All these interests also allow us to provide hospitality to potential fleet buyers.'

BMW has a team of 200 staff working on engines for the Williams BMW F1 team. Race technology has helped in many areas, including the development of semi-automatic gearbox technology.

A spokesman said: 'You learn a great deal about the system in Formula 1 and can then develop a version for road cars, enhanced by the racing experience.

'Obviously you don't use the specific technology, such as developments to enable more complete burning of fuel in the cylinder to get more power for the Formula 1 car. But you can take the principle and adapt it for use on road cars.

'The engine team is based within the design team at BMW and there is sharing of ideas.'

But it is not just Formula 1 where new technology is developed on the racetrack. For example, MG Rover and Vauxhall find great benefits from their investment in the British Touring Car Championship.

An MG Rover spokesman said: 'When the new generation of cars appear in 2004, there will be developments from the racetrack that have been taken and used to enhance the development of our road cars.'

And in case your budget does not stretch to a new fleet car in the foreseeable future, there is a way of injecting the racetrack into your engine.

Champion has launched a new range of spark plugs that has redesigned Formula 1 technology for road car use. The plugs are fitted to Powertrain engines on the Rover 74 and 45, along with the MG ZT and ZS.

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