Velocity RPB-01. The answer to closed cockpit racing?

UK designer Chris Beatty offers up his bespoke design for closed cockpit single seater racing with the Velocity RPB-01

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Chances are you will have already seen this huge, HUGE accident from last weekend’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship. It’s hard to say what’s more astounding: that Chinese racer ‘Peter’ Li Zhi Cong came away with ‘only’ a broken heel and four fractured vertebrae after barrel-rolling 20ft in the air, or that none of these three young careers were ended with this monster shunt.

Driver safety in front line motorsport has been a hot topic of debate already this year, with Red Bull Racing and Ferrari already showcasing their examples of Formula 1’s HALO system and the debate about closed cockpits for single seaters gaining momentum on an almost weekly basis: for some, it’s a march away from tradition; for others, it’s a natural – and inevitable – stepping stone. That’s certainly the view of UK-based designer Chris Beatty, whose creation – dubbed the Velocity RPB-01 – champions the development of driver safety: back in 2009, he was present at Brand’s Hatch when Henry Surtees lost his life to an errant wheel, and again six years later at Pocono when Justin Wilson suffered fatal injuries from a heavy collision.

“The FIA and Indycar are both making attempts to solve the problem of protecting the driver whilst still being able to get them out in an emergency,” Chris explains. “However, I wanted to take the concept of head protection a bit further and explore how a canopy and forward roll hoop might look and work whilst still allowing access the driver in the case of a medical emergency, or if the car rolled over and the driver needed to get out in a hurry.”

Heavily influenced by what Chris calls the ‘proper racing cars’ of the 1960s and 70s, the Velocity RPB-01 is fashioned around a monocoque built from carbon fibre and kevlar, to which double wishbone suspension is connected both front and rear. If the heavily revised wing at the rear and lack of one altogether at the front is not enough to raise a sceptical eyebrow, then the 1000bhp 3-litre turbocharged V8 beating away behind the driver certainly should: without driver and fuel, the aptly-named Velocity weighs just 750kg and would thus offer – if actually produced in the real world – a power-to-weight ratio of 1333bhp/ton. That’s more than three times higher than the 1341bhp Koenigsegg One:1

Given its catalyst, safety procedures are a crucial part of the Velocity’s design. Anti-roll bars for instance are housed at both the front and rear of the cockpit for maximum protection if/when upended, the cockpit canopy itself detachable from its moorings for easier driver extraction. Full-length side pods surround the driver while wheel tethers ensure Henry Surtees’ accident would not be repeated. In a particularly poignant touch, Chris has even listed Surtees, Wilson, Dan Wheldon, Jules Bianchi, and Maria de Villota on the rear wing planes, each of whom passed away from accident related head trauma.

It’s unlikely the Velocity RPB-01 will ever see the cold harsh light of reality, but that hasn’t stopped Chris taking his creation for a hot lap of Spa-Francorchamps.

Source – Chris Beatty

Categories: Lifestyle


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