Xtreme Gravity Racing: Soapbox Derby meets Formula 1
By Mike Hanlon
September 30, 2005
October 1 2005 The 2005 Xtreme Gravity Racing Series has been run and won, with yet another quantum leap forward in corporate support, automotive company participation and global recognition for the sport attempting to bring soapbox racing into the 21st century. Nissan proved to be the ultimate winner of the series from the gravity racers of Volvo and Chrysler and it was also clocked at the fastest speed - 52.38 mph – in the second and final race of the 2005 series at Irvine, california. The two vastly different courses saw five different teams on the podium with Nissan Design America (NDA)winning overall courtesy of the best aggregate time at Jack’s Peak and Irvine where it placed second and third respectively. Chrysler won the day at Jack’s Peak and Audi won outright at Irvine. Most impressive of all was the opportunity to see the exquisite design work of the contenders – see the extensive photo gallery of the racing with close-ups of the Xtreme Gravity Machines inside.
A team of designers from NDA's La Jolla studio designed the long and sleek winning machine dubbed the Nissan Flying Torpedo around the principal of aerodynamics. Measuring a slick 4'x4'x9', the Nissan Flying Torpedo is best described as an elevated fuselage with completely covered wheel skirts. After many months of concept work and design renderings, designers built the lightweight racer composed of a custom-built welded trussed frame and body that features an aerodynamic fiberglass shell and wheel covers.
Its exterior was designed in collaboration with Easy Racers, a bike shop in Santa Cruz, California, which provided NDA designers ideas for the most efficient design. The exterior shell, with a distinct smoked-gray polycarbonate window, provides the least amount of frontal area to the vehicle and allows full, wrap-around visibility for the enclosed driver. Coming in at a lean 145 pounds, extra ballast was added to bring the total weight of the vehicle, plus driver, to 320 pounds, which represents the maximum weight allowed for the race. To increase driver safety, the racer is equipped with a complete roll cage and safety harness. In addition, its unique body color is directly taken from the color palette of the Infiniti FX45.
Robert Bauer, design manager, NDA, served as the design lead on the project; Richard Plavetich, technical design manager, NDA, served as the lead engineer; and Charlie Postins, design sculptor, NDA, was the driver. According to the team, Nissan was eager to participate in the event as a means to support the foster kids program and to take advantage of a chance to create something unique.
All of the teams participating in the event were supporting America Works for Kids, a charity organization founded to provide paying jobs for foster kids as well as help to develop their professional skills and introduce them to the field of car design.
Promotor Don MacAllister was pleased with the final result. “We had a record number of teams in the design section and as it turned out, everyone was competitive on at least one of the two courses, so it made for exciting and close racing.”
The two courses proved to be very different. The Jack’s Peak event was held on August 18 and the course was quite winding as well as steep, with three left hand corners, three right hand corners and a very tight hairpin at the end.
Jacks Peak Time 1 Chrysler 34.24 2 Nissan 34.58 3 Volvo 34.78 4 Bentley 35.31 5 Mazda 35.45 6 Volkswagen 37.09 7 General Motors 37.19 8 Audi 38.51 Fastest Speed – Volvo 54.00 mph
Lars Erik Lundin, VP and General Manager of Volvo Cars Monitoring Concept Center (VMCC) said of his team’s top speed win, "The greatness of this event is the team building effort that has happened here." Achieving top speed in a vehicle without an engine is an integration of design and engineering. "Many people took part in the creation of this vehicle and after much brainstorming and interaction, in end, a winning vehicle was created," said Lars Erik Lundin.
"Overall, we loved the event. It was a fun day of racing and seeing the expressions on the faces of the children during the race made the whole effort worthwhile," says Taylor.
Last year's Volvo entry took the grand prize for design. There was no repeat in 2005. "The art design teachers at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena thought we had an excellent design this year," says Lundin. However, Nissan took the design honour. And, in addition to Volvo's top speed award, Audi and Bentley took first place in the Best Innovation category, and Chrysler was awarded Individual Race Champion.
1 Audi 42.46 2 VW 42.59 3 Nissan 42.60 4 Volvo 42.69 5 GM 42.94 6 Chrysler 43.55 7 Mazda 44.13 8 Bentley 45.55 Fastest Speed – Nissan 52.38 mph
Combined Times 1 Nissan 77.18 2 Volvo 77.47 3 Chrysler 77.79 4 Mazda 79.58 5 VW 79.68 6 GM 80.13 7 Bentley 80.86 8 Audi 80.97
The Irvine course was quite different with one right hander, one left hander and then a straightway, so it suited different cars and each course gave a quite different set of results and aggregate times yielded the most consistent car, being the Nissan, by a narrow margin over the Volvo which was looking for back-to-back wins to follow its 2004 triumph.
The ever-optimistic MacAllister intends to run the principal 2006 event at Tuna Canyon Hill in Malibu on July 29, 2006, though plans for the next series are still in the formative stages. MacAllister is looking to find a home for the series with a broadcast network for next year and to significantly increase the number of corporate competitors.
“The most important thing this year was the impetus continued to increase with the design series and the corporate series was successfully launched with six teams purchasing their own Pininfarina corporate racer and package and that began to pay the bills and make the concept work,” he said.
“We had six corporate cars painted in the colours of the company and a lot of the future of XGR will be the growth of the corporate series – the design series will attract the leading edge designs and the corporate series gives big companies an opportunity to compete on the same track on the same day and make a family and teambuilding day of it all. “We’re pitching the corporate series as the next step in team building. As everyone in the team must drive, it’s a fantastic group learning exercise – when you’ve done the ropes courses and mountain climbing team exercises, XGR is the next group bonding experience.
“Next year we’ll have a new corporate race machine which will be designed by Pininfarina’s Marizio Corbi and hopefully we’ll have a lot more teams competing.
“While we’re on that subject, I’d like to thank Greenlight Financial, one of the six corporate race teams who helped make the whole event possible. Vince Pozzuoli of Green Light Loans was one of the key factors which enabled us to progress this year and his belief in the concept has been resolute.
CorporateSeries 1st place Bentley (46.3 seconds). 2nd Place Greenlight Financial (47 secs). 3rd place CarCrazyCentral.com (47.27 secs). 2. FASTEST CAR: Bentley (44.00 mph). 3. BEST PAINT: CarCrazyCentral.com. 4. PEOPLES CHOICE: Greenlight Financial.