There’s a race underway to see who can do the better, faster job of putting Formula One technology on the road, and Daimler AG wants us to know it’s getting close, providing a handful of images showing off a prototype of the new Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar undergoing track testing.
Which track? Could it be the legendary Nurburgring? That’s a reasonable guess considering it isn’t all that far away from the company’s Stuttgart headquarters but, for now, the automaker is only hinting that prototypes are being driven on “closed-off test grounds. However, because of their characteristic F1 sound they are hard to keep from the public.”
The Project One, which actually looks more like a Le Mans prototype than a Formula One racer, has been generating buzz for several years, though we only got a look at a complete mock-up at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year.
Project One is not a direct lift. It’s not an F1 powertrain in a street-legal body, though it does rely on an incredibly compact 1.6-liter turbocharged V-6 engine. The track KERS – or Kinetic Energy Recovery System – is here modified into a plug-in hybrid system using four electric motors, one for each front wheel, another driving the crankshaft and the fourth powering the internal combustion engine’s turbo.
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All told, the powertrain is expected to be able to spin up to a blinding 11,000 RPM and blast out something on the order of 1,020 horsepower – 671 of those ponies coming from the internal combustion side of the package, the rest from the electric motors.
Mercedes hasn’t released projected 0 to 60 times for the Project One, but it has suggested it will top out somewhere around 217 mph.
The drivetrain, according to AMG, also will have the ability to travel about 15 miles in pure electric mode, though this likely isn’t the sort of vehicle that will get an imprimatur from the Sierra Club.
“Plug-in hybrid is going to be the future for AMG,” AMG Chairman Tobias Moers said last year. “We get more performance and more efficiency and what’s wrong with that?”
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Buyers probably should be pleased that the drivetrain won’t be stock F1 considering the short life of a track engine. Revised Formula One rules now require each engine to last at least two races. By comparison, the Project One powertrain is expected to go in for a complete rebuild after 50,000 kilometers, or just over 31,000 miles.
As to what else we’ve now learned about the AMG Project One: To scrub off speed, the new two-seater will opt for carbon ceramic brakes, with wheel-mounted fins helping to keep them cool.
The suspension will go five-link front and after, and there will be two springs per corner, each paired with a single damper. The electronically controlled system will allow for variable ride height, the car hunkering down as low as possible at higher speeds to improve aero.
Visually, the Project One car is a stunner, and will feature gull-wing doors, much like the brand’s first supercar developed in-house, the SLS.
Aerodynamics and lightweighting are critical parts of the project and preliminary reporters indicate the production version should weigh in at less than 2,900 pounds thanks to the extensive use of carbon fiber.
Much of the initial work for the Mercedes-AMG Project One was done virtually, “behind closed doors for several months…in a highly complex, digital development process,” the company said in a statement accompanying these images.
Of course, one can only go so far on a computer. At some point, Project One had to start burning real rubber. Even if the current testing hasn’t gotten to the ‘Ring, we’d be surprised if that isn’t in the plans. Moers has, on more than one occasion, suggested Mercedes-AMG would like the hypercar to win honors as the fastest production car ever to loop the 12.9-mile Nordschliefe. Currently, the record holder is the Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce Jota, which managed a lap in a mere 6:44.97.
Not surprisingly, there’s a long list of anxious buyers. In fact, Mercedes-AMG has already heard from 1,100 hand-raisers – which means plenty of them will be disappointed, as plans call for a production run of just 275 of the hypercars. Each will carry a price tag of just over $2.5 million.
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