Presentation of Petronas GP 1
The Sauber Petronas GP1 three-cylinder, initially smiled at as the Petronas Tower because of its height, has become more graceful ?? and also passed the baptism of fire on the track in a Harris chassis.
The original version of the Sauber Petronas GP1 engine, which was shown for the first time at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka at the beginning of April, grew up out of a solid housing, bulky and straight as an oil rig.
There is now a second, more pleasing variant of the four-stroke project that is supposed to silence the critics for good. The engine block, which originally rose up to around 56 centimeters, shrank by 55 millimeters. The well-known British frame builders Steve and Leister Harris proved that the engine now fits effortlessly into a chassis with the dimensions of conventional half-liter machines. Just in time for the announced premiere at the Grand Prix in Sepang, the home game of the oil company Petronas, Sauber’s Malaysian partner in Formula 1 and in the motorcycle project, the Harris brothers succeeded in presenting a ready-to-drive prototype called the Petronas GP1.
Despite the speed limit to 13,000 rpm for the time being, the Formula 1-like sound, which emerged from the three-in-one exhaust system during the official first roll-out on the day before the start of training and echoed from the huge, covered grandstands, was particularly impressive in the technical relationship to the Ferrari V10 of the Sauber racing team was not surprising.
After a short warm-up, the Scot Niall Mackenzie did two rather slow test laps, but was still able to make profound statements about the machine’s handling. The long-standing half-liter GP driver and four-time British Superbike champion was hired as a test driver because of his immense experience and had already completed two days of preparatory drives on the old Shah Alam circuit. “The idea wasn’t to build the smallest motorcycle. Rather, to get a rolling test stand in motion to further develop the engine, ”explains Mackenzie. »The first trip was a strange feeling because the motorcycle with its 138 kilos is as light as a 500, but has a completely different character from the engine. The engine pulls strongly from 8000 rpm, develops real power from 10500 rpm, and because the speed is currently still limited to 13000 rpm, I am shifting the whole time. During the next four days of testing, when a full 15,000 tours are released, that should change: Then I have a broad power range from 4000 to 5000 revs available, which is clearly superior to any 500 with a power range of around 2000 revs. “
How far the adaptation of automotive technology to the requirements of motorcycle racing has come is also demonstrated by details such as the engine, which is tilted several degrees backwards: In this position, the air inlet of the electronic fuel injection protrudes diagonally upwards into the air flow like the torn beak of a hungry chick the shark’s mouth for the airbox, based on the Honda model, under the fairing bow.
Because there are no exhaust pipes in the way, there was plenty of space under the intake system for generous radiators and room for the engine suspension. Part of the airflow is directed to the straight line behind the cylinders to a single silencer. Together with careful shielding, this ensures that neither the fuel tank nor the driver’s seat become too hot. “Spontaneously, right from the first trial round, I was convinced of the potential of the concept,” explains Niall Mackenzie in unison with the Sauber Petronas engineers who developed the engine in Hinwil near Zurich, where the successful racing team is at home.
“There is no doubt that our three-cylinder engine is the best choice for the GP1 class,” says project manager Osamu Goto with conviction. »It is more powerful than a V2, develops well over 200 hp with conventional valve control and can easily be tickled up to 250 hp with pneumatically operated valves if necessary, but is much more compact than the Japanese four- and five-cylinder. In addition, the finished motorcycle can weigh ten kilograms less, ”he calculates.
Nevertheless, the machine will not be seen at any Grand Prix for the time being. Because although S.auber-Petronas could deliver engines and, if requested, even complete machines when urgently ordering a GP1 team for 2002, there will probably be no motorcycle racing team in the foreseeable future that can use the formula estimated at around ten million dollars per two-man team for one season 1 technology can do. “Our engines will be much more expensive than the usual leasing rates for Japanese half-liter two-stroke engines. Because we have to calculate differently than large motorcycle manufacturers, who can draw on two pots for such projects, a development and a marketing budget, ”explains Goto.
Despite the daunting sums of money, the trend towards the four-stroke engine in the top GP class cannot be stopped. “A four-stroke driver will be champion next year”, Goto is convinced. Then there is only one thing left for the two-stroke teams: to follow suit? or to retrofit with four-stroke engines.
Technical data – Petronas GP 1
Water-cooled three-cylinder in-line four-stroke engine with two overhead camshafts and four mechanically operated valves per cylinder, balance shaft, wet sump lubrication, displacement 989 cm3, power over 200 HP at 15,000 rpm, width approx. 350 mm, height approx. 505 mm, weight 50 kg, Electronic fuel injection and ignition system. ChassisHarris aluminum chassis with Öhlins upside-down fork and Öhlins central spring strut at the rear, ap carbon brakes, Marchesini wheels, adjustable steering head angle 22.5-24.5 degrees, wheelbase 1358-1409 mm, caster 25 – 35 mm. Total weight 138 kg dry. The minimum weight for three-cylinder machines in the GP1-WM is 135 kg.
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