Archive for the ‘Rolls-Royce’ Category

cannonball run

Before the transcontinental race in “Cannonball Run,” the starter tells the gathered racers, “You all are certainly the most distinguished group of highway scofflaws and degenerates ever gathered together in one place.”

Ed Bolian prefers the term “fraternity of lunatics.”

Where the 1981 Burt Reynolds classic was a comedic twist on a race inspired by real-life rebellion over the mandated 55-mph speed limits of the 1970s, Bolian set out on a serious mission to beat the record for driving from New York to Los Angeles.

The mark? Alex Roy and David Maher’s cross-country record of 31 hours and 4 minutes, which they set in a modified BMW M5 in 2006.

Bolian, a 28-year-old Atlanta native, had long dreamed of racing from East Coast to West. A decade ago, for a high school assignment, Bolian interviewed Brock Yates, who conceived the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, aka the Cannonball Run.

Yates, who played the previously quoted organizer in the film he wrote himself, won the first Cannonball in the early 1970s with a time of 35 hours and 53 minutes.

“I told him, ‘One day I’d like to beat your record,’ ” Bolian recalled.

It sounds like great outlaw fun — and certainly, Hollywood added its embellishments, like the supremely confident, infidel-cursing sheik with a Rolls Royce and Sammy Davis Jr. in a priest getup — but Bolian said it took considerable research and groundwork.

Beginning in 2009, about the time he started working for Lamborghini Atlanta, Bolian researched cars, routes, moon phases, traffic patterns, equipment, gas mileage and modifications.

He went into preparation mode about 18 months ago and chose a Mercedes CL55 AMG with 115,000 miles for the journey. The Benz’s gas tank was only 23 gallons, so he added two 22-gallon tanks in the trunk, upping his range to about 800 miles. The spare tire had to go in the backseat with his spotter, Dan Huang, a student at Georgia Tech, Bolian’s alma mater.

To foil the police, he installed a switch to kill the rear lights and bought two laser jammers and three radar detectors. He commissioned a radar jammer, but it wasn’t finished in time for the trek. There was also a police scanner, two GPS units and various chargers for smartphones and tablets — not to mention snacks, iced coffee and a bedpan.

By the time he tricked out the Benz, which included a $9,000 tuneup, “it was a real space station of a thing,” he said, describing the lights and screens strewn through the car’s cockpit.

Yet he still wasn’t done.

“The hardest thing, quite honestly, was finding people crazy enough to do it with me,” he said.

Co-driver Dave Black, one of the Atlanta Lamborghini dealership’s customers, didn’t sign on until three days before they left, and “support passenger” Huang didn’t get involved until about 18 hours before the team left Atlanta for Manhattan.

If his difficulty finding a copilot wasn’t an omen, Manhattan would deliver one. While scouting routes out of the city, a GPS unit told Bolian to take a right on red, in the wrong direction down a one-way road. He was quickly pulled over.

Bolian got a warning — and a healthy dose of relief that the officer didn’t question the thick odor of fuel as he stood over the vents pumping fumes from the trunk.

The trio ignored what some might have considered a harbinger and the left the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street, the starting point for Yates’ Cannonball, a few hours later. To be exact, they left October 19 at 9:55 p.m., according to a tracking company whose officials asked not be identified because they were unaware that Bolian would be driving so illegally when he hired them.

They hit a patch of traffic in New York that held them up for 15 minutes but soon had an average speed of about 90 mph. In Pennsylvania, they tapped the first of many scouts, one of Bolian’s acquaintances who drove the speed limit 150 to 200 miles ahead of the CL55 and warned them of any police, construction or other problems.

They blew through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, hitting St. Louis before dawn.

“Everything possible went perfect,” Bolian said, explaining they never got lost and rarely encountered traffic or construction delays.

By the time they hit southern Missouri, near the Oklahoma border, they learned they were “on track to break the existing record if they averaged the speed limit for the rest of the trip,” he said.

Yeah, right. This wasn’t about doing speed limits.

They kept humming west, and as they neared the Texas-New Mexico border, they calculated they might beat the 30-hour mark, a sort of Holy Grail in transcontinental racing that Bolian likened to the 4-minute mile.

Not one to settle, “we decided to break 29,” Bolian said.

The unnamed tracking company says the Benz pulled into the Portofino Hotel and Marina in Redondo Beach, California, at 11:46 p.m. on October 20 after driving 2,803 miles. The total time: 28 hours, 50 minutes and about 30 seconds.

“Most of the time, we weren’t going insanely fast,” Bolian said, not realizing his definition of “insanely” is a little different from most folks’.

When they were moving, which, impressively, was all but 46 minutes of the trip, they were averaging around 100 mph. Their total average was 98 mph, and their top speed was 158 mph, according to an onboard tracking device.

“Apart from a FedEx truck not checking his mirrors before he tried to merge on top of me, we didn’t really have any issues,” Bolian said.

He concedes his endeavor was a dangerous one, especially when you consider Bolian slept only 40 minutes of the trip, and co-driver Black slept an hour. But Bolian went out of his way to make it as safe as possible, choosing a weekend day with clear weather and a full moon — and routes, when possible, with little traffic or construction.

“I had plenty of people at home praying I’d make it safely, and, more importantly, had my wife praying that I wouldn’t have to do it again,” he said, adding he has no children, which was also a factor. “That was one of the spurs to go ahead and get this over with. That’s probably the next adventure.”

Asked if the technological advances since the previous record holders made their run gave him an advantage, Bolian replied, “Absolutely.” Because two teams broke the 32-hour mark in 2006 and 2007, he had a detailed “guide book” on how to do it, where they had to rely on word-of-mouth tales from the 1980s.

“I thank Alex for that. We’re all adding chapters to the same story of American car culture,” Bolian said. Alex Roy did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Bolian had hoped to revisit that high school interview and tell Yates he’d followed through on that promise to break his record, but Yates now suffers from Alzheimer’s.

“I’ll pay him a visit just for the sake of it,” Bolian said, “but I can’t tell him.”

Where the Cannonball scofflaws aimed to make a statement about personal freedom, Bolian said he has the utmost respect for law enforcement. His goal was merely to “add myself and pay tribute to this chapter of automotive history,” he said.

Bolian also hopes that he shattered Roy’s record by such a stark margin that it discourages would-be Cannonballers from attempting to break his record, and it’s not just a matter of his own legacy, he said.

“It really isn’t something we need a whole band of lunatics doing,” he said.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/31/us/new-york-los-angeles-cannonball-speed-record/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

A Skylon in flight with a cutaway of the SABRE engine

 

A small British company with a dream of building a re-usable space plane has won an important endorsement from the European Space Agency (ESA) after completing key tests on its novel engine technology.

Reaction Engines Ltd believes its Sabre engine, which would operate like a jet engine in the atmosphere and a rocket in space, could displace rockets for space access and transform air travel by bringing any destination on Earth to no more than four hours away.

That ambition was given a boost on Wednesday by ESA, which has acted as an independent auditor on the Sabre test programme.

“ESA are satisfied that the tests demonstrate the technology required for the Sabre engine development,” the agency’s head of propulsion engineering Mark Ford told a news conference.

“One of the major obstacles to a re-usable vehicle has been removed,” he said. “The gateway is now open to move beyond the jet age.”

The space plane, dubbed Skylon, only exists on paper. What the company has right now is a remarkable heat exchanger that is able to cool air sucked into the engine at high speed from 1,000 degrees Celsius to minus 150 degrees in one hundredth of a second.

This core piece of technology solves one of the constraints that limit jet engines to a top speed of about 2.5 times the speed of sound, which Reaction Engines believes it could double.

With the Sabre engine in jet mode, the air has to be compressed before being injected into the engine’s combustion chambers. Without pre-cooling, the heat generated by compression would make the air hot enough to melt the engine.

The challenge for the engineers was to find a way to cool the air quickly without frost forming on the heat exchanger, which would clog it up and stop it working.

Using a nest of fine pipes that resemble a large wire coil, the engineers have managed to get round this fatal problem that would normally follow from such rapid cooling of the moisture in atmospheric air.

They are tight-lipped on exactly how they managed to do it.

“We are not going to tell you how this works,” said the company’s chief designer Richard Varvill, who started his career at the military engine division of Rolls-Royce. “It is our most closely guarded secret.”

The company has deliberately avoided filing patents on its heat exchanger technology to avoid details of how it works – particularly the method for preventing the build-up of frost – becoming public.

The Sabre engine could take a plane to five times the speed of sound and an altitude of 25 km, about 20 percent of the speed and altitude needed to reach orbit. For space access, the engines would then switch to rocket mode to do the remaining 80 percent.

Reaction Engines believes Sabre is the only engine of its kind in development and the company now needs to raise about 250 million pounds ($400 million) to fund the next three-year development phase in which it plans to build a small-scale version of the complete engine.

Chief executive Tim Hayter believes the company could have an operational engine ready for sale within 10 years if it can raise the development funding.

The company reckons the engine technology could win a healthy chunk of four key markets together worth $112 billion (69 billion pounds) a year, including space access, hypersonic air travel, and modified jet engines that use the heat exchanger to save fuel.

The fourth market is unrelated to aerospace. Reaction Engines believes the technology could also be used to raise the efficiency of so-called multistage flash desalination plants by 15 percent. These plants, largely in the Middle East, use heat exchangers to distil water by flash heating sea water into steam in multiple stages.

The firm has so far received 90 percent of its funding from private sources, mainly rich individuals including chairman Nigel McNair Scott, the former mining industry executive who also chairs property developer Helical Bar.

Chief executive Tim Hayter told Reuters he would welcome government investment in the company, mainly because of the credibility that would add to the project.

But the focus will be on raising the majority of the 250 million pounds it needs now from a mix of institutional investors, high net worth individuals and possibly potential partners in the aerospace industry.

Sabre produces thrust by burning hydrogen and oxygen, but inside the atmosphere it would take that oxygen from the air, reducing the amount it would have to carry in fuel tanks for rocket mode, cutting weight and allowing Skylon to go into orbit in one stage.

Scramjets on test vehicles like the U.S. Air Force Waverider also use atmospheric air to create thrust but they have to be accelerated to their operating speed by normal jet engines or rockets before they kick in. The Sabre engine can operate from a standing start.

If the developers are successful, Sabre would be the first engine in history to send a vehicle into space without using disposable, multi-stage rockets.

Skylon is years away, but in the meantime the technology is attracting interest from the global aerospace industry and governments because it effectively doubles the technical limits of current jet engines and could cut the cost of space access.

The heat exchanger technology could also be incorporated into a new jet engine design that could cut 5 to 10 percent – or $10 (6.25 pounds)-20 billion – off airline fuel bills.

That would be significant in an industry where incremental efficiency gains of one percent or so, from improvements in wing design for instance, are big news.

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/11/28/uk-science-spaceplane-idUKBRE8AR0R520121128