Photos: Karthik Nair
VW, the world’s second largest automaker may not have tasted massive success in India in terms of sales volumes but they have carved out a unique strong brand perception for themselves.
Also when it comes to one make championship racing, VW is the only manufacturer in India to have given us some very potent cars that can go close to international standards through their arm VW Motorsport India (VWMI)in the form of Polo Cup and Vento Cup cars since 2010. This move has not only been an opportunity for racing enthusiasts in the country to have professional racing support but also a great opportunity for the company to put their expertise to the test. VW has used the learning from VWMI to make their cars better, both on road and on track.
In the meanwhile, VW launched their first subcompact sedan, Ameo, last year. And thus, VWMI got to do their magic on it and the Ameo Cup race car that has debuted in the 2017 season for VW’s one-make championship, and the Ameo Cup was born. And guess what?VW claims that the Ameo Cup race car is the most powerful race car from the automaker’s stable and that too developed completely in house by their Indian arm.
We set out to test it at the Kari Motor Speedway in our own city, Coimbatore!
DESIGN AND ERGONOMICS We will all agree to the fact that the Ameo is definitely not the best looking compact sedan in India. But one look at the Ameo Cup car in flesh, and our perception changes completely. We were floored! Personally, I liked the Ameo Cup car over even the Vento Cup car.
In terms of dimensions, the Ameo Cup car is essentially the VW Ameo with some marginal difference. There are some elements that strike our eyes at the first look. The profile for example, the car is lowered and now runs on 17 inch wheels shod with MRF race slicks that fill the wheel arches so well that you could barely spot the shocks.
Next the giant spoiler made of carbon fibre that is mounted at the back of the boot near the number plate holder. The spoiler truly adds character to the car and makes it look aggressive. The spoiler also improves the down force rated at about 50kgs at 120 kmph. Next is of course the sports livery that is similar to what we have seen already on the Vento Cup and Polo Cup cars.
The racing seats with a red harness and roll cage are also visible from the outside. There are also some visible changes like a grill occupying the position of the fog lamps that diverts air to the front disc brakes, the hood-pins to lock the bonnet, sticker marking the position of the rear tow hook, etc,.
Open the door and we are greeted by the sporty interiors. By sporty, we don’t mean all black interior trim, double stitch seat fabric, flat bottom steering wheel, aluminium finish, etc,. The Ameo Cup car is different kind of sporty–’the naked kind’.The interiors are completely stripped except the top half part of the dashboard and the front door pads.
We squeeze into the roll cage to access the OMP racing seats with a 6 point harness that is set upright. There is a key pad in the centre console with a host of functions like the mains, ignition, starter, pit lane limiter, fire extinguisher controls, launch control, windscreen washer, light controls and controls for digital dash.
There is a digital screen behind the alcantara-wrapped racing steering wheel that displays all vital information for lap like lap timer, tachometer, gear position indicator, shift lights, etc,. There are AC ducts that blow air to the windshield only for defogging. And everywhere else we could only see steel bars running the length, breadth, and height of the vehicle.
Getting a right seating position is fairly easy as there is no choice offered except for the rack of the steering wheel (Seating position will be adjusted for the racers though!). There is also an aluminium floor pan to provide the required grip. Seated and all buckled up, the feeling is definitely special, very special!
POWERTRAIN, PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING The new Volkswagen Ameo Cup car is powered by the same 1.8-litre TSI motor that does duty on the company's hot hatch Polo GTI making 192Ps and 250Nm which is a tight fit into the engine bay of the Ameo owing to its marginally smaller dimensions. This engine is already apower horse and the addition of a race exhaust, race tuned turbo and Motec electronics has made this engine a firecracker producing 203 bhp and 320 Nm of torque.The car is completely developed in VW’s Chakan factory by the VWMI’s team.
Not just with the engine tune, VW wanted to make it a little more closer to international racing cars and so they ditched the DSG twin-clutch gearbox for a new 6 speed sequential race gear box from 3MO. The new gear box shifts quicker than the DSG and there is no sequential shift lever but paddle shifters. This is a unique combination that provides a true race car feel and at the same time, is easier to operate. This opens up a lot of possibilities for VWMI as they will be able to train novice drivers.
“The car is unlike anything Indian motorsport has seen from the Volkswagen’s stable. It has more power and amazing handling, yet it is simple enough for budding racers to learn on. The race machine is on par with international standards and the new elements in the car make it possible to take our one-make series to a new high.” Said SirishVissa, Head, Volkswagen Motorsport India (VWMI).
With a ton of upgrades, the Volkswagen Ameo Cup car is more powerful than the Polo and Vento Cup cars and is claimed to be 4.6 seconds quicker than the 2016 Vento Cup car around the MMRT.
VWMI has put in a lot of effort in the weight distribution and handling department. The Ameo Cup car weighs about 1,150 kg. The stock weighs in the 1,044 - 1,184 kg range depending on variant and trim level. Stripping out a lot of trim and non-essential stuff has reduced weight. The position of the engine and the gearbox has been altered a bit to attain lower centre of gravity.
Some of the other components have been repositioned, like for example, the windshield washer reservoir, battery, fire extinguisher tank are moved to the rear, and the gear actuator is positioned in the left foot well; this ensures an equal weight distribution. The spring ratings have also been tweaked to match the shorter wheelbase of the Ameo. Coupled with this, the 17 inch wheels are shod with special multi compound tyres developed specifically for this car by MRF chosen from over 40 combinations.
Switch on the mains and the ignition. Then engage the clutch to press and hold the start button that fires up the engine, and it starts with a deep, raw racing growl. Being a person used to driving manuals on a regular basis, I found it difficult to move the vehicle without stalling it for the first time. With a pat on the throttle before slowly releasing the clutch, I was able to crack it in the second attempt; the car started moving with a loud exhaust note. This takes some time to get accustomed to, but the good thing is that the clutch is used to move the vehicle only from standstill and from there on the actuator takes hold the job.
The car gains speed and we use the paddles to shift to the next gear. The gears shift with a nice ‘clunk’ from the sequential gearbox. The digital display adds to the drama by displaying the gear position in a big bold font, the tachometer above it and the shift lights on top of the display.
Floor the throttle and the car roars past 5500rpm like a jet, pull the ‘+’ on the paddle and there is another ‘clunk’ and the engine throws linear power out to the wheels. Find a corner and slow down by braking first and then downshifting. One wrong move by downshifting before it is appropriate; the intelligent computer gets into damage control mode and doesn’t allow you to downshift saving the gearbox of any wear and tear. So, brake-downshift-accelerate to attack a corner and the Ameo cup car takes on the curve graciously. It takes a couple of laps to get used to the car and then, we never felt that we are in a FWD car.
The steering is very precise and combined with the tyres, it sends a lot of feedback to the driver. The Ameo Cup comes equipped with a Sachs racing clutch while the front suspension comes with McPherson Struts with 2-way adjustable KW dampers. The rear uses a torsional beam axle.The suspension set-up is comparatively softer (in racing car standards) but it never took away the fun or composure of the car!
BRAKING AND SAFETY Better brakes not only provide good control but also enable us to utilize the full potential of the car. The braking duties are handled by the 334 mm ventilated discs up front, 232mm discs at the rear and the package is completed by race ABS. I can’t stop talking about the specially developed MRF rubber which is sticky and provides the right amount of grip in all conditions.The combination is terrific for this car and the braking is very powerful and progressive, allowing us to brake late in all corners.
The Ameo Cup also comes equipped with a limited slip differential. On the safety front, the car comes with an 8-point roll cage and 6-point racing seatbelts, as per the guidelines of the FMSCI.
We were told that the same car is available in a 266bhp tune too which needs 97 Octane fuel. But the inconsistent fuel quality in the country has made the automaker to hold back from using the same. By the way, 203bhp is good enough for novice drivers!
There are two questions that we Indians don’t miss asking about any car: Fuel Economy and price. Well it is a crime to ask the fuel economy of a race car, the cost to build an Ameo cup car takes about 40 lakhs and with the expertise of VWMI, a car easily lasts for about 5 seasons of hard thrashing. All they do is change the oils and filters for every season! That is incredible engineering which can only come from the Germans!
By and large, the Ameo Cup left us mightily impressed.
|Type Turbocharged Inline 4 cylinder|
|Fuel Supply System Direct Injection|
|Displacement 1798 cc|
|Bore and Stroke 82.5 mm x 84.1 mm|
|Maximum Power 205 PS @ 6100 rpm|
|Maximum Torque 320 Nm @ 3200-4600 rpm|
|Exhaust Racing Exhaust|
|Fuel Petrol 97 Octane|
|Fuel Tank 45 litres|
|Traction Front Wheel Drive|
|Gearbox 6 Speed Sequential|
|Differential Limited Slip Differential|
|Clutch Sachs Racing Clutch|
|Gearbox Control Paddle Shift on Steering Wheel with Electro-Magnetic Actuator|
|SUSPENSION AND BRAKES|
|Front Suspension McPherson Strut / 2-Way Adjustable KW Dampers / Modified Kinematics|
|Front Stabiliser 20 mm Diameter / 3 Position Adjustable|
|Rear Suspension Torsional Beam axle / 2-Way Adjustable KW Dampers / Modified Kinematics|
|Brake Racing ABS|
|Front Brakes 334 mm Ventilated Discs with Uprated Calipers|
|Rear Brakes 232 mm Discs with Uprated Calipers|
|Steering System Electric Power Steering with Racing Software|
|Rims 7.5J x 17’’|
|Tires MRF 200/605-R17|
|Weight 1150 Kg|
|Length / Width / Height 3,995 mm / 1,682 mm / 1,483 mm|
|Wheelbase 2,465 mm|
|Track - Front/Rear 1,460 mm / 1,430 mm|
|Comprehensive 8 Point Roll Cage – FMSCI Certified|
|OMP – Seats, 6 Point Racing Seatbelts & Driver Gear|
|On Board Fire Extinguisher – FIA Regulated|
|July 21-23||MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Racing Championship 2017 - Round 3 - MRF 1600 / IJTC / Superstock / LGB1300 / LGB1300 Rookies / VW Ameo Cup in MMRT, Chennai|
|July 21-23||MMSC FMSCI National 4W Drag Championship 2017 – Round 1 – in MMRT, Chennai|
|July 22-23||Dare 2 Drive @ Himalaya (Off Roading) – in Kullu, Manali|
|July 22||British Truck Racing Championship – Donington Park, UK|
|July 21/23||MCE British Superbike Championship – Brands Hatch, UK|
|July 23||FIM Motocross World Championship – Czech Republic|
|July 23||Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Indianapolis, US|
|July 22-23||DTM German Touring Car Championship – Russia|
Tata will soon be launching their stylish Nexon compact SUV that is set to take on the likes of Hyundai's Creta, Maruti's Brezza and Ford's upcoming EcoSport facelift.
The Nexon boasts of some very attractive styling cues, with a coupe-like roofline further adding to its shapely profile. Projector headlamps and a huge grille dominate the front-end, while the sides manifest swollen wheel arches and some creases giving the SUV a strong definition. At the rear, you will see lozenge-shaped tail lamps and a small rear windscreen. We think the Nexon will be a breath of fresh air in a segment that is ever-so-popular among Indian buyers.
The dashboard will immediately remind you of just how far Tata have come in terms of design evolution: a well-built, neatly laid out and shapely dashboard has a 6.5-inch touchscreen system sitting on top of it. Features will include rear AC vents, climate control and a host of other goodies. There is also a drive mode controller that lets you choose between Eco, City and Sport. Once inside the Nexon, you sit pretty high-up with loads of room for tall passengers, despite the sloping silhouette towards the rear.
Engines will include an all-new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel and a turbo-charged version of the 1.2-litre Revotron petrol in the Tiago. Both engines will come with the option of an AMT gearbox, while a 6-speed manual can be expected to sell alongside as well.
The Nexon's variants should span across anything between 8-11 lakh rupees - making it a very aggressively priced sub-four-meter SUV. With Tata currently riding the wave with the Tiago, and the recently introduced Hexa doing respectable numbers, we think the Nexon will add another feather to the cap.
Aston Martin has pulled the wraps off their close-to-production prototype hypercar - the Valkyrie, formerly known in concept form as the AM-RB 001 - a car jointly planned by Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing.
It looks like nothing you've seen before
The Valkyrie makes other hypercars look a bit timid. The large openings between the cockpit and front wheels; a roof scoop integrated in the rear shark-fin-like design element, along with the headlamp clusters and the whole rear have seen change, compared to the concept. Miles Nurnberger - Creative Director for Exterior Design - believes the design isn't complete yet, but 95% is through, with the remaining tweaks left over for improving upon downforce. The badge, they say, is made from chemical-cut aluminium, which is said to be lighter than the usual enamel material.
You're closer to Formula 1
The cockpit is gorgeous, in the most simplest manner possible. You sit on seats that are one with the carbon tub, with your feet up a little higher, like in an F1 car. A four-point harness will come as standard for customers, while a six-point one will come as an option. You will see no additional buttons on the dashboard; nothing too complex; just the steering with mounted controls - again, like in an F1 car, including a small screen. Cameras have been installed into the rear for viewing what's behind you, since a rear window is absent.
A Cosworth-powered, naturally-aspirated engine
Yes, you read it right. No turbo whistles on this one. Just a 6.5-litre V12, mated to a 7-speed paddle-shift transmission manufactured by Ricardo Engineering. The gorgeous carbon-fibre tub you see is from Multimatic - veterans in producing lightweight composite structures. But in the end, we'll have to hand it to the guy behind all of this: Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing's Chief Technical Officer, who plays a massive role in the making of the Valkyrie and the design of its suspension system and gearbox. Aston also hints at a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio, and says it will be a sub-1000kg car. Race brake specialist Alcon and Surface Transforms will be making sure that with all that firepower, stopping power is beyond belief, while a twelve-into-one exhaust system is said to make the Valkyrie a joy to hear.
The project is being lead by a passionate bunch
Aston's boss, Andy Palmer said: "As the project gathers pace its clear the end result will be a truly history-making hypercar that sets incredible new benchmarks for packaging, efficiency and performance and an achievement that elevates Aston Martin to the very highest level."
Matt Hill, Creative Director of interiors said: " It’s been a tremendous challenge to make the interior packaging work. We’ve embraced Red Bull Racing’s Formula One ethos and approached from a different angle than conventional road car design. In this instance, we’ve started from a position where you think something is impossible and work at it until you find a way to make it work. We’ve been fighting for millimeters everywhere, but the battle has been worth it, as it’s been fantastic seeing customers try the interior buck for size. They love the ritual of getting in and how it feels to be sat behind the wheel. They’re also genuinely surprised at how the car just seems to swallow them. You really do have to sit in it to believe there is genuine space for two large adults.”
It's going to be very special indeed
Only 175 cars will be made at Aston's Gaydon production facility, out of which 25 track-only models will be manufactured. However, you'll have until 2019 to take delivery of one - if you're one of those lucky few billionaires, that is...