by Ollie Marriage |
And it’s created by no less a firm than three-time World Rally Championship winner Prodrive, which has competition experience covering everything from rallycross to Le Mans and Formula 1. But never anything like this. It’s been built from the ground up around the FIA’s cross country regulations—a slender 16-page document that provides real scope for creativity.
Bodywork that has hints of a Jaguar F-Type to it. That’s because it’s the work of Jag’s ex-head of design Ian Callum. It’s there to give the car a sense of identity, because the long-term aim is to turn BRX into a brand, and expand its scope beyond competition into military applications and, ultimately, production road cars.
Wondering why the hood is as stubby as a Lamborghini’s and the windshield comes so low? What’s important at Dakar is seeing where you’re going when you come up to dune crests or tilt over a mountain—or, as Lapworth puts it, “like a plane, it needs good visibility while it’s in the air.” You regularly see these things several meters in the air, but unlike the rear-drive Trophy Truck-inspired buggies that have dominated the event for much of the last decade, the 4WD machines are limited to just 28cm of wheel travel. A WRC car has more. As a result, they need to be built tough, so the double-wishbone suspension is supported by twin dampers at each corner, and the wheels and the tires are heavy-duty, weighing about 40kg each.
All told, the steel spaceframe off-roader weighs about 1,910kg without driver and co-driver. It’s also relatively simple. No adaptive dampers or electronically controlled torque-vectoring diffs are permitted. The only hydraulics are the built-in jacks, and you’re not even allowed a paddle-shift transmission. In fact, this is the first year you’ve been able to have a turbopetrol engine—up until now, it’s been turbodiesel or nat-asp gasoline.
Prodrive claims not to have made any major breakthroughs, but to have found what it calls a few ‘secondary gains’—a slightly lower center of gravity, a bit less unsprung mass—and when pushed, does say it’s quite happy with the packaging.
The 2021 race starts in Saudi Arabia on January 3. We’re hoping for great things.