Opel Eco-Speedster
With changing regulations coming, perhaps we will be able to add to this area of the site (with genuine race cars) in due course. For now, this car could have connections with those same, new regulations.

Be it to evaluate new technologies, introduce new exterior design ideas, or simply to show off, automobile manufacturers like to build concept cars. After a short while in the limelight of the international auto shows, a few glossy photographs is all that remains of most of them. A precious few find their way into the showrooms, even fewer onto the racetrack. Some of them, however, are put to good use elsewhere. And every once in a while, after countless hours of secret testing at secluded facilities, the guys from R&D get their share of Fame with a world record attempt. You will remember the good PR value Volkswagen got out of its 24 hour distance world record run with the gorgeous W12 at Nardo.

dailysportscar.comNot in the same performance category as the Nardo, but also a beautiful and innovative car, is the Opel Eco-Speedster. Based on the Opel Speedster, which is essentially little more than a revamped Lotus Elise, General Motors' European division built this little coupé for the 2002 Geneva Salon, to introduce a new common-rail direct injection Turbo-Diesel engine. With the Diesel boom still in full swing in Europe, the Eco-Speedster is Opel's contribution to the ongoing "can Diesels be fun?" debate. Its clever aerodynamics (Cd = 0.20) and light weight (around 660 kgs), in conjunction with the efficient engine, give the driver all the fun, without the guilty aftertaste.

dailysportscar.comGeneral consensus among those who laid eyes on the car was that there ought to be a run of road cars, and indeed, race cars. Apart from commercial feasibility, this is prevented by the diminutive size of its engine; powered by a 1.3l "CDTI" engine that feeds its 112bhp to the rear wheels through an electronically controlled "automated" gearbox, the lightweight coupé doesn't really fit into any racing category. It is nevertheless capable of going very fast. To prove this, Opel’s own high-speed testing facility at Dudenhofen, Germany, opened its gates for an FIA-sanctioned world record attempt: over 24 hours, the car would try to break every existing record for its class, that of "special automobiles with turbocharged diesel engines and displacements of 1100 to 1499 ccm".

dailysportscar.comOn the perfectly circular, steeply banked Dudenhofen track, there is no need to lift throughout the whole lap; therefore average speeds almost equal top speeds. The Eco-Speedster covered the first 500k at more than 250 km/h; toward the end of the run, the car settled into an average speed of over 240 km/h. The fastest lap was clocked at 256.269 km/h; top speed for the flying kilometer was 256.739 km/h. All this may not seem too impressive in absolute figures; but remember, this car has a 1300cc engine. To put it into perspective: in 1972, 2.1litres and a turbo were needed to produce 95bhp, and hoist a modified Opel GT up to a top speed of 197.5km/h. Diesel technology has come a long way since then, and most of it was achieved in only the last 15 years.

dailysportscar.comNot to bore you with figures and graphs, the car eventually broke 17 world records over every distance imaginable, and ran faultlessly for 23 hours and 5 minutes before the electrics acted up. It eventually crossed the line on the starter motor. - At the same time, a second car was sampled on public roads by a group of journalists; they got the fuel consumption down to a low of 2.54l per 100k.

So what does all this have to do with sportscars, and with motor racing? - Endurance runs such as this serve to show that modern Diesels fit the endurance racing bill almost perfectly: they are powerful, durable, and fuel-efficient. Turbocharged 5.5l Diesel engines are legal under the 2004 ACO LMP regulations. And if the companies that are said to be working on racing Diesels (namely Audi and Judd) can get a grip on such issues as the gearbox-shattering torque (1000ib/ft?), and the "visible emissions", then the petrol-engined opposition has something to worry about.
Cy Bersdorf



Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.