Driving Technology and vehicle technology in general has moved on at a pace since its humble beginnings over a century ago. Developments in engine design, fuel injection, forced induction, fuels, suspension, braking and friction materials, new bodywork materials, composites, adhesives, tyres, alloys and alloy wheels, have all helped to produce the truly wonderful machinery that we see on our roads today.
The developments that have been achieved have been driven (pardon the pun) by a variety of factors, safety reasons being one of the prime concerns in recent years, of course companies wanting to sell more cars is a key reason. But throughout the history of the automobile possibly the most significant driving force has been the will to make a car go as fast as it possibly can. This has been either due to a single person with a dream or ambition or possibly a car manufacturer looking for the prestige that comes with making a car that can break a record.
Whatever the reason we now have production road cars
that can reach in excess of 200mph reliably and do it every day without
the driver worrying that the engine will blow up or the brakes will
fail when most needed.
Development of fast cars as mentioned can be down to a single individual for example Colin Chapman of Lotus fame or Ferdinand Porsche of Porsche fame. It could be a full production car manufacturer such as Ford who may want to compete in for instance the Le Mans 24 hour race, remember the Ford GT40 that hammered Ferrari all those years ago? It could also be a small team of talented individuals such as Maclaren or Williams (headed by Frank Williams) of Formula One fame. One of the dominating forces in Formula One is Ferrari who are not only a production sports car manufacturer but also have a team of people trusted to build cars that will compete at the front of the grid in Formula One.
Whether a company is competing in a Le Mans 24 hour race, Britcar or Formula One it will want to make sure that it is at the front and getting a podium finish so that the world can see that it is the leader in vehicle technology. Generally the developments in engines, suspension, braking, safety all get used in the developments in the road cars made by that company.
Ferdinand Porsche started designing record breaking cars way back in the early days for Mercedes and others, and some of that design philosophy found its way into the humble Volkswagen Beetle which was to become a best selling car. Ferdinand Porsche then went on to develop small light sports cars still using the same general design layout and that layout survives today in one of the most respected sports cars ever produced the Porsche 911. Although the design philosophy remains the same the car has moved on in leaps and bounds in terms of suspension, emissions, braking, performance and safety, to the point where we now see a production car able to top 200mph.
Other smaller brands such as Bugatti have also hit the headlines with the development of the smaller production Veyron which is able to hit a monumental 250mph. This is a road car capable of Le Mans and Grand Prix speeds and do it reliably and safely (in the right hands). The development of such a car costs millions of pounds and so although the badge on the car is Bugatti, the money behind the development is from the Volkswagen Audi Group. When a company the size of VAG wants to develop something to be the best, you can be sure that there will be very few contenders that could spend a similar amount of money on what appears to be simply a design exercise, just to see if it could be done. But it doesn't matter who did it really, the truth is that some of the engineering developments and research that went into the Veyron will find their way into production cars now and in the future.