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Spain's stunning supercar upstart

2009-01-27 12:20
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer IFR
Model Aspid
Engine 2l, DOHC, supercharged
Power 198kW (297kW) @ 8 600r/min
Torque 225 Nm (326Nm) @ 7 800r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 3.7 sec (2.8)
Top Speed 250km/h (limited)
Fuel Tank 47l
Fuel Consumption 4.8l/100km (5.5ll100km)
Weight 699kg (740kg)
Boot Size 100l

The town of Reus in Spain gave us the architectural genius Gaudi. Now it might produce the best open-wheeled performance car in the world, too.

Spain has a rich tapestry of guitar-playing and cubist-painting artistic heritage. Technical proficiency though? Let’s just say it has better beaches than Japan and Germany.

You’d hardly think the nation which lionises men in tights and poking sharp sticks at cattle is about to usurp most of the automotive world’s established performance players. Think again.

In the town of Reus (nestled in the wine-producing region of Catalonia), Ignacio Fernandez Rodriguez has been holed up in his workshop for nearly five years.

Blending together some rather neat technologies, his company - IFR automotive - has produced a disturbingly resolved performance car, all in the name of searching for lightweight, environmentally friendly, automotive design solutions.

WRC experience

Ignacio may have borrowed the engine from Honda (who else?), but pretty much the rest of the Aspid is his own handiwork.

Having plied his trade at both Prodrive and Mitsubishi’s WRC teams, Ignacio is hardly an automotive design novice – and it shows in most of the Aspid’s detailing.

The styling renders a mutated, contemporary incarnation of the classic open-wheeled, long-nose Lotus 7 proportions. Those scissor doors (which are removable) and off-body mounted vertical light-clusters add to a sense of trepidation – you immediately get the sense this is not a generic, backyard mechanic’s kit-car special.

Four very clever patents…

Ignacio has four technology patents relating to the Aspid. Its chassis looks like a regulation high performance box-section aluminium job.

On closer inspection the extrusions – mostly parallelogram and triangle shaped for strength, filled in with aluminium honeycomb sheets – contain a diagonal inside each.

The net result is an amazingly easy to assemble, redoubtably strong and notably light (the entire chassis weighs 75kg) base for the Aspid.

Double-wishbone suspension at all four corners leave one in no doubt as to the possible handling prowess of the Aspid; especially seeing as it’s an open-wheeled design. The aesthetic appeal of the almond-shaped wishbone blades, called dual lip reinforcement (DLR) in design parlance, is worthy of comparison to Gaudi’s finest Barcelonan architecture.

Beyond the simple industrial design splendour of the DLR wishbones, its design aids aerodynamics - especially important on an open-wheeled car with exposed suspension. With the spars containing strengthening beams (same idea as the chassis) rigidity is increased too.

Best of all is the conversation-killing unsprung weight per corner suspension quote. Just mention it's 21kg and watch your F1 fanatic mates murmur into their drinks that it’s about the same as an F1 car…

The third patent regards the Aspid’s deceleration capabilities. It features twin ventilated discs all-round. Yes, that’s not a typo; twin-discs – sourced from superbike suppliers.

With an incredibly aggressive ventilation design (which looks enviously cool to boot) the advantage of clamping dual discs at each corner are self-evident - discs can be thinner and lighter.

Heat build-up and wear is dissipated across dual surfaces, ensuring better performance and longevity. Dedicated master cylinders front and rear allow brake bias adjustment on the move electronically; without having to mess around manually with a balance bar.

Ignacio’s last patent onboard the Aspid is its electronics system. The IFR team designed an entire wiring loom from scratch; which is hardly a weekend’s work when you consider the level of touchscreen actuated functionality on display.

Tabbing through the dual touch screens, Aspid drivers can adjust nearly everything except the orbiting of the planets.

The sensitivity of the power steering; the Honda engine’s rev limit and valve timing parameters; ABS bias and brake balance; traction and stability control; pitch, roll, yaw, ride height and overall damping characteristics - everything is just a screen touch away.

Owners can even skip between music tracks - try that on a Caterham R500 or Ariel Atom…

Honda performance

Powering the Aspid is one of Honda’s finest (aren’t they all?) engines; the 2-litre, double-overhead cam, four-cylinder "screamer" lifted form the S2000 roadster.

Aspid customers can have it either in a slightly modified, naturally aspirated Sport trim (198kW/225Nm) or attempt to qualify for their local calendar F1 race with a supercharged, dry-sump Supersport version producing 298kW at 8 600r/min and 326Nm at 7 800r/min.

Both engines drive through a six-speed manual gearbox, and with tare mass only 699kg for the Sport - 740kg for the supercharged Supersport - performance is sinful.

Standing acceleration times to 100km/h are 3.7 seconds and 2.8 seconds respectively, though we imagine the latter only being achievable on an Alice in Wonderland perfect surface. The top end is limited to 250km/h all-round.

Deceleration is a road-kill friendly 3.1 seconds dead (no pun intended) if you get on the stoppers at 160km/h.

Those beautiful, Ohlins-supported, aerodynamic double wishbones at each corner suspend half the weight of a contemporary supercar, and sport nearly inflexible levels of torsional rigidity. The claimed cornering loads of 1.6g are not at all unfathomable.

Ignacio Rodriguez plans to sell 45-50 cars a year, and says there are currently ten enquiries a week, despite the cataclysmic global credit markets. The looks might scream Lotus kit-car, but the technology is easily at Porsche and Ferrari levels; some of it effortlessly better…

With an entry price of €82 000 for the Sport and €114 000 for the blown Supersport, you may think Ignacio was drunk when he completed the Excel pricing spreadsheet.

With five firm orders in the bank; it would seem his market is stone sober.


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