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The ‘Patriot’: a once and future dream

LE MANS, France -- Today when we hear the name "Patriot" used in the context of the automotive world we think of the newly released Chrysler Jeep product. But in the early to mid 1990s it was a Chrysler race car that was designed to go Le Mans and compete for the prestige that comes with winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Patriot was not only a car that was designed to go Le Mans but it was also a hybrid design that unfortunately never saw the track in anger. The brain-child of Francois J. Castaing, who had been brought to Chrysler from Renault to change the way the company thought about car design. He was more successful on that tact than getting the Patriot off the ground -- or should we sat to the race track. Castaing, who became the vice-president of vehicle engineering at Chrysler and was the brainchild behind the successful Chrysler LH series of cars  (Intrepid, Concorde, Vision, LHS, New Yorker)  was well ahead of his time with the Patriot. Built on a standard race chassis of the day from the now defunct Raynard chassis builder for the then World Sports Car (WSC) class. But the chassis was about all that was even close to standard as the car was suppose to have  a have a "generation station" built into it that would use a natural gas turbine to drive a pair of alternators to which would power a 525 V AC induction motor. While today battery technology is one of the limiting factors (or at the very least bottlenecks) in a truly successful electric vehicle, in the mid 1990s there was not way to store this energy efficiently. So Chrysler engineers turned to the flywheel. The team at Auburn Hills looked to the flywheel to provide the "oomph" needed to drive the car out of the corners with short bursts of acceleration. This flywheel system was designed to turn at 58,000 rpm in a vacuum housing made of carbon fiber. However, in dyno testing of the system two full-tilt implosions of the flywheel put a halt to development of the project. Engineers did not think that they could easily protect the driver in the event of an flywheel failure and that was the end of this dream. The Patriot never did run with full drive-train and while there are photos of the car on the track these were made by towing the car on the track and then retouching these photos to remove the tow rope. Castain is quoted as saying,"We've learned a lot about hybrid technology and that we are stopping doesn't mean we failed." A very complete view of the project with pictures and more details is found here.
     

And they are off! The start of the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Le Mans, France - With the rain holding off for the start of the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the fabled Circuit de la Sarthe. Three French Air Force Mirage 2000 jet fighters fly over the starting grid trailing the traditional Blue, White, and Red smoke, to signal the cars to proceed on their out lap. When they come around again, they will be travelling at full tilt, as the cross the start/finish line. We will not find out who wins for 24 Hours, the teams will cover more distance than the entire Formula 1 season covers, and will race in any weather condition that Mother Nature will throw at them. After the first 2 hours the cars have seemingly settled into a rhythm. Currently the Audi R18s are running one, two. While the pair of Toyota TS030s are running in position three and four, closely followed by the Audi R18 Ultras in five, and six.

Toyota breaks through, but Audi makes its point

LE MANS, France -- Audi proved to all that it is ready for the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans taking the top two qualifying times, but the Toyota team sent a message to the teutonic knights of Ingolstadt that they best not be expecting an easy time of it Saturday and Sunday pushing into third place on the qualifying ladder. As it has done nearly all week the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron took top honors with Marcel Fassler turning in a 3:23.787 time, the fastest of the weekend. The No. 3 R18 Ultra was second fastest with Loic Duvalat the wheel. He was just under .3 of a second slower. The No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron was fourth as Tom Kristensen made a valiant effort to get back into one of the top three on the last stint of the night. Anthony Davidson, the Brit refugee from the Peugeot laid down the fastest qualifying lap of the weekend for the Toyota 030 Hybrid team. Davidson toured the course about a second slower than Fassler but the message was received by the Audi Team. Davidson also had the fastest time in the S2  segment of the track, proving once again that the Toyotas have a goodly amount of straightaway speed, as noted by Audi driver Allan McNish after Sunday's pre-race test. The Toyota team has continued to improve its lot in life at Le Mans and while no one can now the future, one thing for sure is that Toyota Team will not be a pushover. LM P2 was top qualifying was owned by the Oreca O3 Nissan as Jan Charouz did the honors.He turned a 3:38.181 lap for top time of the evening. The Delta Wing car was a tad over four seconds slower than the leader in the LM P2 class. In GT PRO the Felbermayr team and its 911 Porsche RSR posted top time for the weekend while the GT AM top time went to the Flying Lizards 911 with Spencer Pumpelly at the wheel. Pumpelly toured the course in a time 3:57.594.
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