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Racing into sunrise
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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.




After 5 hours of hard racing, we are under a Safety car after Toyota TS030 No. 8 driven by Anthony Davidson crashes hard.

Le Mans, France – After 5 hours of racing, we are under a full course Saftey Car, after the No. 8 Toyota TS030 driven by Anthony Davidson got tangled up with a slower GTE Ferrari. The Toyota pitched sideways, then went airborne, flipping and landing on its left rear, and crashing into the tire barriers. Anthony extracted himself from the Toyota, and went to work trying to see if the car was still able to get underway. However after several minutes of working on the car, he was forced to abandon the car. Anthony was taken to the track side medical center, and thankfully, was reported would no be taken to the hospital.

Shortly before the No. 8 Toyota accident, Romain Dumas crashed into the tire barrier at the first chicane, stuffing the car hard, and causing signifigant damage to the right front corner. Romain got out of the R18, and forcefully ripped of the broken body panels, and got back into the severly damaged Audi, and limped it back to the pits, with the front right wheel, only held on with what looked like one suspension point. Romain made it to the garage, and was swarmed by a team of Audi mechanics.

Safety Car is scheduled to be out for another 20 minutes or so, while the barrier is repaired from the Toyota accident. Current running order is:

Position 1: Audi R18 e-tron quattro driven by Marcel Fassler
Position 2: Toyota TS030 driven by Kazumi Nakajima
Position 3: Audi R18 e-tron quattro drivne by Dindo Capello
Position 4: Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60-Toyota

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.

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