Feature: Lifting the lid on the Pantera RX6

The inaugural TitansRX season is well underway and heads to Lydden Hill this weekend for its first visit to ‚The Home of Rallycross‘.

TitansRX’s first hop across the channel will give British rallycross fans a first chance to see the Pantera RX6 racing car in action, too. The purpose-built car has been specially developed for the series over the course of several months, with a number of prominent rallycross stars playing their part in the car’s gestation.

Cost-cutting has been the major focus for the car, with it delivering near-Supercar performance for a fraction of the running costs of the more traditional top-level rallycross cars.

„There are three key aspects of cost reduction – to make parts strong enough so they wont break and last longer; build an engine with a long lifecycle of 3000km; and to provide on-track spare parts service so that there is no need to stock all parts for each team,“ explained TitansRX founder and CEO Max Pucher.  „Supercars engineering and logistics costs are not sustainable with a minimum a million per car per season, but top class drivers want top spec cars and not a lower class car.“

„Any sport lives and dies with the top class drivers that race. But if the car is so expensive it is not possible to find the sponsors these days to pay for that.“

 

„Building a fast car is physics“

 

Overall the development of the Pantera RX6, from drawing board to race track, has taken a year. Three months were spent on the car’s design, and a further nine months were spent developing and testing prototype vehicles.

„The goal was to build a car at a fraction of the cost that’s equal in performance to the supercar,“ said Timmy Hansen, who has been on driving duty for part of the car’s testing phase. „Of course we can play with a few advantages, but even without the limitations it’s not easy to build a car as fast as a supercar, because they are like rockets.“

„Building a fast car is physics. You have to get all the pieces right, even if you aren’t fighting against the rules,“ he added. „With the Pantera we have the freedom of working outside that but still we have to make the car that fast, and it has to be reliable for everybody.“

The Pantera’s gestation period has been a short but intensive one, and it’s already achieved the aim of performing close to the pace of MJP Racing’s World RX supercar, which has enjoyed four years of constant work and improvements.

 

„There have been some huge steps“

 

At TitansRX’s official test event in Fuglau, Austria, Topi Heikkinen piloted the Supercar for benchmarking and validation purposes (above), and that gave him a unique perspective of just how strong the new car is.

„There have been some huge steps (since the beginning) because the first time I saw it, it was just an idea on paper,“ said Heikkinen, who was one of the first drivers to attach his name to the TitansRX project.“Now it’s really getting real which is amazing.“

„The chassis is the main and biggest difference. The horsepower is a bit less but it’s compensated by the fact the car is 200 kg lighter,“ he added. „Timmy [Hansen] was driving the Pantera and he was able to brake several metres later in some places which is amazing and that’s because the car is so much lighter.“

It’s not just about outright performance though. The Pantera RX6 has also been designed with reliability and ease-of-use in mind, and the ability to adjust the car’s roll-bar from the drivers’ seat makes setup changes a far less arduous process.

„Our focus for the development of the Pantera was to ‚keep it simple‘, as this is the main point for low production and racing costs,“ said Pantera RX6 project leader Georg Haas. „We developed technical solutions with all our experience of the last years of racing to ensure low working efforts for changing parts at the race and to reduce the wear out.“

„The technical concept of the Pantera was designed to not push the limit of the parts to lower the risk of damaging [them], and in compensation we reduced the weight where it was possible, for example with the 100 percent carbon bodykits.“

„It’s easier to work with for everybody“

 

“It’s easier to work with for everybody; easier for the mechanics, It reduces the need for so many mechanics around the car because it’s so easy to repair,” added Heikkinen. “It’s also easy to change the setup, and the roll-bar is a big thing in rallycross because it can change the balance totally from a really hard car to a really soft car.”

Racing drivers are of course very particular about setup, and the Pantera RX6 does allow drivers to have their own unique setup, but with the car being built from the ground up as a spec machine for a series, the development drivers who have perhaps been used to having their own way have had to take a different approach in order to make sure the car appeals to a wide range of drivers,

“I’m used to developing a car for me, but now we’re developing a car for a championship so whatever we find, all the cars will have it,” said Hansen. “If you look at the development I’m only one person. I’m driving the car and it’s my job to guide the engineers, then it’s up to them to work out what they can do about things and how to design new parts.”

„I think it’s quite clear what direction we need to go with the things we’re working on at the moment,” he added, “Everybody will say more or less the same but of course you can’t be too selfish with complaining about the balance or the driving style-related things – it can suit me or not suit me, you have to look at the big picture sometimes.”

“This is where the team effort comes in and I’ve been working for a long time with Peugeot, a big team of great people, I am doing the same job and here there are some very talented engineers working together so we are slowly finding our way there.”

The Pantera is a proper Supercar!

 

That need for a versatile car that can be approached by all manner of drivers is something that Heikkinen feels will make TitansRX one of the closest professional rallycross championships in the world, even when many of the high-profile drivers taking part in the series haven’t got any prior rallycross experience.

“Motorsport is motorsport, sometimes the car is part of it, but in this series Max (Pucher) tried to build something else where the drivers are the key to success,” he said. “It’s interesting how we think about it, but it’s clever, and I think the more we progress the tighter it will be between drivers because it’s all about the hands and on this kind of one-kilometre track the differences can only be like one tenth. There are some really top names and I think they can make good lap times.“

Haas agreed, saying: „In my opinion, to make rallycross racing more interesting to drivers and spectators, everyone has the same chance and technical requirements to win the races. What I like the most is the feedback when the drivers come back after their first outing, which is always the same – ‚The Pantera is a proper Supercar!'“

„In TitansRX, World Rallycross, rally and Formula 1 drivers  are all able to compete in a series that promises amazing races.“

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