Father-son time. It’s something that many petrolheads hold dear to their hearts. Of course, every iteration of this across mothers and daughters is possible in a racing context, as we’ve seen some incredible female drivers come out of this country and no pit lane is complete without a rockstar mother with dirty hands.
In this case, the only “traditional” thing about this story is the father-son stereotype. From there onwards, things get a little crazy.
Edward Cotterell, Mad Racing Scientist Extraordinaire, granted us an exclusive interview to learn more about a project that will be watched with great interest by the racing and engineering communities alike.
C&C: “Ed, this looks insane. What are you guys actually building here and what inspired you to do it?”
EC: “Look, the goal was always to build something spectacular. As an engineering enthusiast with a young son who has shown some ability in karting with National podiums under his belt, the thought of building him a proper racecar has been there for a while. He will be a teenager before we know it, which is the most critical time in a young driver’s career.
We spent 4 – 5 months researching different types of open-wheel racecars and looking for inspiration. The likes of the Ferrari F2002 obviously featured prominently, but the technology required to build a Formula 1 car (or even some kind of replica) is obscenely expensive.
We went as far as scale models of the Formula 1 car, but the engineers talked me out of it (thankfully).”
C&C: “Building anything inspired by Formula 1 is already a lofty ambition. As much as you’ve moderated the plan since then, you’re still putting together something very special, aren’t you?”
EC: “Absolutely. After the F1 dream was shelved, I spent a few months following the Indycar series and I really enjoyed it. The Indycars use huge amounts of ground effect, which means a vastly simpler car and much closer racing than in the likes of F1, because dirty air is minimised behind an Indycar.
There is an enormous amount of information online on the new Indycar that was launched in 2018, which will be current for a number of years. Inspired by this, we have designed a car that uses a number of fundamental elements found in the likes of an Indycar, but not restrained by Indycar regulations.”
C&C: “This car is being built for your son. What steps have you taken to essentially turn an Indycar-inspired racecar into something suitable for a kid whose classmates are still getting to grips with the basics of algebra?”
EC: “It goes without saying that safety has been our number 1 concern. This is my son in there, so the stakes don’t get any higher than that.
We are talking about an 11 year old in a car next year that is capable of 250km/h with paddleshift sequential gearbox and hydraulic clutch.
The steering wheel will be a bespoke carbon fibre component with integrated Mychron 5, electronic brake bias and electronic engine settings. The car will have separate brake distribution boxes front and rear. Thanks to a 14 or 16 pin quick release, the paddles and everything else will come off with the wheel.
Despite being built as a ¾ model of a full size car of this nature, the crash structure is full FIA spec and has not been scaled. In other words, there is a full 300mm crash structure in front despite the car being only 4.1m long. The other dimensions are 1.5m wide and 880mm tall.
No corners have been cut on the quality of the build. Over 180 components will be precision CNC manufactured from scratch over the next 6 to 8 months.
In terms of drivetrain, we are still finalizing the exact plan, but a partnership with Suzuki is the most likely outcome at this stage. They are hopefully coming on board as a partner in the project, supplying a GSX 600cc engine producing 140bhp. Based on a dry weight for the car of just 250kg and a race weight of 300kg with driver, that’s over 450bhp/tonne. As a reference point, an Indycar is good for 500bhp/tonne without the overtake button.
It is likely that we will restrict the power initially. The beauty of the build is that he can grow into it. He will fit in the car up to 1.6m tall and we can slowly unrestrict the power.”
C&C: “Take us through the engineering, explained simply for technically-useless people like us who are usually happy if we figure out which way to hold a spanner. What is the car made of and where are you sourcing these 180 components that you speak of?”
EC: “This is a full carbon fibre build top to bottom, other than breakable components like winglets that are a carbon / fibreglass composite to save costs. To give you an idea, carbon fibre costs R1,000 per running meter vs. R150 per running meter for fibreglass.
The expertise we have in South Africa is amazing. With the exception of very few components, either due to safety reasons (fire extinguisher system) or because they are uneconomical to design and manufacture locally (like the intercom system and the quick release for the steering wheel), the rest is produced right here in South Africa.”
C&C: “There must be some incredibly talented people working on this project that you are placing the highest level of trust in. Who is on your team to get this done?”
EC: “Byron Demetriou from 3rd Eye Productions is in charge of the look, feel and touch of the car, making sure the cuts take place correctly. He is also assisting with the production process of the videos, as we will document the entire build on YouTube (subscribe here).
Sanjiv Dullabh designed the car components and produced the CNC working files etc. There are 65 CNC machine components in the suspension and engine mounting design alone, so this has been a mammoth task.
Joe Jacinto owner of AMT Composites has been a great support to this project. Evan Shaw from AMT Composites is a carbon fibre composite craftsman who inspired me to try work with carbon years ago.
Brian Lion-Cachet from AMT has been fundamental as a fabric engineer, dealing with lay-up, direction and strength of components etc. AMT Composites have been a huge help with the cost of the project, coming on board as a partner in addition to a service provider.
Mark Sax, owner of SAX Shocks has come onboard with his team to assist with everything suspension related. To have this team and their experience invaluable.
Garth Bergstrom from Garvero Engineering will be doing all of the CNC components
We’ve approached Rinaldo Casasola from Vari Racing Brakes to produce custom brakes for us that will fit the 14” or 15” wheels (we are still finalising that decision).
We are also thrilled to have Kyle Lawrence on board from K2 Motorsport, my son Caleb’s karting coach. He will be doing much of the welding and the jigs etc. and will also be preparing Caleb for the jump into this car.
I also want to thank Garth Waberski, who has been a wealth of information on the likes of F1 and A1 cars and has been a trusted advisor to the process.
Boating International has also come on board as a sponsor, which assists greatly with getting this dream off the ground. I’m lucky enough to have friends who own businesses and want to support Caleb’s racing, so I am very grateful for the support.”
C&C: “Aside perhaps from the likes of Formula Libre, for which this car is probably way over the top, we can’t really think of a series this car can be raced in. What is then the primary reason for you going to this length?”
EC: “You’re absolutely right – there is no series currently in South Africa for a car like this. We’ve done this for two reasons.
Firstly, my son’s dream is to be a professional racing driver. Anything I can do to support that, I will. It’s an incredible opportunity for him to get to grips with a proper open-wheel racecar. This sport is insanely competitive, with the teenage years as the make-or-break period for an aspiring racing driver.
Perhaps more importantly though, my son has a keen interest in engineering. We are teaching him about everything from tig welding through to carbon fibre concepts from the fabric engineers.
Best of all, we are building this car together. If that isn’t the ultimate father-son experience for a petrolhead, I don’t know what is.”
C&C: “Phenomenal. We absolutely cannot wait to catch up with you as the project develops. In the meantime, Carbs and Coffee fans interested in detailed videos can subscribe to your YouTube channel and follow it there. Thanks for allowing us to break the news of this build to the motorsport community!”