Updated: Jun 16, 2021
The above video introduces the Velocity RPB closed cockpit racing car concept, explains the main ideas and concepts around the car's canopy, and gives an overview of the vehicle itself.
Inspired by Grand Prix cars of the 60's, CBD's Chris Beatty wanted to explore what a contemporary vision of these great racers might look like combined with modern-day safety developments.
Chris has been a fan of high-powered single-seater open-wheel racing cars since the late eighties. He wanted to create a design that removed the fashion for heavy reliance on downforce generating wings. Instead, focus on the mechanical grip with a degree of ground effect generated from the underbody.
Current top-tier racing cars had become overly refined, losing what many of us fell in love with race cars for in the first place—that interaction between driver and machine—the perception of taming the beast. Drivers still have to do that these days, but it is less evident outside the cockpit. Everything has become so precise and measured that the visual flair and style has all but lost.
A lot of recent race car concept design and speculation has been around taking the current F1 car (or 2017 spec) and re-styling it by shifting around the dimensions and then sticking a load of plastic aero paraphernalia all over the surface combined with other gimmicks that tick all the "futuristic look" boxes.
To Chris, this is just a development exercise of what already exists and does not provide a significant change in design philosophy. Therefore, the intent was to produce a car that would be a game-changer both visually and how it interacts with the driver and the race track. In addition, it had to look like it could conceivably roll out of a Silverstone garage on a cold spring morning for an initial shakedown test within the next two years. Finally, the aesthetic intent was to design a form that looked elegant from some angles and looks like a weapon from others.
The canopy was an essential element of the design from the start. Chris was present at Brands Hatch in July of 2009 when Henry Surtees sadly perished. At Pocono Raceway in August 2015 he witnessed Justin Wilson's accident on the far side of the circuit during the Indycar race. Chris found both of these events, along with the fatalities of Dan Wheldon and Jules Bianchi, hard to rationalise. Nevertheless, he felt strongly that some form of enhanced head protection was now a must in single-seater racing cars.
The canopy concept had to provide all-around protection, including allowing unhindered emergency medical access after the initial accident. It was also imperative that a driver could escape if the car became inverted in case of fire.
Therefore, Chris set about designing a way of creating a screen and canopy that would be strong enough to deflect large pieces of debris and be removable if needed. The primary release mechanism features a front roll hoop to support the front screen and rear canopy sections. It is mounted into the car's tub by three tapered "roots'. The two side "roots" are held in place by heavy-duty locking pins and handles.
The driver pulls back on the main handle to open the canopy, which rotates everything up and over the front screen—the canopy constructed of three interlocking sections. In an inversion event, an emergency handle would be pulled, releasing the three sections providing room for the driver to wiggle free.
It was then time to release it into the world. In late January 2016 the FIA were meeting to evaluate the HALO. Chris managed to time the social media push out on the same day as this initial meeting. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with the car featuring in several articles and debates. It was one of the main features of an article written by former Indycar driver Alex Lloyd named "Indycar is broken and here's how to fix it" . Will Buxton also featured it in an interview he had conducted with Anthony Davidson the same day. Since then, it has featured in many articles, including Maxim.com, and has done the rounds on all the motorsport forums.
The Velocity concept reached the attention of the higher motorsport echelons, included Indycar and Formula 1. It stimulated debate around what a racing car should be and whether it is time for a fundamental shift in thinking. It also has encouraged many discussions on how motorsport can continually improve cockpit safety for its drivers.
Ultimately, the Velocity concept car led to Chris working with Indycar as a consultant on both their PPG and RedBull Aeroscreen projects and the current IR-18 Dallara Indycar. This relationship continues to this day.