The unique Oaktec Honda Insight hybrid rally car that caused a storm when it was considered too fast to compete in its rally championship won a race of a different kind this weekend.
The controversial eco-car took on the world’s leading green car manufacturers, specialist companies and celebrity drivers in the RAC Future Car Challenge, an energy efficiency competition where the competitors are measured on the amount of energy they use to complete a timed course between Brighton and London.
The Oaktec car, developed by an innovation company based in Lancashire, took on all-comers in the hybrid electric vehicle class and recorded an amazing 93.8 mpg on its way to a clear-cut victory.
Green-Car-Guide.com has supported the Oaktec hybrid rally car project since its inception in 2006. Green-Car-Guide’s founder and editor, Paul Clarke, who also took part in the RAC Future Car Challenge, driving the electric BMW ActiveE, said: “I’m delighted that a car that wins rallies can also win an economy competition. It shows that efficiency can mean speed as well as high miles per gallon.”
The Challenge began early on Saturday morning on Brighton seafront and ran a tortuous route into central London, finishing with a parade and display on Regent Street, which was closed for the event. The Future Car Challenge runs back-to-back with the world famous London to Brighton veteran car run and attracted an estimated quarter of a million spectators.
The Oaktec team of development engineers, Paul Andrews and Jeremy Dale, were awarded their trophy at a gala dinner in front of an audience of competitors and celebrities in the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. Yet they nearly didn’t make the start line after a series of pre-event problems with the car’s development battery system. Oaktec believes that if the batteries had been working as normal they would have scored an even better economy result on the event, of over 100 mpg.
The Insight hit the headlines earlier this year when it was asked to step down from the Formula 1000 Stage Rally Championship after dominating the first three rallies of the championship.
Oaktec partner and rally co-driver Bill Meeson explained, “The Insight had proven itself to be so quick in the rallies that we had some doubters as to its genuine low carbon capabilities. We entered this event confident that we could score a good result, but a clear-cut win against such strong competition was tremendously satisfying. Without the problems we should have broken the magic 100 mpg barrier on the event, but these issues are expected when exploring the boundaries of technology.”
Paul Andrews added, “We hope this success will make the industry stand up and take more notice of the capability of small research and development companies such as Oaktec. The key to this is that it is exactly the same energy recovery technology that enables us to win both rallies and fuel economy competitions.
I think there was a danger of us being seen just as a novelty green motorsport team, but we are very serious about development of new relevant technologies that can create jobs and revenue for UK business, and reduce vehicle ownership costs and CO2 emissions.”
Oaktec believes it can develop a vehicle to target 200 mpg for the 2012 RAC Future Car Challenge.