Century Racing CR7 4wd T1+ Emerging

Just over a year after the project was started from a clean sheet, technical details and progress of the building of the CR 7 prototype can now be revealed: although it is a 4wd platform with the engine in the front half of the chassis, it draws massively from the CR 6 technology and know-how. Julien Hardy, chief designer at Century Racing explains: "Since the introduction of the T1+ class, there has been a huge interest in such a product, and despite being 2wd specialists, we have been forced to follow suit and come up with our own interpretation of what such a car should be"

"The aim was clear from the start: keep the look and feel of the CR 6, keep the strong points like the ease of driving and low maintenance, the reliability and of course it has to have the world class performance that has made the CR 6 such a success up until now."

Easier said than done, it has taken a full year and a multitude of engineering concepts to come up with this package. Prior 4wd projects at Century Racing include the CR1 (2008) and the X6 (2012), so there was already some basic knowledge within the team to draw upon.

Although it might look like Century Racing is playing catch-up by being the 7th manufacturer to introduce its T1+, Julien doesn't see it that way: "Most, if not all of the existing cars, are adaptations of the old T1 class and therefore many compromises are necessary to package the bigger tyres, extra width and extra cooling necessary for the turbo engine. We have the advantage of having looked at that process from a distance (and learn about its negative effects) but also have the chance of a no-compromise approach with the clean sheet design. The extra cooling requirements of the turbo engine is also non-negligible ". To that effect the whole front end of the car was designed around the radiator and various coolers, in order to optimize the air flow entering the various ducts and moving right through the car.

Technically speaking, the CR 7 will not share many identical parts with its CR 6 sister car, but a lot of technology is being reused, like its unique 2-element double wishbone rear suspension. The Audi twin turbo V6 remains too and development on the engine response, cooling and reliability is ongoing on the CR 6 test mule used since last year. “Cooling and engine response are key with turbo engines, and this year our focus is on the anti-lag system as we were short on time prior to Dakar to fully develop it. The aim is to have the engine fully sorted in the next few weeks, to be able to hit the ground running with the CR7” explains Donovan Fick, head of engine management and electronics systems. In 2022, understanding the Audi engine before the Dakar start line was by far the biggest task the team was ever faced with, but somehow it all came together in the first stages of the race. “The easy thing to do is fit a regular normally aspirated engine into the T1+, however the FIA rules favour newer technologies and we are able to get more power running a turbo engine. Hence we started developing the new engine last year already and at Dakar 2023 in the CR6-T…”

For Brian Baragwanath, one of the engineers on the project and test driver for Century Racing, it is critical that a customer switching from the CR 6 to this car feels at home immediately: "Although the CR 6 is one of the top rally raid car in the world, it is also extremely easy to handle and is very forgiving. Time and again we have seen new customers posting impressive results from the word go, and my job is to make sure that the CR 7 replicates that. We are already working with our suspension partners at R53 and the dampers are already being developed for this project. They have amazing simulation tools, and we are confident that the base settings will allow us to immediately push the car hard."

Besides losing some wheel travel (440mm vs 350mm, by rule), the CR 7 rear suspension is almost a direct transplant from the CR 6. On the front end, the CR 7 features a very novel and unique suspension arrangement, which took months to package correctly. Brian explains: " We wanted to have a very low center of gravity like the CR 6 which is exceptionally stable, and when we started looking at the architecture of the car, it became clear that the front suspension layout dictated pretty much how high everything else would be in the car: chassis damper mounts, bonnet, windscreen, driver's head and roof. This novel front suspension became the obvious choice, and it will have the other benefit of decreasing the maintenance as well"

Another trait shared between the two cars is the footprint. They are the same length, same width and same wheel base, although the CR 7 has a slightly higher roof. This tried and tested formula should give the team a head start in terms of general set-up when testing will start.

Century Racing has never been scared to go their own way on the technical front and some novelties are also found in the transmission system but this will be kept under cover for as long as possible. A lot of care was taken with the choice of components but only the thousands of testing kilometers coming will prove if the reliability is there. “We have components coming from the USA, Germany and France, some off the shelf and some custom designed for this project, and we’re hoping that we made the right choices. The drivetrain is by far the hardest working system on this type of cars and we made it our no. 1 priority in terms of reliability” explains Julien Hardy.

Last but not least, the CR7 isn't only required to be fast, easy to drive and reliable but also needs to turn heads. Century Racing called on the expertise of Dubai-based car designer Eben Meyburgh (who was originally involved in the CR 6 project 7 years ago) to help recreate the magic: "When Julien approached me recently about working on the new Century car, I didn't even have to think twice before signing up. The CR 6 is a tough act to follow in terms of looks but it's this kind of challenges that I relish. We have used the CR 6 as a reference but adapting to the new proportions has required a lot of sketches and mock-ups. The brief was that a Century customer had to instantly identify this car as a close relative to the CR 6, but at the same time we had to give it its own identity. Time will tell if we have succeeded". While the final detailing is still a work in progress, the team is hoping to start manufacturing the bodywork in the next few weeks.

In terms of schedule, the first prototype chassis is already in production and the target is to start testing in July. The CR 7 will certainly be present at races this year, primarily focusing on testing reliability and performance. We know what it takes to bring a clean sheet design to life, and we do realize that time is always against us in this game, so we have to stay grounded and prepared to react if things don’t work as planned. We need to go through the process and not skip important steps" concluded Hardy.

Mark Corbett, CEO of the Century Property group and owner of the team, is eagerly awaiting the first test drive as: “I’ve been following the design process from the beginning and it’s nice to see that I can still contribute with ideas from my long career in off-road racing. The team has upped their game once again, and I have no doubt this CR 7 will be a world class product, I can’t wait to get my turn behind the wheel”

 

Press Release by Century Racing