DSC spoke at length to Jim Glickenhaus at last weekend’s Nürburgring 24 Hours to get further insight and an update on the American manufacturer’s ambitious plans for the coming years.
This conversation features detail on its upcoming 004 model which will form the base for a GT2 and GT3 car, and the 007 which is set to be raced in the 2020/21 FIA World Endurance Championship in the ‘Hypercar Prototype’ class.
Let’s start with the car you entered into the N24 this year, the SGC 003C. The race last weekend was its swansong?
“Yes. We learned a tremendous amount from it, making the race car then making a road-legal version of it. It’s a fantastic car, but it’s very complicated and expensive. It’s our goal to make affordable race and road cars. And so we’ve taken everything we’ve learned and are turning it into then 004.
“The 003 came in 2014, so far we’ve made five of them, the one that raced is the only one that remains as a race car. The other ones have been road converted.”
So the 004, its replacement is on the way. What can you tell us about it?
“The old LMP1 Duncan Dayton Acura LMP1 factory, that we have taken over. We’re rebuilding it and will build our 004 road cars there.
“We are building the 004 road and race prototypes as we speak. We’re going to crash test the tub in September. We had a very productive meeting with the organisers here, and we remain very hopeful that you’ll see it racing at VLN 1 next year. The 004C.
“The road cars will be testing at the end of this year and we’ll begin building them for customers in Danbury, approximately March of next year.”
If this will be a GT3 model are you confident you can meet the new production levels required to homologate it?
“Absolutely. To begin with, we’re going to offer an 004 as a GT2, then we’re going to offer a kit to convert it to GT3. It will be a simple conversion, a different engine and aero package, the car will be identical.
“Next year it will race as a GT3 in SP-X, but it will not be homologated as a GT3 until we reach 300 road examples, which we think we can reach in about a year and a half to two years. We have firm orders for 30 004 road cars. We have stopped taking them for the time being because I don’t want to be the kind of guy that takes a deposit and can’t give a definite delivery date.
“But in 2020 we will deliver 30 road legal examples of the 004 and our production for the calendar year 2021 will be at least 100 004s.”
How will the 004 look, will it be an evolution of the 003?
“It’s going to be a throwback design to something like Dino Competizione, or the Corvette Indy show car. It’s a bit of a bubble top car. It’s a three-seater, with a central driving position and two rearward passenger seats, similar to the Ferrari three-seater for Agnelli, and the McLaren F1.
“As a race car it’ll be a centre-seater, and that gives us a couple of advantages. One is that it has the most headroom, a six-foot-eight driver can comfortably sit inside with a helmet and be safe. It will be build to the new GT3 standard with the escape hatch in the roof. The road car will have the same escape hatch, it’ll be just a glass sunroof.
It will be build to the new GT3 standard with the escape hatch in the roof. The road car will have the same escape hatch, it’ll be just a glass sunroof.
“For the GT2 it will be more amateur friendly. Higher horsepower, lower aero, it will be a sprint racer, and for the GT3 it will be an endurance racer. Our goal is to sell it at a competitive price, with the Porsche and Audi, it’ll be less expensive than a Ferrari GT3, but its running cost will be significantly less.”
What sort of engine will it house?
“We’ll build engines based on our worldwide deal with General Motors, GM will be providing emission compliant engines for our road cars. So the base of the 004 with the manual gearbox will have a 650 horsepower LT4 motor, the fancier CS1 with the paddles will have 840 horsepower. I think it will be a sufficient engine package.
“For the race engine, it will be a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre engine, quite frankly similar to a DPi engine that they’re running now, a GT3 Corvette motor. We will build that with our partners at Autotechnica, in the same we built our Honda-derived engine for the 003. It will have a very good running cost, lots of torque, naturally aspirated, easy to work on.”
Ok, so the other model in the works is the 007, which will form the base of your WEC ‘Hypercar’ programme. What’s the current situation with that? Are you happy with the finalised regs?
“The new formula is here and it goes back many years when I lobbied people to make LMP1 cars something that a normal person could look at and see is a top spec of prototype sportscars, as they were in the ’60s. Back then they were aspirational but didn’t look like fighter-jets. We got a little bit lost in LMP1 with the magnificent Audis and Porsches and Toyotas. They were so hyper-technical. I think it got lost with the money required.
“So we’re very happy that they made this new formula, where they’re saying, make them look like road cars. The first time we saw the rules we said: ‘Wow that’s an 003’, it’s the weight of it, it’s got the same aspects of aerodynamics, it’s the power of an 003, and then they added things to make it easy for us. Petrol engine vs the KERS.”
Will the 007 that competes be a converted road-legal car or a prototype? Will it be a hybrid?
“Interestingly enough, to make a race engine that gets more than about 650 horsepower and endurance tune, is very expensive once you get above 600, to develop it. To keep the cost down what they are allowing, by capping the proto-power at 750, you’ll be able to have a unit of 600 horsepower driving the rear wheels and a kinetic energy recovery hybrid system on the front wheels, driving them at about 150 horsepower, and you’ll reach 750.
“We’re using everything we learned in 003, which is now going into 004, which will become part of 007. The tub in 003 has 17 tools, the tub in 004 has four tools to build the tub. We’ve simplified the structure of the car and the cost. By using computer programmes and optimisers, we have made structural changes to the suspension that is going to take 3kg out of the car, which is an amazing accomplishment. We’re also going to make mirror image uprights so that the right upright can work on the left side of the car, and vice versa to bring costs down, spare costs down.
We’re going to have our racecar with a prototype tub, our road car will have more of a road car type tub
“We envision, what we will do is take the architecture of the 004, we will make it a conventional two-seater, use the centre for the differential for the KERS system. We will have the ICE unit at about 600, the KERS in the front and it will look frankly like an EVO between the 003 and an 004. This is the car we’re building and we’re very excited by it.
Do you still plan to make road-going versions of this?
“Yes, we will make road legal examples of it. Interestingly, looking at the rules, we feel that the racecar would be FIA LMP1-type tub, where the top is carbon, it will be lighter and safer. We’re going to have our racecar with a prototype tub, our road car will have more of a road car type tub, like the 004 tub with a roll cage for protection, but you won’t need the massive structure you need to meet LMP1.
“We’ll probably build the race version, as a prototype, the road version which would be very similar, and which we will sell more than 20 of. That’s not the issue, but it will make it a bit more practical for the road.
“When you get into an LMP1 prototype, you will have a narrower cockpit, and for larger people, it’s not as comfortable.
“We think the road car will be very comfortable and look virtually identical, and interestingly enough they’ll have the same horsepower. They’re going to have the same ICE unit and a front-wheel-drive KERS unit. It will be road legal. We’ll see both sides of that.”
When are we going to see the race car for the first time?
“We will be testing the car early next year. We’ve engineered it completely. Our only question is what the ICE unit will be. Initially, we were thinking in keeping with our GM deal, was that we’d use that architecture, but yesterday we were approached by a very famous major OEM which was interested in having us use their engines for Le Mans, so we’re investigating that.
“We will be testing the car early next year. We’ve engineered it completely. Our only question is what the ICE unit will be
“That’s not a lock, but the statistics would stay the same. It’d be a 600 ICE, 150 hp KERS.”
And for the WEC programme, two cars for the full-season?
“Yes. We’re actually talking to customers, we may get more than two cars. The WEC and ACO estimated a cost for the customer and we think we can sell a customer car for less than they estimated it would cost. These things always come back to haunt you, but I’ll tell you because we’re open.
“I don’t know that we’ll be able to do it, but our hope is that we could offer a customer car that would be raceable for five years, at a base price of approximately two million dollars and a similar amount for a full spares package, and it would be a very durable, raceable car. We would also provide full racing services alongside us, and that’s our dream.
“We haven’t priced our road car yet. But we are going to try and price it as economically as we can. But building these cars isn’t inexpensive, we have huge development costs. But our goal with racing is that we love it, so we want to sell road cars to fund that.”
We have Toyota and Aston Martin signed up. Are you happy with the competition that’s forming for Year 1?
“If you start with Toyota, they certainly have shown amazing prowess in racing. They make a top-level LMP1 car today and there’s no question they will have a top-level hypercar.
“Interestingly enough, the BoP of this formula will be an interesting experience. Because the prototype LMP1 cars, which will be us and Toyota, will have certain inherent advantages because the cars will meet the minimum weight easier. Even if you BoP them and don’t one use the KERS system below certain RPMs, generally they will keep the front tyres warmer, so I think the cars will still work better.
“The other thing is that with a road-based car, we’ve worked in reverse. We have started with racecars and turned them into road cars. This system is envisioning them starting with road cars and turning them into racecars. When we did it in GT1, they were silhouettes, they were a racecar clothed to look like a road car.
“I personally think it’s going to be more difficult to take an existing hypercar and make it competitive. I’m not saying with BoP that we won’t get there, but you have certain inherent issues. If you take a Valkyrie which is an extraordinarily interesting car with a V12, it won’t be as fuel efficient as a twin-turbo V6.
“It’s the laws of physics. So how will they deal with that? They can do it, but it’s an interesting issue.
“The other issue is that the motor, when you look at the engine compartment, it’s stuffed. The one thing you learn in racing is heat management, with components, you didn’t think would start melting, so the smaller the engine, the better.
“Toyota is going to a 2.4 litre motor for its ICE unit, and that’s the best way you can go. You have a 2.4-litre motor. It’s nice and small, you can get your centre of gravity lower, your balance. You have a lot of room around it to sculpt your body for the nice aero, to keep it cool. A pure rear-wheel-drive car will also not be as fast as a front-wheel-drive KERS, rear-wheel-ICE.
“And if you have a maximum horsepower of 750, that last 150 will be purely out of ICE, and it’s not as easy as people think. A 600 horsepower motor will run forever, we have no problem with that. 750? It has to be a more sophisticated engine. It will be interesting to see other manufacturers such as McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche. The interesting thing about Porsche is that they have shown with their hybrid that they understand it a little better than others.
“I was shocked with the latest Ferrari hybrid and them bragging and saying ‘we’ll have enough power so we can do a full lap at any racecourse including the Nurburgring’. Why are they bragging about that? We go for 24-hours flat out. My son made the remark that if it can’t race for 24 hours it’s not all that hyper. And that’s true.
“The hypercar way, with all rear-wheel-drive, and even with a hybrid will not be as efficient as a smaller ICE, but we look forward to it.”