Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Century Racing CR7 T1+ development underway, testing in July

Century Racing will be the seventh manufacturer to enter the T1+ subcategory of rally raid with their in-progress CR7. A prototype chassis has been built and the team hopes to begin testing the car in July.

The CR7 is a departure from Century’s models as a four-wheel-drive machine, which was previously experimented in 2008 with the CR1 and 2012’s X6. All of the team’s other vehicles including their current car CR6 are 2WD.

The CR6 and its successor share various similarities such as the double wishbone rear suspension and the same dimensions save for the roof, the latter of which is higher for the CR7.

Otherwise, the CR7 will obviously be a more complex and different beast. Any remaining traits that the two share draw more from the upgraded CR6-T, which raced the 2023 Dakar Rally with factory drivers Brian Baragwanath and Mathieu Serradori. Most notably, the CR6-T and CR7 use a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 DECA engine that generates 434 horsepower and comes from the Audi RS4, while the standard CR6 sports a 370-hp Chevrolet Corvette LS7.

“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,” head of engine management Donovan Fick stated. “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.

“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.”

The CR7 also has less wheel travel at 350 mm versus the CR6’s 440 mm. While the rear suspension of both cars are alike, the front for the CR7 features a special layout as Century wanted to create a low centre of gravity to keep the car stable.

“The CR6 is a tough act to follow in terms of looks but it’s this kind of challenges that I relish,” said car designer Eben Meyburgh, who previously worked on the CR6. “We have used the CR6 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 CR6, but at the same time we had to give it its own identity. Time will tell if we have succeeded.”

The CR7 is part of a growing pool of T1+ entries currently occupied by the Toyota Hilux T1+, Prodrive Hunter, and BAIC BJ40. While the trio are established names in the subcategory, various manufacturers besides Century have also started to develop their own vehicles for the class.

The Hilux comes in two T1+ models: the SVR Hallspeed DKR Hilux T1+ that has won the last two Dakar Rallies and 2022 World Rally-Raid Championship, and the new WCT Engineering Hilux for privateers and won its début race in March. Red-Lined Motorsport‘s new REVO T1+ finished second behind the WCT Hilux in said event and currently competes in the South African Rally Raid Championship. M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport are testing the Ford Ranger T1+ with plans of racing it in 2024.

“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,” commented Century’s chief designer Julien Hardy. “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.”

Century fielded ten cars at the Dakar Rally, two of which raced under the Astara Concept 01 name under ownership of Astara Team.

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