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Giandomenico Basso - LPG rallying pioneer
gazeo.com: Is there a difference in performance/drivability between an LPG-powered car and a petrol one?
Giandomenico Basso: I’ve never tried another R5 petrol-powered car before, so I can’t say precisely if there are many differences. Anyway, I think the car has an incredible drivability and the engineers say that in terms of power there are no differences at all. If you look at the results and the performance we’re getting, I would say I believe them.
BRC: No, there isn't any difference. If you fail to notice the different tank installation behind the front seat, you won't even be able to tell whether it is an LPG or a petrol car. Driving the Fiesta R5 LDI by BRC simply gives the driver a feeling that this is a very good car with a very good engine.
Are the engine characteristics similar for LPG and petrol? Does LPG require a different driving technique?
As I said, I have never driven a petrol Fiesta R5, but the performance the Fiesta R5 LDI offers is really good and I believe there isn't any difference. BRC engineers explained to me that the power/torque engine characteristics with the LDI system are quite similar to the petrol ones.
Does the LPG tank affect weight distribution and performance of the car?
The LPG tank's extra weight affects both weight distribution and performance of the car for sure. This is clearly important for a rally car in a very competitive championship as the Italian Rally Championship, it could be not considered a problem for a road car. We have worked a lot with BRC to review the Fiesta R5's setup on this issue. We are still improving specs rally by rally, test by test. The astonishing results we have been getting until now confirm we are doing a really good job.
Is it a monofuel car?
Yes, it is. The low pressure petrol system has been completely removed and BRC technicians put the LDI system in instead. This is the only difference versus LDI systems used on road cars, where the car is always bi-fuel (LPG + petrol).
What is the car's LPG consumption?
R5 petrol cars make 1,3 km/l in special stages, 4 km/l on road sections. The Fiesta R5 LDI by BRC has the same autonomy as the petrol one, we can do up to 60 km of special stages at full throttle plus 140 km of road sessions with a full tank. Fuel consumption in terms of km/l is increased by 15% versus petrol due to the lower voluemtric energy density of LPG. To compensate this, the LPG tank has a slightly bigger volume than the petrol one. From the cost point of view, the price of LPG against petrol race fuel is around 60% less, which provides a good rolling cost reduction, just as on road LPG cars.
Where is the tank mounted and what is its capacity?
It is mounted in the same position as the petrol tank for the R5 car, only it needs some more space in the cockpit, because it's bigger. It's capacity is around 80 liters.
What do FIA rally regulations say about LPG use in a rally car?
In FIA's technical regulations only petrol or diesel cars are considered. Anyway, alternative energies and fuels are growing popular also in motorsport, so BRC is working to make it possible to race with LPG rally cars also in FIA's international races. In Rally Sanremo this year, a part of the European Rally Championship series, FIA gave our Fiesta R5 LDI a waiver to compete. It was a great success and one step towards the possibility to have LPG also in FIA international races. BRC is introducing LPG into motorsport. I was convinced to do this program based on the passion and know-how they have shown also last year. They organized the Green Hybrid Cup racing series, which is an FIA approved series and the Italian Alternative Energies Championship. In liason with the CSAI (Italian ASN) they made it effectively possible to compete on a such high level in the Italian Rally Championship, so it could be really possible that in the future LPG will be also admitted in the FIA international regulations.
How do other drivers/rallying fans react when they find out this car is LPG-powered? Are there any safety/performance concerns?
At first there was a lot of skepticism about it, but then, with our results unfolding, people started to realize that we really can compete against conventionally-fueled cars. There aren’t any particular safety concerns, but obviously the guys over at BRC are extra careful, as a safety problem on an LDI-powered car would make so much more noise than on a regular one. /laughs/
How is the car refueled (public station or mobile one)?
The car is refueled by a mobile station that is positioned in the refueling areas chosen by the Course Direction.
And last but not least, what is your history as a rally driver?
I started out at the age of 7, when my father put me into a kart. It was the beginning of a great adventure, with 2 European FIA ERC Rally titles, 1 Intercontinental IRC title, 1 CIR (Campionato Italiano Rally, i. e. Italian Rally Championship) title and 1 European FIA Sud-Ovest Cup. So far I have had 26 absolute international victories and I managed to finish 50% of the rallies I have competed in on the podium. This season I'm competing in the CIR series, with 7 rallies behind me and still 1 to go.
Thank you for your time and good luck with the Fiesta LDI!
Thank you and best regards for all gazeo.com readers!
Check out Giandomenico Basso's official website!
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