By: Dave Abrahams
Tokyo Motor Show - This sleek-looking concept is the rather unimaginatively named Sports Ride, and it's the star of the Yamaha stand at the 44th Tokyo biennial.
Yamaha says it's an attempt to marry the lightning responses and physicality of riding a motorcycle but with the weather and crash protection afforded by a car.
It's a strictly two-seater berlinetta, with strong echoes of McLaren's F1 around the waistline and 1960s Ferraris in its curvaceous rear end - but there's also a lot of rather fragmented new-millenium sportsbike styling in there.
Judging by these few pictures, however, the attention to detail is pure superbike, especially the carbon-fibre and tan leather interior.
The concept is 3900mm long, 1720mm wide and just 1170m high, about the same size as the new Mazda MX-5, but at 750kg it’s nearly a third lighter than the 1040kg MX-5.
Yamaha hasn't released any powertrain details, but a good bet would be that it has either the 1-litre three from the earlier Yamaha Motiv concept, shown in Tokyo in 2013, or a slightly detuned version of the 1298cc FJR touring bike engine, which has both shaft drive and paddle shift, making it eminently suitable for use in a sports car.
The standard FJR is good for 105kW at 8000 revs and 134Nm at 7000rpm; in a car weighing just 750kg, that should equate to impressive performance numbers.
HOW DID THEY GET IT THAT LIGHT?
Like the Motiv, the Sports Ride was designed by South African-born Formula One guru Gordon Murray (who was also responsible for the McLaren F1) using his i-Stream bonded-composite construction method. This very versatile lightweight construction method uses composite panels permanently bonded on to a very light tubular frame; most of the strength comes from the panels, not the tubing.
Now, however, in collaboration with Toray Industries, Murray has developed iStream Carbon, in which the panels are made of carbon fibre rather than fibreglass.
Normally, laying up the carbon-fibre panels and curing them in an autoclave is a slow and very expensive process, but Murray has perfected a way of making incredibly stiff, superlight panels using two carbon skins sandwiching a honeycomb core - and curing them in little more than a minute!
He says he can produce up to 350 000 components a year at a cycle time of 100 seconds each - which radically reduces the unit cost and brings structural carbon-fibre components into the realm of mainstream car design for the first time.
The Yamaha Sports Ride may be more than just a pretty little concept car. Someday, if Murray has anything to do with it, all cars may be made this way.
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