When you think racing, you don’t exactly think Rolls-Royce. With its half-million dollar cars, formal chrome grilles that take days to polish, acres of leather, wool and wood, and performance that the company used to describe as “adequate, and then 50 percent more,” Rolls-Royce may be a lot of things, but a race car it ain’t. Except for a notable (and bizarre) private entry in the ’81 Paris-Dakar rally, Rolls hasn’t exactly been a presence in many racing paddocks around the world.
So imagine my surprise when I got the announcement trumpeting in all caps: “ROLLS-ROYCE MOTOR CARS CELEBRATES RACE SERIES SUCCESS.” Picking my jaw up off my desk, I wondered, what could this be? An old-school triumph at the Goodwood hill climb? Some sort of jet-powered land speed record car developed in secret?
Well, kind of. According to the company, “A closely-guarded partnership between Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and a team of budding racers finally broke cover on Sunday,” that did race at Goodwood, and “…made short work of a track that has proved the scourge of some of the most revered names in motor racing history.” True to Rolls fashion, the racer was unmistakably British, with the car’s paintwork and shape, “inspired by the exploits of Sir Malcolm Campbell and his land-speed record winning craft, Bluebird,”
So, what did this baby do at Goodwood? Keeping in mind that a 769 horsepower Subaru Impreza scrambled up the hill this year in 44.91 seconds, and a 1905 Darracq land-speed record car did it in under a minute and a half, the Rolls made news by reaching blistering speeds as high as eight miles per hour. Yep, eight.
For a company that still refers to its vehicles as “Motor Cars,” and announced its SUV program with a press release titled “An Open Letter from the Chairman and the Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars on the subject of a new Rolls-Royce,” the little racer, called March 2 Glory, was an uncharacteristically light endeavor for the heavies from Goodwood. The racer was a collaboration between company apprentices (it takes three years of training to work on the Rolls assembly line), and a group of 10 and 11 year olds at the nearby March Church of England Primary School for the Green Power IET Formula Goblin race series. Overseen by the Green Power Trust, the race is an annual event held to introduce green technology and engineering skills to children across England.
Aside from the familiar Parthenon grille, beneath the car’s deceptively simple bodywork lies a lightweight aluminum space frame – a must for any racer worth its salt. Rolls swears that the frame “has been specially built to reduce weight, in turn, reducing the friction coefficient between the road and tyres,” and that the car’s bodywork was designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, but at eight miles per hour, we doubt the March 2 Glory’s aerodynamics are much of a factor.
Powering the March 2 Glory is a twin-battery 24 volt motor mounted amidships, and like the bodywork, the cockpit is unmistakably Rolls. The seat is upholstered in the same tan leather used in the $500,000 Phantom, with blue stitching to match the paint. It might not have aided in the car’s performance, but at least we know the lucky kid behind the wheel was surrounded by opulence.
While Rolls-Royce announced this program with all the pomp and circumstance of, well, Rolls-Royce, the March 2 Glory was borne out of a fantastic program that exposes kids to engineering and cars at a young age. The best cars come from people with a passion for them, and by participating in a program like this, Rolls is ensuring that the next generation of engineers are already on the right track.
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