Setting yourself the task of building the road-legal track day performance car for the 21st century is not your everyday new company vision statement but that is what a group of British motorsport veterans set out to do when they formed Elemental Motor Company in 2012. Their first effort, the Rp1 sports car is now rolling out of their production facility in Hambledon in rural Hampshire, UK to rave reviews in the motoring press.The Rp1 design team has over 120 man-years of experience designing high performance automobiles and racecars as well as advanced composites and aerodynamics. But when it came to selecting a race-inspired performance car transmission, the team came to Hewland.
“We selected the Hewland JFR6-200 because it met our requirements for a longitudinal, lightweight, high performance sequential-shift gearbox that we could use structurally to mount the rear suspension on. There’s nothing else that has the accessories, configurability or performance like it in the market” says John Begley, Technical Director and co-founder of Elemental. “It’s used in Formula 3 cars and is very much a racing component. It uses straight-cut gears so it’s very light, compact and flexible and we have a lot of options when choosing the gear ratios we want.”
The JFR6-200 is a six-speed sequential transmission with pneumatic shifters, actuated by two small carbon-fibre paddles on either side of the steering wheel. The clutch pedal is needed only when pulling away or selecting reverse; once you’re into first and rolling, no clutch is needed, up or down. The pneumatic system uses compressed air to operate an actuator cylinder that “punches” up and down through the gearbox. “It’s a bit noisier than a helical gearbox but we wanted cutting-edge performance car transmission adds John, it’s vital to use a gearbox like the Hewland with sequential shift because a great deal of the cars’ feel comes from how the gearbox changes gears damn quickly; it has to be responsive.”
Even more performance is extracted by controlling the gearbox with the Engine Control Unit (ECU). This protects the engine and gearbox from erroneous shifts, makes gear changes near-seamless (40ms), and eliminates clutch use once the car is moving.
Autocar wrote “…extremely well sorted is the smoothness of the pneumatic paddle-shift change on the gearbox, whose clutch you can forget about once you’re rolling. Upshifts and downshifts are smooth…” This was also evident in the recent Autocar video – the gearbox is cited as a highlight – contributing a significant amount to the overall dynamics of the car.
Top Gear cited the gearbox as one of the highlights when they tested the Rp1. “…the whole the car is very easy to drive. You only need the clutch when you come to a stop and pull away, apart from that the sequential gearbox would rather sort the shifts-out itself. They’re pretty much instantaneous, popping home with ‘ssch-tik’ of pneumatics.”
John Begley concurs with the Top Gear view that the car is easy to drive when required. “We have a customer that uses it in London without any issues and recently we’ve been exploiting its semi-automatic capability so in the future, you’ll be able to drop the clutch and just concentrate on the throttle and steering – letting the gearbox and the advanced engine control management we have in the car handle the gear selection.”
In a car that accelerates to 60mph in under 3 seconds and tops-out at 165 mph, an extra hand to hold-on with might be needed.