I It’s the start of 2017 and we’re at the Millbrook Proving Ground a good hour 77 and a half’s drive north of London. The temperature outside is four degrees Celsius and there’s a strong, gusty wind from the west. These vast proving grounds covering 40 square kilometers have been used for all kinds of automotive testing since the late 1960s. Initially reserved exclusively for General Motors, they now also attract a wide range of customers actively seeking to remain out of the public eye. Garage number 18 is a rather bare looking wooden shed. A roller door opens to reveal what looks like a jumble of carbon-fiber, strips of aluminum, cables, disembodied radiators, shafts and joints. Not to mention an engine hidden beneath a thermal shield. A sedan pulls up in front of the garage and out steps the CEO of Mercedes-AMG, obviously absolutely delighted “to be permitted to be part of this very special moment”. This is the day when everyone involved comes together. In just a few minutes, Formula 1 technology will essentially make the transition from race track to road for the very first time, and be tested in a prototype. It’s a moment that will send the shiver of goosebumps through all those responsible for the project. Project ONE fuses the experience of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport and the expertise of Mercedes- AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth. With the combined development energy of Mercedes-AMG in Affalterbach added into the mix, the resulting creation is an utterly breathtaking car. And apropos car, this is still a prototype that has about as much in common with a car as a Mercedes-AMG S 63 has with a school bus. It has a carbon-fiber monocoque fitted with a bucket seat upholstered in makeshift style with two centimeters of foam padding. It’s also equipped with a detachable steering wheel, a couple of displays, a set of pedals and all manner of cables and connectors. And it even boasts a Formula 1 engine, which, as Mercedes- AMG Project Leader René-Christopher Wollmann tells us “has already been partially optimized for road use and also tested with regular super plus gasoline”. Enter Tobias Moers, wearing a cheerful smile, leather jacket, hoodie, jeans and sneakers. He is relaxed but expectant. A group of people gathers around the boss as he’s brought up to date. Moers wants to familiarize himself with the track and drives an inspection lap in a support vehicle. He then goes off to get changed and returns wearing AMG race overalls. Moers receives a few more tips for the first drive while Stephen Murdoch, development engineer at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, prepares the prototype. Simon Wilding, Head of Automotive at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, gasps for breath: “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Formula 1 engine used in a completely different vehicle. What an experience!” The scene could also be playing out in the pit lane of any Formula 1 race. There are generators, high-voltage panels, fire extinguishers and a team of experienced development engineers. There’s also the perfect track for a maiden outing – plus Stephen Murdoch, who’s controlling all the processes from his laptop. A short while ago, the team fired up the engine in garage 18 and checked the transmission function with the rear wheels jacked up. A pair of doors has just been bolted onto the race car. Time to go – engage gear, feel the clutch bite, total concentration!
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