Rodin FZED Single-Seater Racer
Born from the ashes of the failed Lotus 125 ‘F1 customer experience’ programme, the ‘reincarnated’ cars are now known as FZED. We revisit Rodin Cars’ high tech headquarters to check them out
The new FZED single seater is intended to offer its owners a true F1-like experience for either their own private enjoyment or to compete in Formula Libre racing around the world. And all at an affordable cost, without the need for a team of specialist engineers.
Rodin Cars Limited is the brainchild of David Dicker, the Australian entrepreneur and major stockholder of Dicker Data. Dicker’s dream is to build a track-only supercar but not just another machine in the mould of sundry Ferraris, Porsches and McLarens.
No, Dicker’s intention is to build an extreme supercar with a mono-pod design and room only for the driver. The name of this project car is FZero. Rodin is the surname of the French sculptor, François Auguste René Rodin, whose most famous work was “The Thinker”. This aptly sums up Dicker himself as a great deal of thought has gone into the FZero prototype, as well as solving the many issues the former Lotus 125 cars presented.
Early in the concept stages of the FZero, Dicker realised that he would need the capability to make everything in-house. He figured it would be impossible to conceive, build, and manufacture such an extreme car without being able to make multiple prototypes of all the components in a timely fashion.
The FZero’s prototype engine, a 1000bhp turbocharged 4.0-litre V10, is now complete and ready for testing.
In the meantime, the development of the suspension and wheels is also well advanced. With an engine developing in excess of 1000bhp in a car that will weigh less than 700kg with more downforce than a current Formula One racer, it will be a serious machine indeed.
Dicker also realised he would need to have to his own proving ground and conjured a 2.43 kilometre race track to test and develop the car. The first hurdle was where to locate such an ambitious objective. His interest in skiing led him to buy property in the foothills of the Southern Alps, close to the Mount Hutt ski field.
Dicker said that it was during one of his winter sojourns to his alpine property that he began to think that New Zealand may indeed be the best place to achieve his objectives. Building a race track might seem like a fairly easy thing to do if you have enough money but it’s not as simple as it might sound. It requires navigating the minefield that is the consent process, which can take years.
And even when the necessary permissions are finally granted the potential for political interference is very real.
After his initial investigations of his Mount Hutt property, Dicker realised that he needed to find a more suitable location for a circuit, one with more land in a more isolated part of the South Island to create a natural buffer between his facilities and any neighbouring property. He found such a place in the foothills of Mount Lyford some 50 kilometres inland from Hanmer Springs, serviced by a tarmac road.
The last thing we wanted, Dicker said, was to have to navigate shingle. “I also wanted to be less than two hours from Christchurch by road and less than 25 minutes by helicopter from Christchurch airport.”
He said they started by building some purpose-designed, iconic Kiwi style ‘tin sheds’ with a difference as they featured heated floors and insulation to guard against the winter cold. They then went on to construct the first stage of their “hidden” test track in the valley below the original farmhouse.
The intention was to keep developing the facility as it became necessary. Unfortunately, the earthquake that devastated the Kaikoura coast was also disastrous for the facility, costing them a lot of time and money to repair.
By that stage, Dicker had purchased the Lotus 125 project which helped introduce his young engineering staff to the design and discipline required for the FZero project. Dicker says the concept had genuine appeal for him.
“However, I quickly realised why the Lotus project had failed. A lot of R&D was still needed and it all had to be tested before we could relaunch the cars as they were conceived,” he said.
This also meant building a wider, Stage 2 version of the test track on flatter, more stable ground. “We completed the new track two years ago and have developed that further with purpose-built garage facilities and a future clubroom for Rodin Car owners.
“We still have some work to do with armco in a couple of places and some kerbing, but we have been able to use the circuit as a proper test track from Day One.”
The first of a batch of five FZED race cars is nearing completion and only awaits a brake upgrade from the original Alcon system to Brembo’s latest carbon package which is the closest commercially available system to a current F1 set-up.
At the same time, the team is working on a unique custom seat system that will allow Rodin Cars to mould an anatomically perfect individual seat insert to fit a wide variety of body shapes. “After countless hours of on-track testing, we now believe that we have developed a reliable F1 experience race car that can be run by a suitable trained mechanic, and will not need an engineer as such,” says Dicker.
“However, competitors being competitors, some of our future clients will no doubt want to extract the full potential of the standard car’s package as it will be eligible for Formula Libre events around the world.”
Dicker says for those clients that want to take advantage of the facilities at Mount Lyford, they can store and run their car whenever they want to come and have some fun. “And they don’t even have to bring their race gear as our owners become Rodin Club members with their own locker and use of our club facilities.”
Rodin Cars will also offer full tutorship for the complete novice. “For those who have never driven a proper race car they’ll start learning in a Clio Cup racer before progressing through to a McLaren 570S GT4 and then on to one of our three Formula 3 race cars. Finally it will be “one on one” coaching in the FZED race car.”
Rodin Cars is working towards hosting international media days in early March before it begins its first customer open days later that month.