After the unveil of the TAMO Racemo at the Geneva Motor Show, we sat down with Dr. Tim Leverton, President and Head — Advanced and Product Engineering, Tata Motors, to get some insights into the first TAMO project and Tata Motors sports car.
How long has the Racemo project been in the works?
Some elements have been a long time in the works, but in terms of what we call the Futuro project – the Racemo project – really started in late 2015. So it’s been very fast. TAMO, as we talked about, is a ring-fenced operation inside the company. So, we did that because we wanted a small dedicated focus with agility – and that’s how we’ve been able to do this so quickly. The Racemo project at TAMO is about products, but it is also about a digital ecosystem. And we set out on this project, first of all, to design a customer experience. That was our entry project – a customer experience about owning the car and using, a customer experiencing of using the car in an extreme environment, on a racetrack, while also giving an opportunity to non-owners, to fans, to experience the car in a digital environment. Hence the crossover into the gaming world.
We wanted a design that would be compelling for gamers to take and integrate into their race game. And we worked together with Microsoft to design a digital ecosystem, so this is our first connected car system. It happens to be in a sports car, but that connected car technology can then be integrated into our mainstream product range in the future. And the cloud technology, on the whole, forms the platform that we need in order to manage to our connected mobility system – and this has been created around this project. In the future, you’ll see more from TAMO about how that works out in smart cities and other applications.
How many people were involved in the development of this project?
Well, we’ve begged, borrowed and stolen time from a lot of different people, but we probably had around 30-40 people working on it – so it’s very small in automotive terms. The car was designed in our studio in Turin. And the mainstream engineering support has come from Pune. The car is focused on India. It’s designed to be used on Indian roads. So, the configuration of the car looks very sporty but it’s actually got a high ground clearance to make it suitable to be driven on Indian roads. It’s got two suspension settings, so you can drop the ride height for the track. But it’s designed to be used every day. At the same time, it has a race inspired design. So the interior is very Spartan, it’s just got the functions you need to drive the car. So, it’s very pure in that focus.
I believe that the three-screen instrument cluster is called the Scorpions tail? And seeing that the Racemo will be launched by the end of the year, is all this going to make it to production?
Yes. This is a car, it’s not a model or anything – this is actually one of our first prototype cars. The whole ethos of TAMO is to work quickly to bring products to market and to test a number of advanced systems, such as the connected car system, camera systems, etc., which are proof of concept on this car and will be used on our mainstream vehicles in due course.
How did you manage to extract 190PS from the 1.2 litre Revotron petrol engine?
Well, it’s obviously turbocharged (single turbo). We needed to give it the performance that fitted the appearance and concept of the car. So in certain Drive Modes you can extract that kind of power. Of course, we’re working with what we have with us. In the future, we’ll see how this goes ahead. As far as the transmission goes, it’s a six-speed AMT – but there’s no Auto mode, its paddle shift only.
Can you talk us through the platform and the body?
This is what we’re calling our Mo Flex platform – it’s a composite MMS, essentially a multi material sandwich. We do have a carbon backbone structure for the car – carrying the engine, the suspension and the cooling systems. On top of that sits a composite tub, which is made up of two moldings. And that technology gives us a lot of freedom in the surface design. You can see we haven’t designed for steel, we’ve designed for a composite – so it allows us to do a lot of interesting things, such as the sharpness of the surfaces. You wouldn’t see this on a steel car. So, it’s a low volume, low investment technology. It’ll have a high variable cost, but low fixed costs. We wanted a carrier for some of the system technologies, and these system technologies are all being put into the car with a future purpose in mind – so a lot of these systems will be on our mainstream platforms in future.
Will it be limited to 100 units?
Well, 100 is a bit low. But volumes won’t be high. We’ll see – it’s intended to be a start-up project for TAMO. And we’ll see what the reaction is.
For sale only in India, or elsewhere as well?
For the time being, our focus is India. Of course, we’ve got a lot of questions here from people across Europe asking when they can get the car. So that’s nice but, honestly, our focus is on how we can reposition ourselves in India.
Our genuine purpose in TAMO is to develop our digital ecosystem, but we also want to shift the brand perception as well. Of course, this makes a very extreme statement. People don’t expect this from us.
So a concerted effort to make it look as extreme as possible to make a point?
My vision was to give it some supercar elements while making it affordable and accessible. That was part of our thought process.
This and the digital avatar is a sort of attempt to tap into the younger generation?
Definitely! We want youngsters to associate with us and dream about owning our car. And the reason for making it look like it does is because we wanted it to be something that can also crossover to the digital world and be exciting there as well.
Our collaboration with Microsoft has borne a lot of fruit in terms of developing a digital ecosystem.
Will there be a race version or a race series as well?
Yes, we would like to do something like that. This is dressed for the track. A few extra panels and livery and it would be ready.
What is the weight distribution, front to back?
It has a slightly rear biased weight distribution.