I feel confident saying that this is a race car—and a whole race series—you’ve never heard of because Turkish readers make up a pretty small percentage of our vast, remarkably attractive readership. And this race car is so Turkish that it’s the first purpose-built racing car ever designed in Turkey. That’s pretty Turkish. It also may be a template for a possible future city car? It’s called a Volkicar.
The Volkicar is named for and was the pet project of Volkan Isic, one of Turkey’s most accomplished rally drivers. Around 2008, Isic and a team set out to design a small race car for races in tighter urban environments and on smaller tracks, as well as being a relatively affordable way for people to get into racing, somewhat like the Volkswagen-based Formula Vee series started in the 1960s.
The Volkicar was designed in accordance with FIA rules, and the associated racing series is known as the V1 Challenge. The racing series seems novel and fun, though I’m hesitant to try and report all the details about it because all my information is coming from machine-translated Turkish, and I’m not confident I’m getting all the details right.
Besides, at the moment I’m more interested in the novel race car developed for the series, as it’s a compelling, plucky-looking little design that seems more suited, at first glance, to be useful little city car for dense urban environments than an actual race car.
But, make no mistake, it’s a surprisingly capable race car. One surprise, based on the look of the car, is revealed in this video:
It’s rear-wheel drive! It looks like it would be some sort of transverse front-engine little box like a Scion iQ/Aston Martin Cygnet or a Japanese Kei car, but its external appearance is deceptive.
Under the fiberglass body is a tube-frame chassis, and it’s surprisingly tiny—just under 10 feet long, about the same as an original Mini. The front-mounted engine that’s driving the rear wheels through a sequential five-speed gearbox (with an electric reverse) is a Yamaha 1251cc inline-four with dual overhead cams and a quad-carburetor intake setup, an odd choice in our fuel-injected era.
I think it’s the same basic motorcycle engine as used in the XJR1300, though here it appears to be liquid-cooled and makes a healthy 115 horsepower. For a car that weighs less than 1,200 pounds, that’s around 10 pounds per horse, which makes the little brute nice and zippy.
There’s (what seems to be, at least) a pretty comprehensive video review of the Volkicar, and it really looks like a blast to drive:
Pictures and videos from the V1 Challenge races definitely make these events look exciting to watch, with those short-wheelbase cars drifting around corners and occasionally around themselves:
Now, I think, but I’m not entirely certain, that there is a plan to use the general look/layout of the Volkicar as the basis for an actual city car, which I think would work very well. The space-maximizing design of the body makes a lot of sense in this context, and if they can keep a bit of those flared fenders, even better.
I suspect if that did happen, it would sort of be like the relationship of NASCAR cars to their production namesakes: only the outer shell and general look would be the same, with very different internals, such as the city car likely having a more conventional FWD drivetrain.
Sure, you’d lose the gleeful madness of the race car, but I do love the idea of a little city car getting a start from a real racing car, which I think would do a lot to dispel city-car slow penalty-box stigmas.
My lack of Turkish and a reliance on Google’s cybernetically-augmented chimps for translation is making me question some things, but I’m hoping a Turkish-speaking commenter may be able to help me get the details more clear.
One thing that isn’t lost in translation, though, is the raw joy of a tiny box with fat wheels and a hyperactive engine flinging you around corners. That shit’s universal.