It is not unheard of prototype racers suffering from sort of a multiple personality disorder, changing appearance, powertrain and even name during its life span. Maybe the most prominent example is the nearly forgotten TWR WSC 95, a case of a single chassis being run by three different manufactures, born as the closed top Jaguar XJR-14, then morfing into the Mazda MRX-01 only to become an open top LMP and finish its life as the Porsche LMP1 98, a history told in detail by Jalopnik.
In Brazil things are no different, with many examples of such shapeshifting like the Absoluta ABS01 prototype we get to know today, a project developed originally in 2005 that was reborn recently during a regional round of Campeonato Paulista de Automobilismo.
João Alfran and the Braspress 450 A
To tell this story, however, we have to back in time a few years to know João Alfran, a mechanic that earned a reputation for himself both as mechanic as a tuner. Having participated in numerous projects including the construction of the Enriconi open wheel chassis, developed by Edison Enriconi for championships like Formula V 1300 and Formula Fiat and used, among others, by Mauricio Gugelmin to win the Brazilian Formula Fiat Championship, his work definitively was respected among his peers.
Among João’s clients and friends was a certain Roberto Pupo Moreno that, thrusting his work, helped Alfran score a mechanic seat with Italian F1 outfit Coloni. Starting to work with the squad mid-season in 1989, Alfran earned the trust from Enzo Coloni, and would remain with the team until its demise as the ill-fated Andrea Moda effort.
With the experience acquired in F1, Alfran estabilished his own tuning garage, Alfran Racing which, among other activities was the responsible for the track support of the Aldee Spyder prototype used by entrepreneurs Urubatan Helou and Urubatan Helou Jr., owners of Braspress logistics company and a common sight at Brazilian endurance races like the Mille Miglia and Interlagos 500 Kilometers.
By that time, endurance racing in Brazil was shifting from touring car and CN-like prototypes towards more expensive machinery like those competing at FIA GT, IMSA and DTM, therefore teams running small NA-engined prototypes like Espron or Aldee Spyder had no hope of fighting for overall wins. This led to local manufacturers and teams seeking alternative solutions to face imported top end cars, in the form of larger prototypes either equipped with large NA engines or heavily turbocharged engines, resulting in one of the biggest technology leaps for endurance racing in Brazil.
The Braspress racing team choose this path, leading to the development of the Braspress 450A prototype, designed and built by João Alfran following the same design philosophy as the ZF01 prototype (a Riley&Scott Mk III derived prototype built by ZF, the company responsible by the design and manufacturing of Brazilian Stock Cars). After a 18 month development, the shakedown was realized in Interlagos driven by Urubatan Helou Jr. during the last round of the 2004 Campeonato Paulista de Força Livre, aiming for a debut in the 2005 Brazilian Mille Miglia and then race the Brazilian Endurance Championship.
Unfortunately, Alfran would die a few days after this shakedown due to heart complications, and comprehensively the 450A would not participate in that years Mille Miglia. In addition, the car’s name got change to Alfran 450A as a tribute to João Alfran.
In the end, the prototype remained in storage under the care of the Helou Family, and an official race debut was even on the schedule in two occasions, first in 2009 and the in 2012. However, Urubatan Helou did not find it fair to race the car without his longtime friend on board, choosing to put the car on sale so other team could keep developing the car.
Ney Faustini and Absoluta Racing
Now we get to the second chapter of the Alfran 450A history, now under ownership from Ney Faustini, one of the oldest active racing drivers in Brazil, with experience on many categories as Division 3 and 4, Turismo 5000, Stock Car and Endurance Racing. Faustini is also owner of the Chevrolet Absoluta dealership chain, and a big supporter to Brazilian Motorsports, either as a competitor with his Absoluta Racing team, or as a sponsor for events like Mille Miglia and the 500 Kilometers of Interlagos.
Still in 2012, Ney acquired the 450A prototype aiming to take part in the Top Series (a former iteration of the Brazilian Endurance Championship), and even did a shakedown event during that years sixth round of the Campeonato Paulista de Força Livre. No competitive time was set during this event, as the tires were from a very hard compound, and the engine was far from the ideal set up due to its long storage time.
However, with the cancellation of the championship mid-season, the car returned once more to storage, and there would be no news related to the car until 2016. At that point in time, Endurance Brasil started to establish itself and that gave rise to the idea of replacing the original powertrain by that of a Maserati Trofeo race car, with the goal of participating in the 2017 season of Endurance Brasil. However, once again the project was shelved, with Ney Faustini instead splitting his participations between his own Chevrolet Cobalt Stock V8 and Mottin Racing’s MCR Grand Am. For the 2018-2019 seasons, Absoluta Racing struck a deal to use the DIMEP / GeeBee R1 prototype, and for 2020 Ney Faustini would run some selected events with the Sigma P1 and AJR #80 prototypes.
Once again, however, the urge to run the Alfran 450A prototype returned, but to face the stiffer and much younger competition a complete update was necessary, including suspension, transmission (now a Hewland NLT 6-speed sequential), and even the driver position, now much lower to the ground. All these updates were executed by seasoned Portuguese tuner Carlos Tigueis, from Tigueis Motorsport.
With these updates, the rebranded Absoluta ABS01 had it’s debut at the second round of the 2021 Campeonato Paulista de Automobilismo. Being a shakedown event of a car with so little track time, a lot of normal but annoying issues surfaced, as explained by Ney Faustini during the race live coverage:“We already knew that a weak point for this car would be the input shaft due to the distance between the engine and transmission being too large, and that really happen. With the exception of some minor issues with fuel pressure and brake pedal, already solved, the car has ran quite well considering it is the first race. Regarding the input shaft issue, it was expected to happen and we know that we must refine the heat treatment and achieve an appropriate material hardness to improve the endurance for longer races. But then, being the first time the car has run, I’m quite satisfied as the performance was within expectations and I’m really happy with this car. Of course I’d like to have won the race, and we already had built quite a gap to the second place car, but unfortunately these are race things.”
Effectively, the team has accumulated 80 laps between two practice sessions and the Campeonato Paulista activities. During the race weekend, the best lap time achieved was 1m41s786, already close to the best times obtained by the team on board the GeeBee R1 prototype.
Part 1 – Chassis & Powertrain
The ABS01 chassis is a conventional chromoly tubeframe. Originally, the rollbar was a 9-point structure, but now it has been redesigned to have four fixing points and may receive the mandatory HALO to comply with Endurance Brasil’s safety requirements.
Other interesting feature is the Powertrain mounting system, where the mid plate welded to the tube frame, something common on drag cars and that simplifies the assembly/disassembly process for both engine and transmission.
Besides the overall revamp, all systems got refreshed and updated, like the wheel hubs, which were replaced by a new center nut design common to the teams Chevrolet Cobalt, reducing the requirement for spare parts and making maintenance much easier.
The Powertrain, which was originally a carburated Chevy 7-liter V8 and a Hewland FG400 transaxle, was update, as now the Chevy V8 is paired to a Hewland NLT 6-speed sequential transmission.
Rodrigo Cardoso’s RTC Racing Team will a new Chevy 6.2 liter small block V8, always tuned a further development for Endurance Racing. The team expects to reduce weight and fuel consumption with this new set up, improving overall pace to the expense of single lap pace, as well as improve durability by having an engine with a torque spec better suited to the NLT transaxle.
Part 2 – Aerodynamics
The Absoluta ABS01 bodywork has clean lines, similar to a 90’s LMP/WSC car such as the Riley&Scott Mk III. When the car first got on track, back in 2005, an interesting feature was the lack of air intakes, with the only visible aero elements being the radiator intake, the small front splitter (1) and the single element rear wing (2).
Even without seeing any official competition, the still Alfran 450A received a few aero tweaks between 2005 and 2012. First, air intakes were added for the front brakes (3), plus to vents (4) for hot air leaving the radiator, improve both cooling and downforce. Two NACA style ducts (5) were added to the sidepods, and two scoops over the hood to direct more air to the rear brakes (6).
For the Absoluta ABS01 spec, aero was also a place for improvements. First, deflectors were added to the radiator vents (7), generating a low-pressure area to improve cooling performance. The front wheels also began being vented (8), with upward oriented vented seeking to improve even more front downforce.
The rear brakes air inlets (9) were also reshaped, abandoning the scoops for NACA style inlets.
A further update was the engine air intake (10), a scoop connected directly to the air filter and carburetor.
The Strange Orphan Story Of The Most Successful Le Mans Car Ever. Available at: https://jalopnik.com/the-strange-orphan-story-of-the-most-successful-le-mans-1677120408.
Histórias do Alfran. Available at: http://gptotal.flaviz.com.br/2001/panda/cartas2q_01_05.htm.
Protótipo Alfran Braspress 450 A poderá retornar às pistas, quatro anos após a morte de seu criador. Available at: https://www.diariomotorsport.com.br/prototipo-alfran-braspress-450-a-podera-retornar-as-pistas-quatro-anos-apos-a-morte-de-seu-criador/.
New Brazilian Prototypes. Available at: http://archive.dailysportscar.com/subscribers/news/other/2005other/other781.htm.
Venda de protótipo V8 com 700 cv… Available at: https://endurancebrasil.webnode.com.br/products/venda-de-prototipo-v-8-com-700cv-/.
Ney Faustini testa protótipo Chevrolet. Available at: https://www.jornaldaorla.com.br/noticias/2169-ney-faustini-testa-prototipo-chevrolet/.
Faustini desenvolve protótipo Maserati. Available at: https://www.autoentusiastas.com.br/2016/09/incertezas-paralisam-mercado/.
: The Strange Orphan Story Of The Most Successful Le Mans Car Ever. Available at: https://jalopnik.com/the-strange-orphan-story-of-the-most-successful-le-mans-1677120408.
: Enriconi. Available at: http://blogdosanco.blogspot.com/2008/02/enriconi.html.
: GP Memorável 14# – Canadá 1989. Available at: http://memoriaf1.blogspot.com/2015/01/gp-memoravel-14-canada-1989.html.
: GP Total. Disponível em: Histórias do Alfran: Available at: http://gptotal.flaviz.com.br/2001/panda/cartas2q_01_05.htm.
: Protótipo Alfran Braspress 450 A poderá retornar às pistas, quatro anos após a morte de seu criador. Available at: https://www.diariomotorsport.com.br/prototipo-alfran-braspress-450-a-podera-retornar-as-pistas-quatro-anos-apos-a-morte-de-seu-criador/.
: Venda de protótipo V8 com 700 cv… Available at https://endurancebrasil.webnode.com.br/products/venda-de-prototipo-v-8-com-700cv-/.
: Absoluta Racing. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/AbsolutaRacing.