The unique Oaktec car of Paul Andrews and Bill Meeson achieved its victory on the day that KERS made a comeback in F1.
The Insight was debuted in 2005 and has been progressively developed ever since. It has been a regular winner in the minor F1000 classes and scored several podiums on recent events. However the elusive first victory nearly never happened as the crew were about to retire the car after stage 4 because of a problem in the hybrid battery.
Having set fastest time on the opening four stages the Insight held a comfortable 34 second lead, but coming into the SS4 time control the warning buzzer came on to indicate that the cars lithium batteries had fallen below their safe low threshold. The crew then had to decide whether to retire the car or continue and risk destroying the batteries. Retirement would have ruined the cars 100% finishing record in over 20 rallies.
Oaktec boss and driver Paul Andrews commented “What could have been a disaster has turned into a great day for us. The car is well suited to the fast Anglesey stages and we knew we would have good pace, but when the battery alarms sounded we thought it was all over. We decided to do SS5 with the battery assist turned off and the regenerative braking still on and this seemed to bring them back to life. We did the last 3 stages on reduced battery power and that was enough to give us a 16 second win. It is seven years since we first competed this car and this outright win is long overdue.”
The Insight is not just unique in its use of an energy recovering hybrid system but also that it employs continuously variable transmission that allows the driver to keep full power applied for longer periods. The Oaktec team is sponsored by Bosch Transmission Technology B.V. and has enjoyed support from Honda UK.
The Oaktec team that developed the car now concentrates on new energy efficient road car technologies, many of which were first tested on the rally Insight. These include an energy regeneration technology that will harness kinetic energy at five times the rate of a standard hybrid vehicle giving greatly improved performance and fuel efficiency potential.
In 2008 the Insight scored the highest MPG in a fuel economy competition. At 82 mpg it beat the best diesel car by over 17 mpg, using the same hybrid developments that give it speed on the rally stage to improve its fuel efficiency.
Andrews now leads the Formula 1000 championship after 2 rounds.