New Praga R1 racer is designed to be a turn-key option for major championships
You may not have heard of Praga, but that’s OK — not many have. Although it has more than 100-years of history behind it, the Czech-based firm has generally bubbled under most people’s radar, even though it could — once, possibly — have been a genuine rival to the likes of Skoda and Tatra. Praga has built most things that move in its long history — automobiles, trucks and buses, motorcycles, aeroplanes, military and agricultural machinery — but now it’s making racing cars.
Racing cars that you can buy, and which will be essentially turn-key ready for several national championships and races. This is the Praga R1, and if it goes half as fast as it looks, it should be capable of blowing most of the competition off the track.
It’s a significant update of the previous R1 model. It features an all-new carbon fibre monocoque, splitter, floor, diffuser and rear wing alongside revised engine management software, improved electronics, adjustable pedals, larger fuel tank, revised suspension and in-car driver controls and new headlights optimised for night racing. It replaces the old R1, which secured overall victory in last season’s Britcar Endurance Championship with seven wins from nine races.
Jan Martinek, Engineering Director, Praga Cars said: “While the silhouette of the R1 remains very similar at first glance, make no mistake, practically every part of the car has been updated or refined to offer drivers the best possible feel for the car, and the tools at their fingertips to get the maximum from the performance the R1 offers. Alongside improvements to the driver experience, we have revised the suspension and ECU to improve drivability and have increased downforce by 15 per cent while reducing drag by five per cent. This is a significant step, and we look forward to seeing the results when we start the 2021 season.”
Stealth fighter with wheels
If you knew the old R1, the new version’s overall shape and silhouette — which looks very much like someone bolted some wheels to a Lockheed F117 Stealth Fighter — will be pretty familiar. Every single exterior panel is new. The carbon cell gets new Zylon panels, which should protect the driver’s cockpit from being penetrated by anything sharp or heavy, and there’s a new floor and front splitter which direct more airflow to the rear diffuser. There’s also a wider, and reprofiled, rear wing.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbo R-A Praga T Engine, provided to Praga by Renault’s Alpine sports and racing division. It produces a robust 365hp, and that in a car that weighs a mere 643kg. Put those two together, and add the aero pack, and you have a car that can corner at 3G…
Upgrades to the engine management software improve throttle response and produce a smoother power curve with a wider window. Torque is available for longer and, combined with the reduction in drag, will make the R1 even more competitive against higher-powered GTs on long straights as the car approaches its maximum speed. Coupled with the suspension modifications, Praga says that the new R1 focuses on optimising driver feel.
All of this sounds very much like a proper, frontline works racer, and therefore sounds like it’s going to be temperamental and difficult to look after. Not so, says Praga: “The R1 is engineered for ease of set-up and maintenance and can be operated by a single mechanic. Large, but light carbon body panels are easily removed to allow access to mechanics and consumables. The lightweight philosophy reduces tyre wear and mechanical stress, further reducing running costs during the season.”
Other significant upgrades optimise the new R1 for endurance racing, including a 50 per cent larger 92-litre fuel tank (up 32 litres), which now contains two main pumps and four scavenging pumps. The R1 also has revised headlights for night or wet racing, while multiple in-car controls have also been added to allow the driver to monitor fuel level and fuel and coolant pressures from the cockpit.
Mark Harrison, Managing Director, Praga Cars UK, said: “The new R1 does not just deliver a series of impressive technical upgrades on an already mature championship-winning race car, but highlights Praga’s ambition. In offering a dramatic and exciting race car that is accessible, easy to own and run, and dramatic to watch, it is perfect for team owners, novice drivers looking to experience downforce, experienced racers looking to step into LMP-style racing and, importantly, sponsors. We already have strong demand from drivers, team owners and potential dealers globally. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Vincent Randall, VR Motorsport Owner, said: “As a team, we are very excited by the possibilities that the new Praga R1 offers. Having worked with Praga closely for four years now in running cars and co-operating on engineering developments, we have seen the R1 mature into a truly fantastic car. The R1 has proven championship-winning credentials, and the new car is a significant step in operational efficiency and drivability. The R1 has always been known for low running costs, and this continues to be a significant advantage, even with all of the additions that have been made to the new car. We are excited to take to the track in March and once again race the Praga R1 to victory.”
How much? Praga hasn’t released a price tag yet but says that the whole point is to achieve cost-effectiveness for racing teams. Deliveries have started already though, and 12 Pragas will race in a dedicated category in the Britcar Endurance Championship, with a view to establishing a one-make Praga series in 2022.