The links between motorsport technology and other aspects of the automotive industry can be tentative and even esoteric, but one of the more extraordinary has just been revealed. It concerns the input of former World Rally Championship, McLaren F1, and BMW engineers in the design and development of a new military vehicle. The Ocelot has been created in the U.K. to bid against not only competitors for a British Ministry of Defence requirement for a Light Protected Patrol Vehicle but also to meet requirements for such vehicles in other parts of the world.
Designed and developed by Force Protection Europe (an associated company of the U.S. headquartered Force Protection Inc.) and technology specialist Ricardo, it is powered by a 3.2-L Steyr turbodiesel engine driving through a six-speed ZF gearbox, giving it a governed top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph) and a 0-80 km/h (0-50 mph) time of 19.75 s. The engine produces 160 kW (215 hp) at 3800 rpm and 540 N·m (398 lb·ft) at 1800 rpm. Fuel capacity is more than 200 L (53 gal) and range more than 600 km (373 mi) at GVW (gross vehicle weight).
This level of performance and the need for it to be complemented by very good handling over a variety of terrain and surfaces have led to the need for special expertise.
Ricardo is responsible for the automotive elements of Ocelot, and the company’s Roland Jacob-Lloyd is Chief Engineer of the project. Formerly Chief Engineer of the Mitsubishi World Rally Championship team, he has applied his knowledge to help the vehicle meet required performance and handling criteria. “It is not quite a rally car,” he said, but “some of the lessons we learned when rallying have been applied to Ocelot.”
With a current all-up weight (AUW) of 7.5 t (8.3 ton) but with the potential to be developed to achieve 10 t (11 ton), its salient design features include a V-shaped armored spine (nicknamed the “skateboard”) to direct explosive blasts away from the vehicle, role-specific occupant pods of composite materials to help keep the vehicle’s center of gravity as low as possible, torsion bar suspension and damper units incorporating an engineered spring aid to equally share loadings, and four-wheel steering. Composites specialist Mike Coughlan, Engineering Director at Force Protection Europe and formerly with McLaren, led the design and development team for the pod.
Also, and particularly significant, the designers have provided the Ocelot with power-pack (including engine, transmission, fuel tank, engine management system, and ancillaries) modularity, enabling it to be removed from the vehicle and a replacement fitted and working within 1 h. The power pack can be run-up and diagnostic checks performed outside the Ocelot, a capability that Force Protection Europe describes as being unusual for a military vehicle.
The regular composite pod (details of the material have not been released), which has six seats, can be replaced by other configurations within 2 h to create an ambulance, fire support variant, or flatbed truck.
Dimensions of the Ocelot include a length of 5.4 m (17.7 ft), width of 2.1 m (6.9 ft), height of 2.35 m (7.71 ft), and a wheelbase of 3.65 m (12 ft). Turning circle is 12 m (39 ft); the steerable rear wheels lock at 15 km/h (9 mph). Ground clearance is 318 mm (12.5 in) and fording capability is normally 800 mm (31.5 in), but this can be increased to 1500 mm (59.1 in) with special preparation. Tires are Michelin XZL 335/80-R20s.
This AEI Editor drove an Ocelot prototype on both metalled and unmade surfaces. It has been designed to be almost as simple to operate as an SUV, although controls include touch-screen adjustment of tire pressures for differing surfaces and the transmission selector is a large, dashboard-mounted quadrant. A truck-type park brake is fitted, and the driver and front passenger each get a rally-style four-point seatbelt.
It handled and generally performed well over a wide mix of surfaces, including a drive through 650 mm (25.6 in) of water followed by a very difficult muddy upgrade when much momentum was lost but the vehicle continued to find grip and extricated itself.
Appropriately, the final section of the test route was over a loose surface very much like a rally special stage. Ocelot Chief Engineer and rally car specialist, Roland Jacob-Lloyd, would have been pleased with the results.