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BMW has invented mid-drift refuelling

BEAM Staff
January 9, 2018

BMW has come up with a way to refuel its cars whilst these are drifting. This comes as the Germany-based car manufacturer attempted to take back the Guinness World Record for the world's longest drift.

The company's innovation involves a second refuelling car with a passenger physically hanging out of the car to refuel the record car. Thanks to this, BMW was able to take the record from Toyota, more than doubling their performance with a 374km drift in 8 hours.

BMW's heavy investments of time and ressources into breaking this world record may come from the fact that it was also a former record holder until Toyota took over the world record. Indeed, in 2013 Johan Schwartz established the first record with a BMW M5 with 82.5km.

Following BMW's tenure, Toyota, however, set out to take over the record and pushed up the bar several times. Most recently, the Japanese manufacturer, drifted for 165km on its GT86.

"When I saw that my old record got beaten, I thought it was excellent because that just gave me another opportunity to go out and do it again." explained Scwartz. "The rules for the record would now allow, during the eight hour period, to stop and refuel." explained Matt Mullins, Chief Instructor at the BMW Performance Center.

"Obviously we could put a big tank in, and that's what the previous records have done." explained Schwartz. "But that's kind of boring, who wants to watch that, right?" joked Mullins. Ultimately, BMW opted towards a refuelling process from another car that took its inspiration from jet aviation.

"The solution we opted for was car to car refuelling, whilst we're still in the drift." outlined Mullins.

"The challenge was the whole drive range connection, to connect the cars in the drift. So we utilised components from commercial as well as aircraft industries. We created a lot of custom fittings, cleared out the trunk area and took the backseat out to mount a custom fuel cell."

Once the two cars were plugged in, Mullens, the driver of the support car, flipped a switch to start sending the fuel from his M5's tank through the tube into the trunk tank of the record M5 car. This set up allowed the fuel to be transferred whilst still driving.

In order to plug the tube into a custom built connection on the record car, a trained BMW specialist physically had to hang out of the support car, reach out and plug the tube into the lead car. During the transfer, the cars had to be simultaneously drifting not farther than 60cm from each other. Nearly 65l of fuel were transferred between the two cars in under 50 seconds.

"We're transferring a lot of fuel, in motion, and fire is probably the biggest concern." detailed Mullens. The proximity of the two cars during the refuelling process also posed a danger to the person physically hanging out of the support car at this speed. "If these guys slip up and he's in the wrong spot, he's getting sandwiched" commented Ryan Mathews, Engineering manager at Detroit Speed.

Despite their success on the day of the world record for longest drift, the first attempt the BMW pilots took at refuelling mid-drift wasn't a success during the first testing day as the cars simply couldn't connect for long enough. "Refuelling a car, a few inches from another car, in a drift, in the wet, there's a lot of things that could go wrong." explained Matt Butts, the engineer that was in charge of connecting the tube mid-drift.

"There's a little bit of risk there, but, that's what makes it exciting." said Mullens. The record was ultimately undertaken on a purpose-built, circular track with sprinklers installed all around the road to make sure that it stayed wet in order to facilitate drifting.

The world record set by BMW not only made it the longest drift on a kilometer basis but also had Schwartz, the record car's driver, keep his M5 in a drift for 8 continuous hours, without stopping. "No rules say that they can't stop." detailed Michael Empric, Guinness World Record Adjudicator. "They're choosing not to for the 8 hours and shatter the record."

"You don't want anyone to get pinched between the two cars." explained Neil Moreno, Producer at BMW. "And you don't want to lose the grip on the refuel apparatus. This happened in practice and they couldn't get back together, they had to stop."

Not only did BMW succeed in getting back the world record for longest drift, clocking in 374km, it also took the record for the longest, twin, side by side car drift thanks to its mid-drift refuelling technique.

The world record was set at BMW's Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina using a 2018 BMW M5. Coming with a V8 turbocharged engine generating 600hp, the M5 is amongst the most popular cars in the BMW arsenal.

First released in 1985 with the E28 M5, the car was initially created to fill a gap in demand for a unit that had the saloon capacity of a sedan whilst boasting the appearance of a sports car. Over 2,000 of the first model were produced, in part, in South Africa.

After several iterations, the current version of the M5 was released in August 2017 with deliveries starting in Spring 2018. Prices for this new sedan started at €117,900 with limited edition units, billed as 'First Editions' coming in at €137,400 and being limited to 400 units.

Reaching from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, the new M5 is the sixth generation in BMW's series. Due to her power, Pirelli developed a specific set of P Zero tires specifically designed for the car. 

Created in 1955 by Sir Hugh Beaver, then managing director of Guinness Breweries, the Guinness World Records book was first published in 1955 in the UK. Beaver was initially inspired to create such a repository after trying to pinpoint what was the fastest game bird in Europe.

Initially printed in 1,000 copies that were given away, a proper Guinness Book of Records was printed in 1955, quickly making its way to be a British bestseller in a world with no internet. Over six decades later, over 100 million copies of the book were sold in 37 languages.

The rights to publish the Guinness World Records book were acquired in 2001 by Diageo, a British multinational alcohol company before being purchased by Gullane Entertainement, a British production company in 2002. Acquired itself by HIT Entertainement, Guinness World Records found itself in the hands of private equity firm, Apax Partners in 2006, before being acquired by its current owner, the Jim Pattison Group. 

In addition to the Guinness World Records, the Jim Pattison Group, named after its eponymous Canadian billionaire owner, operates the Ripley museum in London, full of bizarre world facts. The group also has interests in media, real estate, food sales, packaging as well as the automotive sector where Pattison got his start in 1965.