Canary Islands test run as three from fleet go head to head
ALICANTE, Spain, July 16 – Three Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 crews – Team SCA, Team Brunel and the Spanish challengers – will go head to head in the first competitive clash of the new one-design Volvo Ocean 65s in the Round Canary Islands Race from Saturday.
The 650-nautical mile race around the seven Canary Islands starting and finishing at Marina Rubicón in Lanzarote is expected to take three days to complete and will give an early indication of form for half of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet so far announced before the event begins on October 4.
At opposite ends of the scale in terms of preparation, Iker Martínez’s Spanish-backed boat will take on two of the most-practised crews in the fleet: the all-women’s crew of Team SCA and Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel.
Martínez, who was this week confirmed as the skipper of a campaign that has yet to announce its main title sponsor, knows he faces a major challenge to catch up on his rival sailors who in some cases have had more than a year’s extra experience handling the new Volvo Ocean 65s.
As least he will not be short of serious racing know-how on board after the French offshore iconic figure of Michel Desjoyeaux joined the crew for the Canary Islands test as part of his new role as a senior advisor for the team.
“It’s a big challenge – not only because the Volvo Ocean Race is such a long and tough race for all the crew members – but also because we know we do not have much time left before the first leg start on October 11,” said Martínez who was skipper of fourth-placed Telefónica in the 2011-12 edition.
“We know that we’re really pressed for time and the other teams are far ahead in terms of preparation but we are working hard to make up the difference.”
Bekking, a six-time veteran of the Volvo Ocean Race, was meanwhile hungrily anticipating a return to competitive sailing after a spell of relative relaxation for his Dutch-backed boat.
“We had two busy months in the Netherlands where the focus was mainly on public relations and sailing with sponsors. Everyone is happy to be back – the focus is again on performance and optimising the boat,” he said.
In contrast, under the strict Volvo Ocean Race rules, Team Alvimedica and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are not competing against each other as they cross the Atlantic from Newport, Rhode Island to the United Kingdom and are forbidden from closing to within two miles.
The crews have lately been bedevilled by a lack of wind and Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker summed up the situation succinctly: “What was a race north, is now a race east, which has brought Team Alvimedica right back into the race.
“We’re making our way east but just not very quickly”
While their five rivals are embracing the chance to put in some serious miles in the open sea, meanwhile, Dongfeng Race team are convinced that in-shore drills are the secret to improvements for their largely rookie crew which includes four Chinese newcomers.
They have been in the safe hands of in-shore coach Thierry Péponnet, the Olympic 470 champion in Seoul 1988.
“The purpose of doing so much in-shore training is because we think that is the best way to work on our communication onboard,” said team boss Bruno Dubois. “We feel that if we use the same momentum and procedures off-shore as we do in-shore then that’s better.”
Volvo Named Best Design Award Winner By Auto Express Readers
- Auto Express readers have named the Volvo Concept Estate as winner of the year’s best design award
- Robin Page, British-born Director of Interior Design at Volvo Car Group, collected Best Design trophy at London awards ceremony last night
- Concept Estate previews new design direction for Volvo’s forthcoming XC90
The Volvo Concept Estate car that made its debut earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show has been named the year’s best automotive design by Auto Express readers.
The concept, which previews Volvo’s new design direction and its forthcoming all-new XC90 SUV, was named Best Design award winner during its New Car Awards 2014 ceremony in London last night.
The Volvo Concept Estate triumphed in a hotly contested category, beating competition from 14 rival designs, including the Jaguar F-Type, BMW i8 and Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept.
The interior of the car attracted particular praise for its simple, elegant design, which removes visual clutter from the cabin by minimising the number of buttons on the fascia and replacing them with an intuitive touch-screen located in the centre of the dash. This, together with the use of high quality, natural materials – including an Orrefors crystal gearlever – are all themes that will be reflected in the luxurious interior design of the new Volvo XC90, to be revealed in August.
British-born Robin Page, Director of Interior Design at Volvo Car Group, accepted the Best Design award trophy at the ceremony, saying: "I am delighted to receive this award, on behalf of the design team, in recognition of the successful design of the Volvo Concept Estate. This concept was created to illustrate our new design language, enabling the world to have an insight into our future design vision."
Steve Fowler, Editor-in-Chief of Auto Express, said: “Our readers’ reaction to the recent Volvo concepts, especially the Volvo Concept Estate, bodes well for the next generation of Volvos starting with the new XC90. And we have to agree with our readers – the Concept Estate is one of the most striking cars we’ve seen for a very long time and certainly one of the best designed Volvos.”
The all-new Volvo XC90 will be the first car built on Volvo’s new SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform and will feature the new range of efficient four-cylinder Drive-E petrol and diesel engines.
The flagship model will be a new twin engine plug-in hybrid model, badged T8, that is an electric car, a hybrid car and a high performance car rolled into one. It will offer up to 400hp but have carbon dioxide emissions of around 60g/km (NEDC cycle) – making it the world’s most powerful and cleanest SUV.
UK buyers will also be able to have the all-wheel-drive, seven-seat XC90 with a choice of two highly fuel efficient diesel engines – a 190hp D4 (up to 57mpg on combined cycle) and a 225hp D5 model (47mpg combined).
The all-new Volvo XC90 will be revealed to the world in August.
End of an era as Swedish production of Volvo XC90 stops after 12 years
- After more than 636,000 cars, production of current XC90 stops today
- Last XC90 out of Torslanda plant joins Volvo Museum collection
- Torslanda plant now prepares for production of all-new XC90
Today marks the end of an era for Volvo Cars as production in Sweden of the iconic XC90 – a car that revolutionised the global SUV sector – comes to an end after 12 highly successful years.
The story began on 7 January 2002, when Volvo Car Corporation launched an eagerly awaited new model at the Detroit Motor Show. It was a car that dealers and customers principally in America had been yearning for – the Volvo XC90.
A car that would be awarded more than 100 international distinctions, including "SUV of the Year" as early as 2003, and that was named Sweden's most valuable export product, with an annual export value of more than SEK 40 billion in the peak years. Before sales started in 2003, Volvo's dealers had already received 15,000 orders.
636,143 XC90s produced
But all good things must come to an end. After producing 636,143 XC90s, a legend of the car world will leave the factory in Torslanda today to make room for the next generation of the XC90. The last XC90 made in Gothenburg will be driven directly to the Volvo Museum, also located in Gothenburg. However, production of the current XC90 will continue in Volvo's new car plant in Daqing later in the year, under the name of Volvo XC Classic, which will only be sold in China.
The all-new Volvo XC90 will also be produced in the Torslanda factory. The car, which will be revealed in August, will start production at the end of January 2015.
Hans-Olov Olsson, who is currently the Vice Chairman of Volvo Car Corporation's Board of Directors, was responsible for sales in the USA at the end of the 1990s. In 1998, he succeeded in convincing the company's then CEO, Tuve Johannesson, that the company should invest in an SUV.
In August 1998, Volvo Cars project director Hans Wikman was commissioned to develop a proposal for a modern, 7-seater SUV that was not too large. The car project was named P28, was to be based on the same platform as the Volvo S80 and should be launched in 2002. The aim was to sell 50,000 cars a year, a goal that would be beaten by a clear margin – during the peak years 2004-2007, around 85,000 cars were sold each year. The USA has been the largest single market for the XC90, with record figures achieved in 2004 (38,800 cars sold) and 2005 (36,200).
At the same time as drawing up three design proposals, two in California and one in Gothenburg, a female reference group was brought together in California, including Swedish actress Maud Adams, to contribute their wishes and comments, as American women would make up a large proportion of the intended target group.
41°C in the desert
The 4th of May 1999 was an important day for the project. In temperatures of 41°C, the three design proposals were presented at Volvo Cars’ test track outside Phoenix, Arizona. Senior management and some members of the future project management attended the gathering, with the aim of reaching agreement on the focus of the design. The winning exterior proposal was designed by Doug Frasher from Volvo's Concept & Monitoring Center in California, who also designed the exterior of the Volvo S80.
Hans Wikman remembers the feeling when the management team inspected the three design alternatives under the burning desert sun:
"Everyone in the project team was a little tense. After all, the SUV programme had been put on ice a couple of times before. We now had our fingers crossed that the design and the planned content would be good enough so that the management would approve it with no reservations. And that is exactly what happened."
Shot in the arm for the SUV segment
However, many critics felt that Volvo Car Corporation was entering the SUV segment too late in 2002. However, the XC90 came to be a shot in the arm for the entire segment by resolving many of the problems experienced in earlier SUVs.
"We were using the working hypothesis 'The Next Generation SUV'," explains Hans Wikman. "In other words, in the XC90 we were going to show innovative solutions for the drawbacks for which the SUVs of the time were known”
These solutions included:
- The potential to create a flat cargo floor behind the front seats;
- Driving properties equivalent to those of a regular car;
- Leading fuel economy within the segment.
Five global innovations
The Volvo XC90 also presented five global innovations when the car was introduced in 2002:
- RSC (Roll Stability Control), a system that uses a gyro sensor to detect and counter the risk of overturning, and ROPS (Roll Over Protection System) to optimise the protection for everyone in the car in the event that, despite everything, it should still overturn.
- Inflatable side curtains for all three rows of seats.
- An integrated, adjustable booster cushion for children in the second row.
- Seat belts with "tensioners" for all seats.
- A lower crossbeam at the front, which had the task of activating the car's safety systems in the event of a collision.
More than a decade later, the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) still ranked the XC90 as one of the safest cars on the market by naming it the 2014 Top Safety Pick+.
The Volvo XC90 was launched with a range of five and six-cylinder engines. All were transversely mounted in accordance with Volvo's powertrain concept. In 2004, the range was extended with a powerful, transversely mounted V8 engine made of aluminium, which was combined with a six speed automatic gearbox.
"We have learnt a great deal from the first generation XC90"
Now the first generation XC90 will make room for the next, a car that has made advances in terms of development and content at least on a par with the first.
"I am convinced that our customers will be very pleased," says Dennis Nobelius, who is primarily responsible for the all-new XC90. "We have learnt a great deal about the important holistic approach for everyone in the car, when it comes to following up this success."
“Our all-new XC90 is not just a natural development from an incredibly successful car, it is also an excellent example of the transformation underway at Volvo Cars, both within the company and from a brand perspective,” says Lex Kerssemakers, Senior Vice President Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. “We look forward to a new era of success.