The Royal Automobile Club has awarded the Simms Medal to McMurtry Automotive for the conception, design and manufacture of the stunning McMurtry Spéirling, which this year broke the hill record at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Named in honour of one of the Club’s founder members, Frederick Simms, the Medal recognises ‘an outstanding contribution to motoring innovation’ by individuals or small companies, and one that exemplifies the ‘spirit of adventure’. Like the Club’s other major award for British engineering, the Dewar Trophy, the Simms Medal is not awarded on an annual basis. Instead, it is presented only when the Technical Committee is satisfied that an event of sufficiently significant and outstanding innovation in the automotive field has taken place.
Development of the McMurtry Spéirling began six years ago as a showcase for the patented green technologies of engineer and inventor Sir David McMurtry, who founded the company with former Mercedes engineer Thomas Yates. The compact, rear-wheel-drive single-seater features the same footprint as a Formula 1 car from the early 1960s, but boasts an all-electric powertrain in a carbon monocoque and has a power-to-weight ratio of 1000bhp-per-tonne.
Its bespoke battery pack has been designed and built by McMurtry using cutting-edge, high-power lithium ion cells supplied by Molicel. The 60kWh battery is capable of delivering 30 minutes of hard track driving, which equates to over 300 miles in normal road use.
The performance is harnessed by a fan-powered downforce system – as outlawed in Formula 1 since the late 1970s. Two fans are placed behind the driver and connect through an intricate network of ducts to a sealed skirt beneath the car, creating a vacuum and giving both instant and constant downforce. They also produce over 100 decibels of jet-like exhaust noise, making the Spéirling – which is the Irish word for ‘thunderstorm’ – unique in the near-silent world of electric cars.
The 0-60mph sprint is dispatched in under 1.5 seconds, while torque and grip can be adjusted to suit drivers of all abilities. In the hands of former Grand Prix racer and McMurtry’s head development driver Max Chilton, the results speak for themselves. At the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Chilton smashed the official hill record of 41.6 seconds, which had been set by Nick Heidfeld in 1999 aboard a Formula 1 McLaren. Chilton’s 39.08-second run also beat the unofficial record held by Romain Dumas in the Volkswagen ID.R.
Chilton said: “Huge congratulations to everyone at McMurtry on being presented with the Simms Medal. As soon as I first sat in the Spéirling car, I could tell the team’s attention to detail combined ambitious performance targets would yield a new benchmark for the industry. Driving this car is a unique experience. It’s exciting from the driving seat and from the grandstands, with the fan-powered downforce system delivering distinctive speed and sound in equal measure”.
Thomas Yates added: “We’re truly honoured to be recognised in this way by the Royal Automobile Club – the list of former Simms Medal recipients includes some serious engineering talent and we’re humbled to join them. We’re looking forward to attempting more famous records in order to further demonstrate the immense potential of the Spéirling, as well as developing the road version.”
Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Dewar Technical Committee, said: ‘This project is an outstanding example of pushing boundaries – the team were passionate on their mission to create a record-breaker. Thomas’ ambitious vision was revolutionary – to develop a leading-edge vehicle that would take the world by (thunder) storm, and that’s exactly what they achieved. Everyone on the Committee was stunned by the Spéirling, and there’s little doubt that it not only embodies the spirit of adventure but also demonstrates the engineering and technological capability in the UK today”.
About the Dewar Technical Committee
The Dewar Technical Committee has existed for more than a century and is made up of leading experts from across the automotive industry. Chaired by Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, the committee also includes engineering consultant Alec Osborn MBE, Autocar Editor-in-Chief Steve Cropley, motor racing engineer Pat Symonds, motorsport journalist Charles Armstrong-Wilson, Professor David Greenwood from Warwick University, and past winner Dan Parry-Williams, Director of IQUAD Technology.
Previous winners of the Simms Medal
2021 Dr Rob Lewis OBE for the development of the Catesby Tunnel Test Facility and the associated Innovation Centre. 2019 Zef Eisenberg: a man driven by technology and demonstrating its potential in the most extreme manner. 2017 HIPERCAR Consortium for the development of the HIPERCAR. 2016 Riversimple for the development of the Rasa hydrogen fuel cell electric car. 2015 Williams Advanced Engineering for the design, development and production of the battery powering Formula E racing cars. 2013 Lord Paul Drayson for setting four Electric World Land Speed Records for sub-999kg vehicles. 2012 Ben Bowlby for his brilliant realisation of the groundbreaking DeltaWing racing car. 2009 World Steam Land Speed Record team, with a special dedication to former Project Manager, the late Mr Frank Swanston, for breaking the 103-year-old world record and raising it to an average of 148.308mph for two consecutive runs over a measured kilometre. 2007 Richard Parry-Jones CBE, in recognition of his immense contribution to the UK and world automobile industry (as the Ford Motor Company Group Vice President and Chief Technical Officer). 2006 Bill Gibson of Zytek, for developments in the fields of motorsport and electric vehicles. 2005 Simon Saunders of Ariel Motor Company for designing the Ariel Atom sports car. 2004 Professor Gary Savage of the BAR Formula 1 team for its carbon fibre gearbox. 2003 Mick Hyde of Radical Motorsport for the SR3 sports racing car.