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  Dome S102 Judd

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Country of origin:Japan
Produced in:2008
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:June 02, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionLong established racing car manufacturer first entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979. In the 1980s the Japanese company was the driving force behind Toyota's four and eight cylinder Le Mans racers. At the end of the decade the focus turned to single seater racing, but company founder Minoru Hayashi never lost his desire to one day take a Le Mans win. Now a dominating force in a variety of Japanese racing series, Dome gave sportscar racing another go at the start of this decade. To this end a brand new prototype racing car was built to be raced at Le Mans and in the FIA Sportscar Championship.

Dubbed the S101, the new racing car debuted at the 2001 Monza 1000 km race. Fielded by highly experienced endurance racers Jan Lammers and John Nielsen, two examples were entered for the race. Lammers proved the most loyal of the S101 customers as he drove the Dome in various evolutions well into 2007. The car proved quick straight out of the box and the Nielsen car racked up the first win in July of 2001. With a two car team, Jan Lammers' Racing for Holland dominated the 2002 FIA Sportscar Championship, clinching both titles. At Le Mans, the stronger competition meant that the S101 could do no better than sixth.

Rule changes left the car obsolete for the 2006 season and due to uncertainty about future changes, Dome refused to commit to a new car. For 2007 the existing design was modified for a final time and raced as the S101.5, but with very disappointing results. While many believed this spelt the end of Dome's sportscar racing efforts, the Japanese manufacturer showed resilience and set about designing a brand new car for 2008. After trying a variety of configurations, Dome opted for a coupe bodywork, which they believed to be the most efficient.

Initially Dome announced that they would base the shape of the S102 on the successful Peugeot 908 coupe, but as development progressed they moved well away from the French design. The big challenge for the designers was to bridge the horsepower gap between the Judd V10 petrol engine and the dominant diesel engines with the chassis and aerodynamics. The answer was to concentrate as much weight as possible in the middle and lower end of the car, resulting in a very low machine with a relatively long wheelbase. If anything, it has resulted in a superb looking machine.

Long before the first S102 tub was completed, the team was already testing the running gear on the S101.5 chassis. Dome opted to go with the familiar by using the well proven Judd V10 engine combined with a Xtrac 6-speed gearbox and Zytek's paddle shift system. The suspension system is far from conventional as it uses Dome's in-house developed dampers. These were briefly used on the S101, but abandoned again. Designed specifically for the S102 chassis, these dampers should be superior to any off the shelve product.

Early in March of 2008 all bits and pieces were put together and the S102 first took to the track. It immediately impressed observers. The car was not raced before heading to Le Mans, but Dome did take it to Spa the week after the Le Mans Series race to see how it weighed up. The S102 made its highly anticipated first public appearance at the official Le Mans test. Some small problems and at times horrendous weather prevented the team from setting super quick lap times. It would not be a big surprise, however, if the splendid Dome will record the fastest petrol time during qualifying.

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  Article Image gallery (21) Specifications