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A Short History of the Wankel Engine_(Italian and English)

30w ago

951

ITA

La storia del motore a scoppio è stata finora intensa e inarrestabile, ma lineare. Durante la propria esistenza, il propulsore termico ha vissuto cambiamenti evolutivi, ma solo uno è stato rivoluzionario. Felix Wankel naque in Germania nel 1902, ricco in genialità e inventiva, ma povero in denaro, Felix studiò la meccanica da auto-didatta, non potendosi permettere l'università. Fu preso per pazzo quando, a soli 17 anni, rivelò di voler costruire un nuovo tipo di motore. Nel 1924, a 22 anni, Wankel inventò il motore rotativo e nel 1929 riuscì a registrarne i diritti. Molti anni dopo, nel 1957, Felix riuscì a costruire il primo rotativo interamente funzionante. Ancora oggi, la sua geometria, è l'unica eccezione alla formula cilindro + pistone che sia riuscita ad arrivare alla produzione di massa. Sebbene il motore rotativo fosse già stato utilizzato sulla RX7, il mondo dei motori fu costretto a prendere seriamente il propulsore rotativo inventato da Wankel quando nel 1991, alla guida di una Mazda 787B, Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler e Bertrand Gachot conquistarono la vittoria alla 24 Ore di Le Mans. La RX7, la stradale in produzione fino al 2002, è diventata un'icona "pop" dell'auto. Leggenda rinforzata dalle numerose apparizioni nella saga di Fast & Furious, Initial D, Need for Speed e Gran Turismo su tutte. Fu sostituita nel 2003 dalla RX8, un'auto veloce e fluida. La RX8 montava un 1,3 litri da 231 cavalli con solamente due parti in movimento, i due rotori. Un propulsore V6 equivalente, tra valvole, albero motore, pistoni, etc, ne ha a decine. Sfortunatamente, la RX8 era tanto bella quanto dispendiosa. Poco affidabile e con un 1,3 litri che aveva prestazioni da V6 ma consumi di olio e di benzina da W12. Il Wankel sembrava essere destinato al dimenticatoio. Un paio d'anni fa Mazda presentò la RX Vision al Salone di Ginevra, una concept car, bellissima e rossissima, e che la casa giapponese ha riproposto, più o meno rielaborata, in diverse occasioni successive. Il problema è che non si sa se e quando e cosa vogliono fare. In teoria Mazda ha riproposto, ancora una volta, alcune concept car che promettono di impiegare il motore rotativo ma solo come supporto di ricarica per un potenziale ibrido il che, di fatto, significa che il motore non sarà un Wankel.

ENG

In the history of the internal combustion engine most developments have been evolutionary and only a few were revolutionary. One of these revolutions came from Germany. Felix Wankel was born in Germany in 1902, he was short on money but rich on inventive and ideas. He began studying mechanical engineering on his own because he couldn't afford universities which is one of the reasons why he was laughed at when, at just 17, he said he was going to build a new type of engine. In 1924, at 22 years of age, Wankel invented what we now know as the rotary engine and in 1929, he managed to file for patents for his creation. Several years after that, in 1957, Felix finally completed his first working rotary engine. To date, the rotary engine is still the only engine that's not bound by the classic cylinder+pistons layout to have made it into mass production. The RX7, the car that many people consider the best ever to employ a rotary engine, had been around for a while when, in 1991, Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot won the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans at the wheel of a Mazda 787B. This meant a lot for Mazda but it meant even more for the rest of the world because now everybody knew the rotary engine was to be taken seriously. Back to the RX7 (production ceased in 2002), it became somewhat of an icon in the automotive world, largely due to the wide following and "myth" status it gained by appearing in Initial D, the Fast & Furious franchise and the Gran Turismo and Need for Speed saga. It was later replaced by the RX8, in 2003, a car which was fast and fluid and also...fiddly. I owned one. It had a 1,3 litre rotary engine with two rotors, four spark plugs and power outputs ranging from 189 to 228 PS. One of the key features of the Wankel rotary engine (which Mazda called "Renesis") is that it only has two moving parts, its rotors, whereas an equivalent V6 engine of the time had dozens between valves, pistons, crankshaft and so on and so forth. Unfortunately the RX8 was just every bit as terrible to live with as it was amazing to drive. It went like a V6 but drank petrol and oil like a W12. Mazda eventually dropped the Wankel engine because it simply couldn't cope with increasingly stricter emissions regulations.

A couple of years ago, at Geneva, Mazda introduced the Mazda RX Vision, a beautiful red concept car with a rotary engine that's still far from production. Recently, Mazda said they would revive the rotary engine as a range extender for Mazda's new electric cars. Which basically means we won't actually be seeing any rotary powered cars any time soon.

Duh.

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