The Formula One engine in the back of Mercedes' new Project One hypercar is so loud that its secret testing is no longer secret.
Car companies usually do their best to prevent images of prototypes leaking out to the media, but the distinctive sound of the Project One's V6 turbo-hybrid F1 engine meant that it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the car's testing under wraps. Rather than have a spy photographer get there first, the German brand decided to release the first images of its prototype car in motion on the closed roads of the Milbrook proving grounds in the U.K..
"The successful completion of [engine] dyno tests was followed by the installation of the highly complex powertrain into the first prototypes, which since then have been driving around unnoticed on a secret test ground in England," a press statement said.
"But today it turns out to be more difficult to keep this testing confidential: the camouflaged prototypes of the Mercedes-AMG hypercar are still being driven on closed off test grounds and racetracks. However, because of their characteristic F1 sound they are hard to keep from the public."
The shape of the car will already be familiar to those who saw Project One make its debut at the 2017 Frankfurt motorshow, but all the models seen to date were simply static concept cars. The images released this week represent the first look at a working model, although several details will be tidied up before the finished car reaches customers next year.
Lewis Hamilton has his name down to be one of the first customers to receive a Project One, which will cost somewhere in excess of £2 million. When he takes delivery, Hamilton will be instantly familiar with the engine powering his new car, which is a modified version of the power unit that Mercedes has used in F1 over the last three years.
That means it is capable of producing over 1000bhp from the same 1.6-litre, V6 turbo-hybrid design -- albeit revving to 11,000rpm rather than the 13,500rpm redline of the F1 unit. However, unlike Hamilton's F1 car, the Project One will be all-wheel-drive with additional electric motors powering the front two wheels in tandem with the engine and hybrid system powering the rear.
The engine has been developed at the same Brixworth factory that produces Mercedes' F1 engine, with "hundreds of testing hours" on the dyno already complete to convert it into a road-going unit. AMG believes the car will be good for 50,000km before the power unit has to be taken apart and rebuilt -- much like an actual F1 engine is at every race weekend.
Only 275 Project Ones will be built and customers have been carefully selected to avoid the cars being sold on for a huge profit within a year or two. Production of the cars themselves is expected to take place at a dedicated factory in the U.K..