April 16, 2007 German sports car manufacturer RUF Automobile opened its new factory at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday, taking the opportunity to launch of its all-new flagship model, the RUF CTR3 supercar, at the same time. In becoming the first sports car manufacturer to build a factory in the Middle East, RUF has certainly raised the bar for other manufacturers targeting the region. The factory, designed by the team led by Hermann Tilke, creator of the Bahrain International Circuit, features an eight-storey 34-metre tall glass tower topped with the same iconic Arabic tent roof style as the circuit's grandstands and Sakhir Tower. The tower is flanked by the preassembly and assembly wings, and visiting customers will receive their newly-built RUF model in the VIP lounge on the top floor when the completed car arrives on a spectacular lift. The facility will be the main production facility for the all-new EUR380,000 700 bhp CTR3 – a 3.8-litre twin- turbocharged horizontally-opposed six cylinder car with a 0-100km/h time of 3.2 seconds and a maximum speed of 375km/h. 26 year-old Ben Soderberg burst into an elite group of supercar designers with the arrival of the RUF CTR3. There’s also a Q&A with the CTR3 Designer.
The beautifully-designed facility will become a new hub for RUF customers in the Middle East and Asia alongside the marque's traditional home of Pfaffenhausen, situated in southern Germany's Allgäu region.
"Just one year ago we came to Bahrain and laid the foundation stone to this building with His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa," said Alois Ruf, Managing Director of RUF Automobile. "Back then we stood in a tent and displayed a small model car; now we have an entire factory and the sight and sound of the CTR3 in the flesh, our most advanced vehicle to date and one which will be built here in the Kingdom of Bahrain at the BIC."
Among the many important anniversaries being celebrated by RUF Automobile in 2007 is the 20th anniversary of the RUF CTR, the now-legendary 'Yellow Bird' which became the fastest production car available in the world. The revealing of the RUF CTR3 marks a departure for RUF Automobile, but one that follows the purity of performance design for which the company is renowned.
The CTR3 stands alone as the first RUF vehicle to have a unique chassis construction, with bespoke coachwork made from high-tech, lightweight Kevlar. The styling of the mid-engined car is curvaceous, redolent of the sculpted sports car designs seen racing at Le Mans in the 1950s and 1960s, designed by talented newcomer Ben Soderberg. The 3.8-litre twin- turbocharged car delivers shattering performance: 0-100km/h coming in 3.2 seconds and a maximum speed of 375km/h.
A cosmopolitan gathering of 250 guests and media were present from all around the world for the occasion, many of whom having flown in specifically for this event including Brazil's Minister of Energy and Mines 40 members of the Japanese motoring press, representatives of the international motoring press, RUF customers from as far as Guadeloupe and guests from Formula One.
"Some people think we chose this date to launch the CTR3 because of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix," said Alois Ruf. "It is true: It is one of the main reasons why we chose to bring our company here because we believe that the passion for performance and for motoring in countries who host Formula One is significantly higher, and that means not only customers but workers, sharing excitement for what we do together."
Currently RUF is going through the responses to job advertisements placed in Bahrain. Initially there will be around 15 engineering positions and a host of support staff vacancies to fill, with close liaison and training alongside the RUF team's German engineering team both in Bahrain and Pfaffenhausen. Already the factory has received 500 applications for the jobs: a response which Alois Ruf described as 'fantastic and filled with quality.'
Q&A with Ben Soderberg, CTR3 Designer
Ben Soderberg, at just 26 years of age, burst into an elite group of supercar designers with the arrival of the RUF CTR3. Born and raised in Germany – his father having been involved with many of Porsche’s most famous sports racing cars of the 1960s and early 1970s such as the 908, legendary 917/20 ‘Pink Pig’ and the 959 – Ben then moved to Australia to study as a design engineer. Returning to Germany he was offered an internship at RUF Automobile, where the small team of experts meant a fast learning curve to master all areas of design.
Q: How long has the RUF CTR3 been on the drawing board?
A: RUF has been looking into making the leap to building complete cars from the ground up for some time. A couple of prototypes have been made in the last four or five years and the team learned a lot from them to create this car. There are about seven engineers who have been involved in this the whole way through and I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance to jump straight in with them after my internship. This car is the result of the R&D done in previous years with earlier prototypes – plus the final ‘push’ of the last 12 months to build this car.
Q: How does the CTR3 differ from the earlier prototypes?
A: We had the concept of making the birdcage construction. It was when we teamed up with Multimatic with its structural engineering expertise that the concept became a reality and after that the whole programme took off. That was when I could get to work because the structure and the styling needed to be developed simultaneously.
Q: How much of a challenge was it to evolve the structure and design?
A: The Birdcage is a work of art in itself. It is a great concept that Multimatic executed to perfection. The car is bigger – it’s got a wheelbase that’s 200mm longer than the Porsche 997, but it is compact, lightweight and dressing it in a curvaceous shape was the right way to go. The tests are ongoing, this is a car that needs to be able to travel at high speed with great stability and normally that means being big. We are trying to achieve that but with more compact styling and doing it through things like the Birdcage that make this car unique. It is not working to enhance an existing car, it is building a RUF.
Q: What was the brief that you had from RUF… design us a supercar?
A: We did a lot of concepts but in the supercar market it is pretty obvious that wedge shapes have come to dominate. Look at almost any supercar on the market and you have a little pointy nose and big hips. There’s nothing sensuous about those cars to my eye, and that is something that Mr. Ruf agrees with. We wanted to express the character of the company; the romance and passion that RUF feels for driving and that our customers get from their cars. Alois is so passionate about the cars that inspired him to get into the sports car business in the first place, and we wanted to capture hints of the great sports racers of the 1950s and 1960s in the design.
Q: Would you say that the styling is retro?
A: Not at all. Designing a new car to look old isn’t what any manufacturer should do in my opinion and for RUF, with this being our first real styling piece, it would be totally wrong. It is one of the fastest, highly advanced sports cars on the road, with a body made from Kevlar. Yet it we are working in the same spirit as it was when sports cars were built using hand-beaten aluminium, and that standard of craftsmanship and sculpture was what we were aiming for.
Q: So this is not a wedge and it is not retro… what is it?
A: I would say that it is organic. Supercars have become a series of straight lines and sharp edges, and we wanted something emotional. Supercars are also pretty big ships, so the CTR3 is smaller than cars of comparable performance and we wanted to wrap the bodywork around the car as tightly as possible. The front of the car has a pretty clear lineage, but we were still able to sculpt it somewhat. The Porsche 997 has an incredibly straight profile from the front to the rear fenders, so we raised the front fender by 30mm and ‘pulled’ it around the wheel. It has a curve that flows through to the rear of the car.
Q: How did working with a mid-engined design and structure affect the styling?
The rear bodywork features cooling slats, which Alois remembered from Porsche’s early racers. Together with the curves, they form the whole classic Le Mans car look. That is why we presented the car to the world with a more matt paint finish to complete the spirit of the piece. It is warm and it glows.
Q: Does this mean the start of a new era for RUF?
A: In some ways. It is our first step towards a completely new design from the ground up, but it is also filled with the spirit of Alois Ruf and this company. Porsche will never fade from his affection, but ultimately he is a motor manufacturer and the thrill for him is to design and build his own products. Our core business, the business he has built up and the knowledge and passion that he is renowned for, will never go away but there are more products to come.
Q: How did you manage to keep the car so secret and avoid the prying lenses?
A: Have you ever been to Pfaffenhausen? Our home is a beautiful green corner of Germany, it’s a small and tight-knit community there and we are very fortunate in that way. It’s easy to hide a car there – even this one! Now we are at the stage where the prototype needs to go through the final stages of its development and as a result this was the right time to reveal it. We are taking it all over the world to ensure that when the time to go into production comes the CTR3 maintains the standard of performance, handling, reliability and usability that define our products.
Q: What does it mean to you to see the completed car?
A: It means the next step on this fantastic ride. So far I have finished my education, done my internship and, in the last 12 months, I’ve now designed this car. I could never have had this opportunity anywhere but RUF – seriously, if I had gone to a major manufacturer I would still be working on wingmirrors for the next five years! But coming in to a team of such skilled and experienced people meant jumping in at the deep end. Everything you see here is the result of work by a small and tight-knit group of people from RUF and Multimatic. I learn from them, we go on together.
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