INTERVIEW. Inside the new Vortex 2.0

News | September 15, 2023

This weekend in Barcelona, Vortex is set to reveal the latest iteration of its GT sports car, the ‘2.0.’ A project almost two years in the making, how much of an upgrade is Vortex’ newboy over its bespoke predecessor? CREVENTIC finds out.


Words – James Gent

Images – Nico Mombaerts / Vortex SAS

*Article updated with images from the Vortex 2.0 unveil at the 2023 Hankook 24H BARCELONA

“Have we? I haven’t really thought about it!”


Philippe Bonnel’s amused cynicism notwithstanding, it’s difficult to deny the lengths to which the bespoke, lightweight sports prototype from Vortex SAS has captured the collective imagination of 24H SERIES fans over the years. Indeed, the French independent’s plucky underdog spirit, the correct plural adjective (“is it Vortexes, or Vortices…?”), and, if we’re being brutally honest, whether the orange oddball will be the first to cause a Code 60 during a CREVENTIC event, are conversations that regularly grace the commentary box. Still, one couldn’t help but smile when the Vortex, through dogged determination, eventually took its first GTX-class win earlier this year in Mugello. 


At its 28th attempt. Seven years after its debut. And two years after it had secured the GTX Teams’ title!


When nudged gently by CREVENTIC, even Philippe has to admit that the Vortex ‘1.0,’ built from the ground-up in Hérault, France, has got under the skin of motor racing fans in a way that the Lamborghini Huracáns, ‘MR’ endurance-spec Porsche 911s, and, yes, even the ‘kindred’ KTM X-BOW GTXs it has competed against regularly since its debut in 2016 have not.


“I think it’s because we’re a small manufacturer,” Philippe continues. “Every race we [compete] against Porsches, Mercedes, etc, and I think a lot of people like small manufacturers ‘fighting’ on-track with big [brands]. This is what has always made, and still does, the spirit of endurance. 


“And I think a lot of drivers at CREVENTIC meetings know the Vortex very well on-track. I mean, a lot of them may not understand how we can drive a Vortex instead of a Porsche, because it looks very… ‘artisanal’! But I think – I hope! – a lot of people will be surprised by the new car, just like they were with the old car. It is truly the new Vortex ambition that we present with this 2.0.”

The silks for the new ‘2.0’ generation Vortex are set to be pulled back at this weekend’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA (doubly fitting, as the Vortex 1.0 took its first-ever 24H SERIES class podium at the same event back in 2019). A long developmental road it’s been since then too for the newboy. The initial renders for example were first put to digital paper back in September 2021, and little of the 2.0’s popular forebear will be carried over for the brand-new design. 


“The design from the first [draft] all the way up to what we gave Auxal and Mygale” – more on them in a second – “took maybe 12 to 14 months to finish,” Philippe continues. “We started in September or October 2021, and the first ‘study’ was ready in November/ December last year.


‘Vortex,’ as a competition team and a manufacturer, has existed since 2015, and we’ve accumulated a lot of experience building and operating race cars. We’re a manufacturer of around 15 people, and we are fortunate to have all the skills of a complete design office, engineers and professional ‘in-house’ drivers. Our objective, with the launch of the new 2.0, is to allow drivers and teams running our cars to be able to fight for wins in the general classification.”


Again, the new Vortex has been built with endurance rather than sprint racing in-mind, and from day one, Vortex SAS co-founders – and brothers – Arnaud and Olivier Gomez prioritized a brand-new aerodynamics package. 


“It’s Olivier Gomez who designed the new car, who made all the study of aerodynamics.” – Let’s not forget the car was specifically named ‘Vortex’ after its aerodynamic flair. – “It’s completely his work, and the [‘2.0’] design has stayed pretty much the same since he first started work on it.


“Sometimes in 2021 and 2022, work on the 2.0 could only be done between the race weekends [24H SERIES and Ultimate Cup Series] we were committed to. But we are a small and very professional team, so we take full advantage of being on-track more often than others, and that helps save time thinking about and designing the Vortex 2.0.


“We could have acquired a Mercedes, a Porsche, an Audi, a Lamborghini or another Ferrari: put tyres on and gasoline in, and run it based on a century of experience from these manufacturers and the thousands of engineers that have worked on these vehicles. Instead, we made the ambitious choice to develop, build and sell our own racing cars. The path is not easy, and you may not imagine the amount of work it requires, but it is our passion.”

Perhaps understandably, given the almost-clean sheet design, Philippe and the Gomez brothers have been keeping details of the new design close to their chests. In fact, it was only when Vortex put a 1:18-scale clay model on display in their garage during this year’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS that fans got their first ‘look’ at the 2.0’s new bodywork. 


Admittedly, the revisions at the front are subtle, since neither Arnaud, chief designer Olivier, nor Philippe wanted to erode the Vortex’s essential character. The curvaceous front end for example stays much the same – though more sculpted in a Ginetta G55 kind of way – while the bonnet grooves are longer and more pronounced than before. Ditto the slightly more aggressive front splitter, the first of several changes to help improve handling and road holding, the others being new suspension from PKM (replacing the old Öhlins double wishbones), upgraded anti-roll bars, and an expected drop in kerb weight over the 1.0 – by as much as 120kg – to help preserve the Hankook tyre life. 


The triangular headlamps have been extended, and thus replace the three-cornered air inlets originally mounted below them on the 1.0. Indeed, the latter have now been rendered obsolete by a wider, single-piece front air intake. Eagle-eyed viewers may even have noticed, from Dubai this year onwards, that those same intakes were either panelled or ‘patched’ over entirely on the 701 / 702 as a pseudo-beta test. The roof-top air scoop – absent entirely this year at the low-downforce Monza – is mounted further back on the 2.0, and is swathed by the bodywork to help improve rear airflow. 


The butterfly doors have not been replaced on the new Vortex (the court of public opinion would not have taken that lightly…), but the side sills are much slimmer than before and the ‘air scoop’ running between the front and rear wheels on the 1.0 has been removed altogether in an effort to push more cooling air towards the rear wheel arches to help cool the brakes.

The biggest changes however are at the rear. The ‘swan-neck’ rear wing is gone, replaced by a full-width rear wing built out of the wheel arches, complete with a hearty-amounts-of-downforce-producing gurney flap. In an effort to divert red hot exhaust vapours away from the rear suspension (another bugbear on the 1.0), the dual exhaust pipes have also been relocated. 


Below the rear wing is an enormous new diffuser to further improve rear grip, and just behind that, you’ll see a new shark fin, which, together with the ‘coke bottle’ style rear bodywork that tightly cradles the engine bay, will help direct airflow to the rear wing and reduce drag. 


Interestingly, despite the sweeping changes to the bodywork, the Vortex has not lost its nimble (well… nimble-ish) stature between generations. The new 2.0 sits 1,996 mm wide, just over 4,500mm long, and, thanks in-part to the more ‘horizontal’ driving position, just under 1,165mm tall. To improve structural rigidity – another priority for Arnaud and Olivier – the new bodyshell is made completely from carbon fibre rather than the less forgiving fiberglass used for the 1.0. 


“With the new car, we’ve decided to do everything in carbon, so it will look totally different. We hope, in terms of [robustness and rigidity], the new carbon body will make a big difference too.” 


However, while the bodywork design was all completed, in-house, at Hérault, the chassis is another matter. Like its predecessor, the 2.0 is built with a top tubular spaceframe chassis, but unlike the 1.0, new chassis is made completely in carbon, not steel, with structural rigidity, and thus, more downforce through the corners, once again the priority. Understandably, developing all the specific moulds in-house for the carbon was simply not feasible for Vortex.


 “We have had two major partners: Auxal near Clermont-Ferrand, and Mygale, near the Magny-Cours circuit. Together, they made special moulds for the carbon chassis and the bodywork based on our designs.


“After the manufacture of the first chassis, we successfully passed validation with the FIA. This was an important step for us, and essential for the future marketing of our cars. Note that the developed crashbox has respected the same manufacturing requirements.”

One of the sole carry-overs from the 1.0 to the 2.0 is the small-block, 550cv naturally-aspirated V8 workhorse that’s powered ‘Vortex’ from day one (and, prior to that, Chevrolet’s sixth-generation Corvette). 


“Again, we don’t want to change everything during the first year. So, probably next year or the year after, we will work on a new type of engine.” – Professional that he is, Philippe isn’t dropping any hint as to what the new engine might be, but two important hypotheses are under study… – “but in 2024, we will be running the new Sadev gearbox.”


When last he spoke about the 2.0 project with CREVENTIC, Philippe suggested the newboy might be ready for its roll-out at this year’s 24H SERIES European season opener in Mugello. But, due to some supply delays – understandable in the post-Covid era – there have been some delays during development. What brand-new car hasn’t had its fair share of those?!


Still, after a recent, successful shakedown in Barcelona in July, things seem to be back on-track. Indeed, after its Hankook 24H BARCELONA unveil, the Vortex 2.0 could well make its competitive debut, alongside the retiring 1.0, at the Hankook 12H KUWAIT in December.


“Up to Kuwait, that’s still our development period, and we are planning a few more test sessions at Le Castellet and Barcelona. We’ve already scheduled 15 days of training sessions, with different kinds of drivers: professionals, and ‘gentlemen,’ like me.


“For the first race in Kuwait, we’re looking to enter one car, and if everything goes okay, the ideal plan is to have two new cars running in Dubai: one driven by professionals like Arnaud and Olivier, and another car with gentlemen drivers like Lionel Amrouche, Gilles Courtois and me.”


That second car for ‘gentlemen’ drivers will prove just as important to development as the ‘PRO’ car, by the way. Vortex after all has always catered its ‘1.0’ towards amateur and SEMI-PRO competitors, and looks set to do so again with the ‘2.0.’


“Three of our regular drivers – that includes Lionel Amrouche and me – have been very involved in the development because they’ve invested in the manufacture as well. So obviously we can’t wait to try the new car!”

Feedback so far has also been largely positive from drivers and the Gomez brothers alike, and though they’re not quite ready to say so publicly, behind safely closed doors in Hérault, confidence is growing that the 2.0 could provide Vortex with several significant steps on-track over its 1.0 predecessor. Further details regarding production numbers are also being discussed internally. 


“In 2024, Vortex will personally have three cars in operation, and we foresee an annual production capacity of 15 to 20 cars, which will be sold to French and international teams. To this end, we are modifying our production workshops.”


And yes, don’t worry. We did double check with Philippe about the most important part of the Vortex 2.0…


“Yes, orange and carbon will remain the dominant colours for the Vortex team cars! But future drivers or teams who order a Vortex 2.0 from 2024 are free to choose their own livery.”

You can also check out this article in our 2023 Hankook 24H BARCELONA paddock magazine, available for digital download below.


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