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1979 Dome Zero RL

Back in the 70s and 80s, Prototype racing was very popular, with crazy machines with tons of horsepower using sophisticated aerodynamics all in one endurance racing series. Naturally, this attracted manufacturers and famous names such as Nissan, Lancia, and Porsche, but one small Japanese company, Dome, was also very interested in prototype racing.


Minoru Hayashi started the project and wanted to homologate the Dome Zero road car for racing in Japan; however, the company didn't have the funds to go through with the strict homologation process and instead went to sell the vehicle overseas in America, called the Zero P2.


After the relative success of the car at auto shows and good reviews by car magazines, Minoru Hayashi decided to make a racecar called the RL (Racing LeMans)


The RL was designed by Dome's head of design, Masao Ono. The car was meant to compete in the 24 hours of LeMans, so it was designed with low drag. The front of the vehicle was very narrow and around 5 meters long to reduce drag. Unfortunately, this made the car a handful to drive; it suffered from significant high-speed instability.


The car also featured a narrow glass canopy which would, unfortunately, make it relatively warm inside the car on sunny days and hindered visibility at times. It also caused vibrations and turbulence around the vehicle, so it was chopped off.


At its first appearance at the 1979 24 Hours of LeMans, two cars were entered; both cars used 2.9 liters Cosworth engines; however, one car ran with 450hp while the other with 415hp. The cars qualified poorly in 15th and 18th in the race; however, there were promising signs when one of the cars had gained ten positions after the first hour. however, the car didn't last particularly long. Dome ended up retiring both cars before the night.


The car would be redesigned and entered again for 1980; however, a gearbox problem early on in the race would mean the car would cross the line dead last. Another entry for the 1981 event would end in a DNF for the team.


After its disaster, attempts at LeMans funds would run low for the team, and the project would be stopped with Dome continuing to race Toyota built prototype cars throughout the eighties.


Source: CarThrottle (2018)