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LPG racer hits 198mph

BMW tuning company AC Schnitzer is claiming a new world record - for the fastest ever LPG-powered car.

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BMW tuning company AC Schnitzer is claiming a new world record - for the fastest ever LPG-powered car.

Using a specially modified BMW 3-Series Coupé, the German Tuner has lapped the famous Nardo test track in Italy at a mighty 318.1km/h.

That is near-as-dammit 198mph. Which on a flat piece of road - as opposed to Nardo's banked circle - would probably mean over 200mph, from a car running on green-friendly Liquid Petroleum Gas. The speed was set during the hardcore tuner face-off that takes place at the test track every year under the supervision of Continental Tyres and the German Auto Bild sportscars magazine. The event's motto is "Beyond 300km/h," but this kind of performance is usually restricted to highly modified vehicles slurping large amounts of super-unleaded. Not that the AC Schnitzer 3-Series is exactly standard.

Not your average racer
AC Schnitzer call it the Concept Car GP3.10. Not exactly catchy, but from the aerodynamics-enhancing wide-arch bodykit, to the rear diffuser and enormous Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 style exhaust, this is one mean looking machine. However, it is far from being a stripped-out lightweight racing special. The interior has received an alarmingly orange re-trim, the customary AC Schnitzer wing-vents are present and correct, and there is even a sunroof. And just look at those gigantic polished alloys. Even if the suspension rides like a tea tray down stairs (which is probable) that is still a surprising amount of luxury refinement for a record breaker.

The secret is under the bonnet. Where you might be expecting a stoked-up version of the twin-turbo straight six from the 335i, or the M3's stonking new V8, lies a different order of beast entirely. Ten cylinders, 5.0-litres and not a lot of elbowroom - this is one 3-Series that is never going to feel under-endowed. Yup, AC Schnitzer's crack team of fettlers have indeed managed to stuff a modified M5 engine into the Coupé. And it hasn't just been modified for LPG; power is up from the standard M5's 500bhp to 544bhp. That's a near 10% increase - despite using an alternative fuel.

The future of racing?
LPG's main advantage, however, is in emissions. Research undertaken on behalf of Calor Gas Limited in the UK has shown that carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen are all reduced by its use. Petrol cars - like this one - should also see a reduction in CO2, and particulate emissions drop by up to 90% compared to diesels. Engines last longer, and although early versions tended to suffer with power loss, the latest generation technology has solved this problem, as the GP3.10 clearly underlines. LPG is cheaper to buy than conventional fuels, and a conversion can be carried out on virtually any car from around £1,000.

Speaking of money, AC Schnitzer is not saying how much the GP3.10 would set you back - it is, after all, a 'concept'.

But if you really want one of the fastest green-friendly cars on the planet, we are quite sure it could figure out some kind of cost.