“I was born in Bosnia, the poorest country in Europe. The roads were dirt. Cars were very rare. Nobody in my family had anything to do with cars, but my parents tell me that before I could walk or talk, I was already then crazy about them. Nobody knows why. I was just, somehow, for some reason, born with it.”
I’m chatting with Mate Rimac (pronounced “mah-TAY re-MATS”) at the Geneva Motor Show. Nearby is the Rimac Automobili C_Two, a production-ready, all-electric hypercar boasting 1,887 hp, 1,696 lb-ft of torque, and performance to scare a Bugatti Chiron. Rimac claims the C_Two will hit 60 mph in 1.85 seconds, 100 mph in 4.3 seconds, and 186 mph in 11.8 seconds. The quarter mile takes just 9.1 seconds, en route to a top speed of 256 mph.
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Alongside the #CTWO @gimsswiss we displayed the technology under its skin. So much effort goes into designing and engineering the biggest single carbon piece in the industry from scratch and in-house. Yet all everyone wants to see is this becoming the world’s fastest off-road buggy. Well, we have to disappoint you, because after the show, this monocoque is coming back home to become a prototype C_Two. #Rimac #hypercar #genevamotorshow
Just over the way is the gorgeous Pininfarina Battista, which is built around the C_Two’s Rimac-designed carbon-fiber monocoque with its potent Rimac-designed quad e-motor powertrain and 120-kW-hr battery pack. Across the aisle is Koenigsegg, for whom Rimac supplies ultra-high-performance hybrid technology. In the distance is Aston Martin, whose extraordinary Valkyrie hypercar also uses Rimac hybrid technology. And next door is Porsche, which has just acquired a 10 percent stake in Rimac Automobili.
Mate Rimac is just 31 years old. Yes, this hypercar creator and ultra-performance e-component specialist, whose company is headquartered near Zagreb, Croatia, is two years younger than Henry Ford was when Ford built his first car, the Quadricycle, in 1896.
Rimac bristles with the passion and intensity of the entrepreneur-engineers who shaped 20th century automaking, people like Henry Ford and W.O. Bentley, Ferdinand Piëch and Soichiro Honda. And that passion and intensity is overlaid with the preternatural tech savvy of the industry’s great 21st century disrupter, Elon Musk.
The Rimac name briefly pricked the pop culture zeitgeist in 2017 when former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond threw the earlier Concept One electric hypercar (this one had only 1,224 hp) off the road while filming an episode of The Grand Tour. For the most part, though, it has flown under the radar, known only to a handful of engineers working at the cutting edge of high-performance electric vehicle design and development.
In high school in Croatia, Rimac studied computer, electronic, mechanical, and control engineering systems. He won regional and national championships for innovation and electronics design, and he says he held two patents by the time he was 17 years old. But … “I was always crazy about cars, so I wanted to race. As soon as I turned 18, I bought a 1984 3 Series BMW and started racing it.”
The BMW’s engine blew up after the second race. Rimac decided to replace it with an electric powertrain of his own design.
“I had this idea of building an electric car for a long time,” Rimac says, “mostly because Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia, so I was always reading a lot about him.” One of Tesla’s inventions was the alternating current electric motor, and Rimac wondered why nobody was using it to make a high-performance electric car. “That was the trigger for me,” he says. “I wanted to prove that electric cars can be exciting and fun—and to beat gas-powered cars on the racetrack.”
And with that, teenage Rimac was on the way to starting his own car company.
Rimac Automobile was founded in 2009. After more than 10 years of experimentation and evolution—to the point where almost everything the company sells is designed, engineered, and made in-house—the company’s business model is simple: Make money supplying other automakers with unique, ultra-high-performance electric vehicle and hybrid technologies.
The Rimac C_Two hypercar?
Mate the Businessman jumps in: “We’ve had CEOs of companies with more revenue than Croatia’s GDP on our stand. If it wasn’t for the car, if we were just a battery and motor company, they would never have heard of us.”
But Mate the Enthusiast is never far away: “Of course I’m very passionate about helping other manufacturers build their cars. But if the shareholders decide it doesn’t make sense to produce our own cars, they we’ll have to find another CEO.”
To the manner born.
More from Angus MacKenzie:
- Why Lexus is Investing in Racing
- Hero, Zero: The Rise and Fall of Carlos Ghosn
- What Autonomous Cars Can Teach Us About Driving
- The Long Road: Hyundai Comes of Age with the Genesis G70
- Resurrection: The Rebirth of American Luxury
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