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Old 04-24-2012, 07:52 AM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Caterham SP/300R First Drive





Quote:
Caterham is your quintessential small-scale British sports car maker, selling just a few hundred cars a year, all of which are based around a 55-year-old design. You probably hadn't even heard of this British minnow until this year's Formula One Melbourne Grand Prix.
Rising from the ashes of Team Lotus, Caterham F1 has put the company firmly on the map, and it's looking to capitalize on its first sweet taste of fame. The Caterham SP/300R is its first all-new customer car since the slow-selling, Lotus-Elise-rivaling Caterham 21 from 1994, and it's not for the faint-hearted.

This extreme track-only model will be limited to 25 units a year, roughly half of which are expected to sign up to a European one-make series, while the other half will be put to use as expensive toys. It's aimed at owners of track-biased road cars, such as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or Ferrari 430 Scuderia, who want to take their hobby to the next level and still have enough dollars left over for some plush everyday transport.

Forget cut-slicks, rollcages, and stiffened suspension. The SP/300R isn't a road car with a studded collar -- it's full-bore track weapon. The tubular aluminium chassis has been developed by Lola and applies lesson learned in its Le Mans LMP-series race cars, while the rear suspension is lifted from a Formula 3 car. Lola also took charge of the aerodynamic package, which incorporates the front-splitter, adjustable rear wing, diffuser, body, and ground effects from the flat under body. Hit 155 mph in this thing and you'll experience an extra 990 pounds of downforce mashing your slicks into the tarmac.
But Caterham hasn't ditched form at the expense of function. Finished in British racing green, the SP300/R is an epic, intimidating thing to behold, especially when you're minutes from being strapped in and let loose on an empty track. Before you get to that though, preparing for takeoff is a feat in itself.

You slide into the steeply reclined driving seat, hook up the six-point harness, and flick a toggle to awaken the 305-hp, 2.0-liter supercharged Ford Duratec unit behind your head. You then hold the neutral button on the F1-inspired steering wheel, dip the clutch, and pull the right paddle to engage first, before releasing the clutch slowly and making a jerky getaway down the pitlane.

Tipping the scales at a featherweight 1320 pounds, the SP/300R's power-to-weight ratio is in Bugatti Veyron territory. But the Bugatti has a windscreen, a roof, carpets, and leather. The Caterham has four wheels, three pedals, two seats, and a steering wheel.

Because this is a supercharged engine, the acceleration hits you like a sledge hammer even from low revs, and doesn't relent until the string of LEDs on the steering wheel reminds you you're bouncing off the limiter. The first lap or two are about recalibrating your brain -- forcing yourself to brake later and harder, convincing yourself that a corner can be taken flat, and reminding yourself that there's precious little steering lock to play with if you spin up the rear tires. Once that's done, the SP/300R is far more forgiving than first impressions suggest, and the most addictive part is the faster you go, the more stable and predictable it becomes.

Whereas the steering has to be muscled around at low speeds, it gains a delicacy and pinpoint accuracy when you pick up the pace. Similarly, the six-speed sequential box is brutal at slow to medium speeds, but on full throttle acceleration it slams home the next gear in a blink, without a moment's interruption to the flow of torque. It's the aero package, though, that will keep owners entertained in the long-term, because the faster you go, the more planted the car feels. No matter how well you're driving, you know there are always extra tenths to be found.
The perfect demonstration of this is on a banked corner at Britain's Rockingham circuit, where our test drive takes place. The track consists of a semi-oval, followed by a twisting infield section. I'm told by a Caterham engineer that the banked left-hander can be taken flat, but on my first lap I'm taking no chances and lift off well before turning in. The steering squirms in my hands and the car feels twitchy as I try to keep it away from the wall and down towards the apex. On the second lap I'm traveling 40-mph faster and lift later, and for a fraction of the time. The car carves its arc neatly through the corner while the steering stays locked on its course.

I was expecting this to be a brutish race car, with little margin for error and no time for sloppy mistakes, but what I found was a car that's designed to do one thing only: get you around a circuit in as little time as possible. Yes, it's an expensive plaything, but if track days are your passion, this will crucify anything with a license plate. And the best part? When you're finished having fun on the circuit, you can chuck it on a trailer and there's no need to drive home in something with a rollcage over your right shoulder and back-breaking bucket seats.
Caterham is your quintessential small-scale British sports car maker, selling just a few hundred cars a year, all of which are based around a 55-year-old design. You probably hadn't even heard of this British minnow until this year's Formula One Melbourne Grand Prix.





Rising from the ashes of Team Lotus, Caterham F1 has put the company firmly on the map, and it's looking to capitalize on its first sweet taste of fame. The Caterham SP/300R is its first all-new customer car since the slow-selling, Lotus-Elise-rivaling Caterham 21 from 1994, and it's not for the faint-hearted.

This extreme track-only model will be limited to 25 units a year, roughly half of which are expected to sign up to a European one-make series, while the other half will be put to use as expensive toys. It's aimed at owners of track-biased road cars, such as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or Ferrari 430 Scuderia, who want to take their hobby to the next level and still have enough dollars left over for some plush everyday transport.

Forget cut-slicks, rollcages, and stiffened suspension. The SP/300R isn't a road car with a studded collar -- it's full-bore track weapon. The tubular aluminium chassis has been developed by Lola and applies lesson learned in its Le Mans LMP-series race cars, while the rear suspension is lifted from a Formula 3 car. Lola also took charge of the aerodynamic package, which incorporates the front-splitter, adjustable rear wing, diffuser, body, and ground effects from the flat under body. Hit 155 mph in this thing and you'll experience an extra 990 pounds of downforce mashing your slicks into the tarmac.
But Caterham hasn't ditched form at the expense of function. Finished in British racing green, the SP300/R is an epic, intimidating thing to behold, especially when you're minutes from being strapped in and let loose on an empty track. Before you get to that though, preparing for takeoff is a feat in itself.

You slide into the steeply reclined driving seat, hook up the six-point harness, and flick a toggle to awaken the 305-hp, 2.0-liter supercharged Ford Duratec unit behind your head. You then hold the neutral button on the F1-inspired steering wheel, dip the clutch, and pull the right paddle to engage first, before releasing the clutch slowly and making a jerky getaway down the pitlane.
Tipping the scales at a featherweight 1320 pounds, the SP/300R's power-to-weight ratio is in Bugatti Veyron territory. But the Bugatti has a windscreen, a roof, carpets, and leather. The Caterham has four wheels, three pedals, two seats, and a steering wheel.

Because this is a supercharged engine, the acceleration hits you like a sledge hammer even from low revs, and doesn't relent until the string of LEDs on the steering wheel reminds you you're bouncing off the limiter. The first lap or two are about recalibrating your brain -- forcing yourself to brake later and harder, convincing yourself that a corner can be taken flat, and reminding yourself that there's precious little steering lock to play with if you spin up the rear tires. Once that's done, the SP/300R is far more forgiving than first impressions suggest, and the most addictive part is the faster you go, the more stable and predictable it becomes.





Whereas the steering has to be muscled around at low speeds, it gains a delicacy and pinpoint accuracy when you pick up the pace. Similarly, the six-speed sequential box is brutal at slow to medium speeds, but on full throttle acceleration it slams home the next gear in a blink, without a moment's interruption to the flow of torque. It's the aero package, though, that will keep owners entertained in the long-term, because the faster you go, the more planted the car feels. No matter how well you're driving, you know there are always extra tenths to be found.

The perfect demonstration of this is on a banked corner at Britain's Rockingham circuit, where our test drive takes place. The track consists of a semi-oval, followed by a twisting infield section. I'm told by a Caterham engineer that the banked left-hander can be taken flat, but on my first lap I'm taking no chances and lift off well before turning in. The steering squirms in my hands and the car feels twitchy as I try to keep it away from the wall and down towards the apex. On the second lap I'm traveling 40-mph faster and lift later, and for a fraction of the time. The car carves its arc neatly through the corner while the steering stays locked on its course.

I was expecting this to be a brutish race car, with little margin for error and no time for sloppy mistakes, but what I found was a car that's designed to do one thing only: get you around a circuit in as little time as possible. Yes, it's an expensive plaything, but if track days are your passion, this will crucify anything with a license plate. And the best part? When you're finished having fun on the circuit, you can chuck it on a trailer and there's no need to drive home in something with a rollcage over your right shoulder and back-breaking bucket seats.

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Old 04-25-2012, 02:58 AM   #2
topguneagle1
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sounds nuckin futs. looks badass as well.
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