It might seem unimportant to have a bunch of track day superstars line up for an all out drag race, but you have to remember that acceleration plays a major part in providing lightning fast lap times, just as much as proper handling in the corners. It’s that acceleration that’ll pull you out of a corner and send you careening into the next. So in short, it actually makes quite a bit of sense, even if it doesn’t provide the full picture.
Top Gear has been doing quite a few of these drag races and they’re always quite entertaining. This one in particular, jumped out at me because of the vehicles involved. A couple of which, I’m a huge fan of.
Ariel Atom 3.5
The first on my list is the Ariel Atom 3.5. With its minimalist design and pure performance figures, it’s no wonder the Atom is one of the most respected track day machines on the market. I’ve been slightly obsessed with the Atom ever since it nearly ripped Jeremy Clarkson face off when he unleashed the brutal acceleration this car can provide. Granted, that was quite some time ago and the 3.5 model competing in the test is new and improved over the car driven by Clarkson.
The Atom 3.5 is the most powerful of the four cars lining up for the drag race. It has a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that’s been sourced from a Honda Civic Type-R and is supercharged to provide 310hp. And considering the car weighs in at just over 1,100lbs, this car is fast, really damn fast. Based on the numbers, and the fact that I’m slightly biased, the Atom 3.5 is heavily favored to win the drag race. But as you all know, numbers aren’t everything.
This very well may be the wildcard of this particular race. It’s the Caterham 620S and it’s the listed as one of the top models in the Caterham lineup. It’s more than capable on just about any race track in the world, although it’s not quite as track focused as the 620R model. Instead, the 620S is fitted with a few creature comforts that most car owners take for granted; like a heater and windshield, something you won’t see on the other cars in the test. Potential owners have the option of getting the 620S in a wide-body chassis which offers more interior room and even has room for small luggage.
But that’s not why you buy a Caterham. You buy one to thrash it as hard as possible with a giant smile on your face the entire time. Like the other cars, it’s completely hand built and can be customized to your specifications. Powering this mini beast is an engine similar to the one powering the Ariel, only this one is sourced from Ford. It’s a 2.0L supercharged Ford Duratec that is estimated to deliver around 310hp, and even though it weighs a couple hundred pounds more than the Atom, it should be able to put its power down just as efficiently.
BAC Mono (2.3)
The BAC Mono is a car that I’ve recently gained a ton of respect for. At first glance of this one of a kind car, there’s no question that it’s designed as a full blown track day car. It has the single seat center driving position just like you would find in an open wheel race car like you see in Formula One or Indy type racing. And it still has a minimalist styling just like the others but in a different way. What really blew my mind was when the Mono beat the mighty P1 GTR in a hot lap competition, and then beat the Radical RXC 500 around the same track.
Granted, the Mono used for those hot laps was the latest Mono 2.5, and the Mono used for this drag test is “just” the 2.3. That means that it’s fitted with a 2.3L four cylinder Cosworth engine that’s said to produce 285hp versus the 305hp in the 2.5 model. We know this car is fast around a race track but is it fast in a drag race setting is the question. And is it fast enough to justify the price tag that’s at least three times higher than the other cars in the competition?
It seems silly to have the semi-offroad based Ariel Nomad line up against the other three cars listed. But then again, it is an Ariel, so we know it’s not going to be a slouch. The Nomad has proven itself to be all sorts of fun on back country gravel roads because of it’s rally like suspension and handling. But it’s uncertain how it will match up against the other cars in the competition when it comes to straight line speed.
There is somewhat conflicting information regarding what’s powering the Nomad. Most reports indicate that it’s a 2.4L Honda four-cylinder engine that puts out around 235hp and 221lb-ft of torque. However, the video put out by Top Gear claims that it uses a supercharged motor that puts out 290hp and 250lb-ft of torque. Either way, it’s the underdog in the test not because of lack of power, but due to the additional weight. It weighs a couple hundred pounds more than every car listed, but at the same time you can’t count it out because it has shocked naysayers in the past.
Based solely on that information, which do you feel is going to come out on top? Go ahead and comment below with who you think the winner will be, I’ll wait. Ok, now that you’ve done that lets clear up a few things. First of all, 90% of the outcome of these drag-style races comes down to the driver of each vehicle. And the only way to get true, accurate results is to have multiple runs with rotating drivers, which of course did not happen here. As a matter of fact, they only managed to do one run because one of the cars ended up breaking down! In that cars defense, it was apparently a prototype model that had seen well over 20,000 miles of hardcore driving by automotive journalists all over the world. So I’m going to try not to hold that against them. However, that particular car did win the one and only race so it does deserve some credit, even if the other cars had terrible starts.