Driven: BAC Mono
Sutters gets dribbly over new single-seat track star. Apparently it's quite good on the road...
So I'm going to come right out and say it, blow my load in the very first paragraph (so to speak). The BAC Mono is one of, if not THE most fabmungus road cars that I have ever driven, Ay-men. Game changed. Game over for its so-called competition, next.
What I can tell you is that what happens when you first encounter this car goes, very roughly, like this. To begin with you just stand and look at it in awe. You drink in the details of its exquisite pushrod suspension, and maybe think to yourself; this car is both bigger and more beautiful than it appears in pictures. And for some reason the word Cosworth that's emblazoned across the engine cover looks a whole lot naughtier than you were expecting.
Yet in reality what we are talking about is a machine with 520bhp per tonne, a drivetrain that's been lifted straight out of a Formula 3 car and a chassis that's more trick than those of many racing cars. All the body panels also happen to be fashioned out of carbon fibre, and although the tub itself isn't carbon it's strong enough to pass the exact same roll over tests that the FIA applied to F1 cars in 2009.
"Probably the most expensive accident you could have is leaving the steering wheel on the bar at the end of an evening" says the car's creator, Neill Briggs, through a smirk. "Do that and it'll cost you five grand. But then again, it's a lovely piece of kit" explains Briggs. "It's the entire dashboard of the car if you think about it, and all the functions have to go down just one little 16-point pin, which is why it costs as much as it does."
But it's also what makes the Mono driving experience so very special - because there is absolutely nothing else like it, anywhere. And maybe the most surprising thing of all about driving it is that it is not the mad little skateboard you might expect. In fact, I'd say it rides most road surfaces better than a Lotus Elise.
And in a straight line it is cataclysmically rapid. To begin with the pure sense of acceleration doesn't actually feel that bonkers; it feels very fast, true, and the transmission appears to be able to shift up (or down) with about the same speed that it takes to think about saying the letter F. But what you don't ever get is the same terrifying, unhinged sensation of being sucked towards the horizon like you do in a high-torque, high-powered car.
But the best thing about the Mono, what will send you into apoplexy if you are ever lucky enough to drive one, is the way it goes round corners. And the way it stops. And how much grip it can develop near the limit. And - biggest surprise of all - the way in which it so gradually gives up that grip if and when you push it too far.
But no, in reality what the Mono feels most like when you start to lean on it properly through corners is a great big go-kart; a car that you can, if you know what you're doing, play with all day long during the turn-in phase and get away with just about anything.
You can even use its naturally rear-biased inertia - plus the inherent sense of balance in the chassis - to unsettle the tail and back off on the way in to corners. And all that happens is that the rear tyres gradually start to slide, at which point it's up to you how handy you are feeling.
Top speed 170mph
Economy 35-40mpg (approx)
CO2 emissions n/a
Kerb weight 540kg
Engine layout 4cyl, 2300cc, petrol
Installation mid, longitudinal, rear wheel-drive
Torque 206lb ft/6000rpm
Power to weight 520bhp/tonne
Specific output 122bhp/litre
Compression ratio 13.1;1
Gearbox 6-speed manual sequential with paddles
Width 1800mm (ex mirrors)
Fuel tank 35 litres
Boot 80 litres
Front suspension double wishbones, pushrod coil over adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension double wishbones, pushrod coil over adjustable dampers. anti-roll bar
Brakes 295mm ventilated discs, front and rear
Wheels 7.5jx17in (front), 8.5j x17in (rear)
Tyres 205/40 VR17 (front), 245/40 VR17 (rear), Kumho V70a