DRIVEN: CATERHAM R300 SUPERCHARGED
PistonHeads shakes down Caterham's supercharged Seven development mule at the 'ring
Like that Colin Chapman's Seven is still, to this day, one of the most important sports cars ever built. As the years roll by, newer and more exotic motors and gearboxes have been squeezed into the straightforward Seven chassis. And when you consider how much fun a simple 125hp Fiesta motor can be just imagine upgrading that motor to a 175hp 2.0-litre Duratec. That's an R300 which is pretty bloody lively by any stretch.
Then bolt a supercharger and another 85hp on to that.
The results are simply spectacular. Acceleration of this R500-badged test mule is absolutely absurd, as many supercar drivers from this weekend's Nurburgring tourist sessions will attest. On paper the car should enjoy exactly the same performance as when it had the naturally aspirated 263hp motor.
But the reality is that the performance is even better. For a start, the power delivery is more linear, with more torque provided in an easier to control fashion. While the purist may lament the loss of the soulful, higher-revving motor, it's really a needlessly melodramatic twinge.
Silenced by the noise of this blown Duratec bouncing off the guardrails with the kind of ferocity that only comes from forced induction. It's the sharpness, the crackle, that gives it away.
And, to be honest, the way the power chimed in on the R500 made it a bit of an oversteery monster near the limit. But with this car the gas pedal can be depressed so perfectly in line with the desired amount of drive that oversteer and neutrality are just a couple of millimetres apart, yet they still feel comfortably separated.
Wheelies. In a car.
Out on the 'ring, blitzing through the Sunday traffic like a shark amongst whales, the supercharged R300 only wants for a couple of improvements, a longer final drive one of them. This car tops out at only 130mph, a speed which can be reached in some really silly places with this much power in a 506kg car. For you 'ring anoraks, what about the jump before Flugplatz? Rev limiter in top. Pflanzgarten One? The same.
My orders from Caterham are to pull no punches, and give the car a merry pasting around the Nordschleife. The addition of the intercooler above the radiator looks a little odd, but the Stack digital display is set to report the water and oil temperature prominently, and both never budge.
That's despite it being one of the warmest days of the year with temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s around the track. I keep pushing for three circuits, and I'm rewarded with some of my most entertaining laps to date. Then the day job gets in the way, and I have to return to the office and hand it over to my boss for another dozen or so laps with no problems. Not that there should be, the car having been pushed hard around roads and racetracks all over Europe so far.
CATERHAM R300 SUPERLIGHT SUPERCHARGED (PROTOTYPE)
Engine: 1,998cc 4-cylinder CPT supercharged
Power: 260hp (est.)
0-62mph: 3 sec (est.)
Top speed: 129mph (restricted by gearing)
Weight: 515kg (est.)
Track shots by Jorg Jakowski of ring-bilder.de.