RE: Driven: Caterham R300 supercharged

RE: Driven: Caterham R300 supercharged

Wednesday 1st August 2012

Driven: Caterham R300 supercharged

PistonHeads shakes down Caterham's supercharged Seven development mule at the 'ring



Contrary to the stickers, this is not a Caterham R500. The normal Caterham R500 powerplant is a hand-built Caterham Powertrain (CPT) version of the ubiquitous 2.0-litre Ford Duratec. And it might well be a work of art, with its roller barrel throttle bodies, but it's been unceremoniously ripped from the front of this car. What was once the official factory R500 demonstrator is now a rolling test bed for a brand new supercharged powertrain. This green car is now a road legal development test bed for next year's race cars and just part of new boss Graham Mcdonald's future plans for Caterham.

New boss Graham Mcdonald (right) looks on
New boss Graham Mcdonald (right) looks on
The noise is addictive, the throttle response instantaneous. And Caterham says it's just a proof of concept, but this car is proof of so much more...

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.

Now with added supercharger, gulp!
Now with added supercharger, gulp!
Hold on tight
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.

It used to be an R500 but it's not any more
It used to be an R500 but it's not any more
Because it's a centrifugal supercharger, there's no characteristic whine or howl. There's no lack of response to the loud pedal either, with reactions sharp enough to match the chassis in every respect.

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.

It's a right handful, but all in a good way
It's a right handful, but all in a good way
Luckily, this being a prototype, it won't be long before that 3.83 diff is bolted on for a 148mph top speed. And maybe a bespoke sequential gearbox too. Right now it feels almost impossible to change gears fast enough to keep up with the engine in the first three gears.

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.

No overheating problems, even when ragged
No overheating problems, even when ragged
Officially, the car was being passed under the noses of current race teams over the weekend, with a view to proving to them that this concept is what they want to race next year. But I can't help but feel there's more to those misplaced R500 stickers than a convenient donor car ... a sequential 'boxed, supercharged Seven with a 'built' 300hp motor? Wouldn't that be about 600hp/ton instead of 500?

 



CATERHAM R300 SUPERLIGHT SUPERCHARGED (PROTOTYPE)
Engine:
1,998cc 4-cylinder CPT supercharged
Power: 260hp (est.)
Torque: N/A
0-62mph: 3 sec (est.)
Top speed: 129mph (restricted by gearing)
Weight: 515kg (est.)
MPG: N/A
CO2: N/A
Price: N/A

Track shots by Jorg Jakowski of ring-bilder.de.

Author
Discussion

stew-S160

Original Poster:

7,264 posts

179 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
Mentalist. Want. Nuff said.

Davey S2

12,017 posts

195 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
Dont want to sound ghey or owt but I'd rather an R300 with fast road set up.

That thing sounds like it has too much power for the average driver to exploit and enjoy and you'd be constantly wondering when it was going to get bored of your driving and decides to kill you to break up the boredom.

MagicalTrevor

6,282 posts

170 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all

MonsieurX

15 posts

188 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
There is no such thing as too much power. You just need to learn to tame it...

braddo

6,254 posts

129 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
Awesome concept. Not a bad number plate either hehe
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Dave Hedgehog

10,190 posts

145 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
ill take this over a lotus every single time

WANNNNTTTTT

BusaMK

386 posts

90 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
I hope a good race performance on the ring doesn't pull development away from where these cars are truely great - on twisty tracks like cadwell and NSL A and B roads. Perfect example of reasoning for the longer diff - perhaps more than 130 would be a nice(if brave requirement) at the nurburgring but for road use or any UK track a longer diff just wouldn't make much sense and would slow you down due to reduced torque and hp at the wheels.

Watchman

5,362 posts

186 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
Yes, this is exactly the way they need to be going for the future. You should be able to get insane power levels with ever-increasingly-strict emissions control. I'm in favour.

Lots more mid-range torque would make for a better road car too. And although a bike engined V8 is nice, if you can get that sort of power from an I4, it makes for a simpler and cheaper car - something the Se7en makers need to keep in mind.

Win win..!! Nice one Caterham.

300bhp/ton

36,549 posts

131 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
At last a centrifugal blower being put to good use in the UK instead of going for a Heaton Roots air pump!!

Looks like an awesome car! biggrin

soda

1,131 posts

102 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
Now where did I leave that lottery ticket, really want that.

Leave the short ratio, 130mph is more than ample for my favoured roads. Manual sequential box would be nice too.

Watchman

5,362 posts

186 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
soda said:
Leave the short ratio, 130mph is more than ample for my favoured roads. Manual sequential box would be nice too.
It's a waste of time - you'll be forever changing gears for little advantage. Given the heightened and flattened torque curve, AND that you still have all the revs available, you want to remain in gear for longer than in a NatAsp car surely?

Better to have gears spread to take advantage of the blower AND enough legs to exploit a reasonable top speed dictated by CdA and available power. 140+mph in a Se7en is a good thing (personal experience).

OlberJ

14,101 posts

174 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
BusaMK said:
I hope a good race performance on the ring doesn't pull development away from where these cars are truely great - on twisty tracks like cadwell and NSL A and B roads. Perfect example of reasoning for the longer diff - perhaps more than 130 would be a nice(if brave requirement) at the nurburgring but for road use or any UK track a longer diff just wouldn't make much sense and would slow you down due to reduced torque and hp at the wheels.
Not sure about that.

130mph top speed means anything post 100 will be buzzy. If it's 150bhp then those times you do get a chance to stretch it's legs it will be a much nicer road experience.

We do all stick to 70mph m'lud but a car geared higher is nicer on the road than a track car setup.

T S Magnum

444 posts

143 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
300bhp/ton said:
At last a centrifugal blower being put to good use in the UK instead of going for a Heaton Roots air pump!!

Looks like an awesome car! biggrin
Heaton or Eaton?

thinfourth2

32,414 posts

145 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
BUT look how hard and shiny the dashboard is

No self respecting petrolhead would want this

300bhp/ton

36,549 posts

131 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
T S Magnum said:
300bhp/ton said:
At last a centrifugal blower being put to good use in the UK instead of going for a Heaton Roots air pump!!

Looks like an awesome car! biggrin
Heaton or Eaton?
It's a slanderous term used by many people who run Eatons. In fairness under normal operating parameters the Roots aren't too bad, a little laggy potentially and boost drops off at higher rpms and not the most stable in terms of delivery. But a good gain over n/a and they make a nice noise, oh and they're cheap, hence why most car makers opt for them.

When you start to gear them up they become very inefficient and produce colossal heat compared to twin screw or centrifugal blowers. Hence the term Heaton. smile

T S Magnum

444 posts

143 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
Got you, ta.

Can't be that bad to be used by VW in the multi-award winning TSI.

300bhp/ton

36,549 posts

131 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
T S Magnum said:
Got you, ta.

Can't be that bad to be used by VW in the multi-award winning TSI.
laugh


It's ued by lots - it's cheap and improves performance over n/a. But it's not the last word in superchargers, not even the latest 4 lobed rotor version.


The Ford GT used a twin screw Whipple blower. When Ford launched the Shleby GT500 it used pretty much the same engine, but for cost cutting purposes used a cast iron block and a Heaton. End result was less power, less torque for a given boost level and less tunable.

It was still good and still impressive, and I do like Roots blowers, they are iconic. But dynamically a twin screw or centrifugal blower is superior.

suffolk009

3,950 posts

106 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
So is the suggestion that the supercharger will produce a car with over 300bhp?

That's man maths!

As the article says - 175bhp engine + 60bhp supercharger = 235bhp. So the duratec will still require full bespoke (presumably) steel internals AND a supercharger to make 300bhp.

How much will that cost? How much are people prepared to spend on a Caterham?

300bhp/ton

36,549 posts

131 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
suffolk009 said:
So is the suggestion that the supercharger will produce a car with over 300bhp?

That's man maths!

As the article says - 175bhp engine + 60bhp supercharger = 235bhp. So the duratec will still require full bespoke (presumably) steel internals AND a supercharger to make 300bhp.

How much will that cost? How much are people prepared to spend on a Caterham?
I think it refers more to power to weight.

GroundEffect

11,332 posts

97 months

Wednesday 1st August 2012
quotequote all
Bet it sounds angry. Hopefully it still has that intake bark, though...