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Zenvo TSR-S | Driven

A nice gentle run around Spa with 1,177hp, a waggling wing and a track packed with race-spec exotica

By Mike Duff / Thursday, June 27, 2019

It takes a lot to impress the crowd at a senior track day at Spa. The Zenvo TSR-S manages it.

This is the sort of audience that would make spectators at a royally appointed polo match look poverty stricken, one that has come to the Belgian circuit with a correspondingly impressive set of toys. Organised by upmarket outfit Curbstone, the event is both playtime and test session, split between road and race classes. The latter includes an LMP2 car, a near full set of Blancpain GT3 challengers and one of those compellingly mad mid-engined Megane Trophy racers.

The TSR-S is a road car - the second S stands for 'street legal' according to Zenvo's founder Troels Vollertsen, so it is playing in the lesser 'Sport' category. But that still means it will be sharing the track with a pair of Huracan Performantes, a 488 Pista and a tick against every entry in the Spotters' Guide to Porsche Motorsport Variants, from 996 GT3 to 991.2 GT2 RS.

Yet when the TSR takes to the track it still draws a crowd, the audience leaning over the pit wall as it heads into La Source to get a better view of its party piece. A rear wing that doesn't just move in the normal hypercar for-and-aft plane, but also tilts from side to side as the car turns.

Many spectators are confused, possibly as the Zenvo's wing rocks in what feels, instinctively, to be the wrong direction, raising its inner edge so that it is higher on the inside than the outside as the car turns. Spa's marshals are similarly perplexed; the car was black flagged on its first lap as they thought it was broken.

But there's much more than just the wing to impress. The TSR has a 1,172hp twin supercharged V8 mounted behind the cabin, a sequential gearbox and performance to put it at the sharp end of the hypercar segment; Zenvo's claimed 6.8-second 0-124mph time is identical to that of the McLaren Senna. It also carries a pricetag of €1.4m before taxes.

Zenvo has been making cars since 2009, but the fact it is only up to chassis 15 tells you just how exclusive Denmark's sole native manufacturer is. The TSR-R is meant to significantly increase volumes, with the Vollertsen saying he hopes to move to building five a year; that's still fewer cars than Ferrari or McLaren make in a morning.

While we have already driven a Zenvo on road - having a spin in the prototype TS1 GT in wintery English conditions back in 2017 - Spa gives a chance to experience it in the more liberating environment of a race track. Plans soon start to unravel. Brit Alberto Solara is a recent addition to Zenvo's team as production manager and factory tester, having previously worked for Noble in the UK, and he returns from a sighting lap in one of the two cars, a yellow prototype, reporting he's been warned for exceeding the event's noise limits. The problem being that the production spec blue TSR-S I'm meant to be driving is even louder.

Then things go wronger. The blue car goes out with another journo driving - with strict instructions to lift past the noise meters - but returns after a lap with a gearbox fault. A laptop is plugged in and the team get busy trying to work out why the transmission's ECU isn't happy. The time for my allotted stint is rapidly approaching and it soon becomes clear that the blue car isn't going to be fixed. Would I fancy having a go in the yellow one instead?

The answer is yes, obviously - so I'm bundled into the passenger seat for a couple of introductory laps with Solara driving and showing me where the noise sensors are. The organ-sloshing G-loads are predictably massive, but I'm concentrating more on trying to remember where the track goes and realising just how three-dimensional it is. Spa featured in my virtual drive of the Aston Valkyrie back in March, but it's considerably longer since I've been to the real circuit in a real car. That was a Vauxhall VX220 Turbo back in 2004; I managed three laps before a rear tyre delaminated and the day was over. So, Forza Motorsport 7 aside, I'm a bit rusty.

The view from the yellow TSR's driver's seat is even more intimidating, with a fat roll cage, a digital display screen and a dashboard made from raw metal and toggle switches. One of these is labelled 'WILD DOG' and controls the engine's variable boost levels; Solara confirms that the full 1,177hp is on tap, but tells me not to use full throttle or exceed 5,000rpm anywhere near one of the decibel meters.

Joining mid-session means a track full of people who are fully dialled in to both the circuit and conditions. I'm not, and so spend a fair amount of time trying to keep out of the way of fully lit participants. Like the circuit the learning curve is steep and - inside the prototype's sweaty, ventilation-free cabin - I'm not having much fun. The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s come up to temperature quickly, but I find it hard to build faith in the chassis. The steering is much lower geared that the supercar norm, meaning lots of lock is necessary to get the Zenvo turned into slower corners and the unlikely sensation of understeer in the faster ones. It takes several laps before I start to trust enough to push harder.

Even short shifting in deference to the noise restrictions, it's clear the V8 is an absolute monster. It responds without a hint of lag and pulls seamlessly from lower revs as I try to keep things quiet. Changing up at 5,000rpm on the long Kemmel straight the Zenvo is still making ground on a 991 911 GT3. An exploratory scoot to the 7,700rpm limiter shows that the rate of acceleration continues to grow at the top end, almost painfully so. Vast carbon brakes are similarly good at hauling it off. My brave-feeling braking points are all revealed to be excessively cautious. The transmission shifts with the brutal precision of a pure competition 'box as well. But I'm definitely not feeling anything like on top of the car by the time the session ends and I'm rumbling back into the pits.

There's a chance to have a closer look at the finished TSR and a chat with Vollertsen to try and fill in the gaps. The level of detail on the proper car is impressive. Like Christian von Koenigsegg, Vollertsen wants to do as much as possible himself. The engine is built from an GM LSX-derived block, but with a hugely strong billet-milled crankshaft and forged pistons. There are twin centrifugal Rotrex superchargers, one for each bank, Vollertsen saying these give a more linear power delivery than a single larger unit.

The interior is also properly hand-built, with the gear selector and switchgear specially made for the car rather than taken from something more mainstream. The digital instrument pack also has bespoke graphics and looks appropriately classy. There are only a couple of obvious non-original parts: the Audi-donated door mirror assemblies the obvious one, and the large touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard turns out to be an iPad with various apps that sync to the car.

There's also a chance to talk properly about the rear wing and how it works. Vollertsen describes it as being the aerodynamic equivalent of an anti-roll bar, generating substantial downforce but also vectoring it by tipping the element using twin hydraulic rams. It takes these just 0.75 seconds to add the full 15-degrees of angle. Because the wing's effort remains perpendicular to its element, moving it varies its effect across the rear axle, transferring load to the less-laden inside wheel to create a force that works against the car's inclination to roll. Total peak downforce is 305kg at 170mph, a relatively modest amount by hypercar standards, but up to 30 percent of the wing's effect can be used to create this stabilising force vector, and Vollertsen says that only 3 percent of the wing's downforce is lost when it is tilted.

Good news - some more tinkering gets the blue TSR-R well enough to return to track. The gearbox is still nursing some issues, downshifts ordered by the steering wheel paddle are often late or missed, but there's more than enough torque to drive around the problem.

The road-spec car feels immediately friendlier with less noise, a better view out without the roll cage and the welcome presence of climate control. Yet it's much more confidence inspiring, despite what I'm told are identical settings, the steering feeling more direct and the front end seemingly much keener to turn. Which gives the chance to experience the spikier adrenaline highs that the rear axle can deliver.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn't take much throttle to bring the TSR-R to the cusp of oversteer, even in faster turns. As the rear starts to go my natural reaction is to lift off - this being somebody else's seven-figure hypercar - but over a couple of laps I learn to fight the instinct enough to stay on the throttle, trusting in the traction control and magic wing to do their thing. The result feels strange, there's the unmistakable sensation of the Zenvo starting to slide, but then it digs in and finds more grip, keeping itself in a near-drift around Spa's longer turns. By the end of the stint the rear Cup 2's are getting hot and bothered under such brutal use and the grip is falling off, but I'm still having fun. The TSR-S couldn't be described as idiot proof, or a big, tame pussy cat - but nor is it as scary as something this ludicrously potent should be.

There have been plenty of dead ends in the Zenvo story so far; previous plans to increase sales haven't worked out and the company remains a minnow in this part of the market, even compared to Pagani or Koenigsegg. But it also has serious ambition and, in the TSR-S, a compellingly different offering. In the unlikely event of an appropriately sized windfall I wouldn't buy one: I'd have a Senna GTR or a Valkyrie or a Project One instead. But if I already owned or had my name down for one or more of those? I could be tempted...


Engine: 5,800cc, V8, twin supercharged
Transmission: 7-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive
Power: 1,177hp @ 7,700rpm
Torque: TBC
0-62mph: 2.8-sec (claimed)
Top speed: 202 mph (limited)
Weight: 1,475kg
Price: €1.4m (plus tax)

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