Brooke Cars' stated aim is "to produce the quickest, best handling car you can buy for sensible money". That might sound rather arrogant for a fledgling company, but having just driven the new Brooke Double-R, I think it might have succeeded.
Now hang on, some of you might be thinking, the Brooke isn't new, it's been around ages. Well yes it has, but when the car's current manufacturers Jamie Rose and James Booker took it over they cast a critical eye over every aspect of the original to see what could be improved. The upshot is that the only things the current car shares with the original are the name and the 1950s racer looks, although even the body has been completely reworked.
It's not that the original car was bad, it's just that James and Jamie knew that, if they were to achieve their aim, there could be no cost cutting or design compromises.
Consequently it doesn't use a transversely mounted engine and gearbox taken from some front wheel drive shopping trolley but uses the technically superior layout of a proper transaxle, mated to an inline engine.
And what an engine! Although there are several companies building tuned Duratec engines, only one of them also builds Formula 1 engines: Cosworth. Built right alongside the current Williams F1 V8s and benefiting from the same levels of expertise, Brooke's Cosworth Duratecs aren't cheap, but they are the best, with their specs being unique to Brooke and offering a choice of 200, 260 or 300bhp.
Transmitting this to the back wheels is a Renault UN1 transaxle with modified internals to overcome its notorious weaknesses, which comes with the option (standard on 300bhp cars) of a Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing diff.
Chassis and suspension
When it came to the Double R's structure, Brooke stuck with an aluminium panelled tubular steel spaceframe chassis, its design optimised using computers. The aluminium panels are both bonded and riveted for maximum strength, with further stiffness being added to the chassis by having the seating tub bonded to it.
The suspension uses more well proven race car technology having Rose jointed, fully adjustable wishbone suspension all round, with custom made alloy uprights, three-way adjustable Spax coilovers and trick 'aerofoil' section chromoly tubing for the wishbones.
Braking is provided by Hi-Spec 280mm vented discs and alloy callipers all round, with adjustable bias provided by Brooke's custom made pedal box and Goodridge braided hose is used throughout with no hard pipe anywhere in the system.
Wheels are 15-inch diameter and shod with super sticky Toyo R888 tyres, sized 195/50 front and 205/50 rear.
In keeping with the looks, the interior is race car basic with only what you need and stowage space consisting of how many pockets there are in whatever you're wearing.
With the bonded seating tub fixing the seat position, Brooke mounts the pedal box on runners instead, this incorporating a rest for the left foot and having quite closely spaced pedals to facilitate heal and toe driving. There's more footroom than in some Sevens, but narrow footwear is recommended.
Adjustable steering columns add weight and complication, so Brooke use a fixed column set to suit Mr Average, though non average customers can have it tailored to suit them during build. This connects to a bespoke single-seater style Titan rack that offers a range of ratios.
Driving the Double-R
Right, that's what it's made of, so what's it like to use?
That open cabin is snug but not cramped and accommodates two average sized people quite comfortably, as indeed do the barely padded seats. The steering wheel and pedals are all located dead ahead and the outboard gearstick falls nicely to hand. This shifts the cogs via cables and has a conventional gate with a lovely positive action, although quite a firm push is needed to ensure the lever slots home.
The clutch is no heavier than your average saloon, although the engine needs a few more revs than usual to pull away cleanly.
Considering the Brooke is mid-engined and only weighs 550kg, the steering feels surprisingly heavy, this being partly down to that tiddly Momo wheel and partly due to the car running a lot of castor.
The other thing that surprises you once you take the wheel is that the Brooke is wider than it looks from the outside, its 1765mm making it much wider than a Seven and even wider than a 911. Although a great aid to fast cornering this takes a little getting used to and nearly caught me out on the first quick right-hander, though of course the Brooke's design makes it dead easy to sight the front wheels.
It also makes it dead easy to control them, all that castor giving steering with good self-centring and a nice meaty feel to it. Combined with the quick rack this results in the Brooke being highly responsive to the merest driver input through the turns and yet very stable in a straight line at high speed.
Dealing with dawdlers
Not that I had much chance to drive it high speed due to the inevitable slow traffic cluttering the roads. Still, spending time among the Devon dawdlers showed the Brooke is easy to drive in real world conditions and that the Cosworth engine pulls cleanly from low revs and will happily crawl along without getting hot and bothered. It also showed that given the chance the Brooke will get you past the dawdlers on the shortest of clear straights.
Dropping to third to pass 40mph traffic then keeping the right foot planted produced relentless acceleration, the rate of which just didn't seem to diminish as speed increased. In next to no time a glance at the Stack display showed it getting into three figures and the Cosworth engine still hadn't reached its 7,700rpm limit – although by that time I'd reached mine. With the possible exception of the Ultima GTR this has to be the quickest accelerating car I've ever driven, at least up to 100mph, the 260bhp engine giving 0-60 in 3.2 seconds with 0-100 (which hasn't been properly measured yet) likely to be around the 7.5 mark. And that's with Brooke's tallest diff ratio.
So what about the handling? Brooke has recently been fine tuning the suspension settings with help from GT racer Neil Cunningham, so expect it to be more than up to the capabilities of us lesser drivers.
Speaking of which, in view of the number of people who are likely to end up driving it, the demonstrator is set up for mild understeer as that's easier for most people to cope with when – or maybe that should be if – they do finally exceed its limits.
Brooke will set up customers' cars differently if that's what they want, but as it is I think you'd have to work pretty hard to induce power oversteer, which you might find surprising in view of the modest 205 rear tyres and the power on tap.
Fact is the Brooke's layout confers such good traction (especially with the Quaife diff as fitted to the demo car) that you can get hard on the power early coming out of bends and it'll just grip and go where a Seven would be all tail slide and opposite lock.
With the car set up soft for road use even really bumpy Devon lanes didn't unsettle it, while my conservative cornering along the unfamiliar roads revealed responsive, well balanced handling and levels of grip that made it obvious the Brooke was easily capable of cornering much faster.
Realistically, if you want to push this car to its limits you'll need to take it to a track, although of course that's precisely what it's designed for, with Brooke even offering track only versions from £23,995.
Road legal versions start at £27,995 due to the extra kit required to satisfy legal requirements, such as lights etc. Talking of which, in normal use (which let's face it is going to be daylight) the Brooke's headlights live under covers on the nose so as not to blight its looks. Should you need them you just remove the covers and rotate the lights on their supporting legs up into position. Very neat.
Not only has the car been well thought out, so too have the company's plans, which is at least as important if it's going to survive in the risky world of sports car production.
The company reckons that by staying small and subcontracting all manufacturing it only needs to sell six cars in its first year to survive, and early indications are it'll have no problem doing that.
The chassis is made with all the necessary brackets for left hand drive and Brooke is already in talks with several potential overseas agents while, in the UK, Brooke will be offering nation-wide collection and delivery by covered trailer for customers who want their car factory serviced.
Future plans once fully established with the Double R are for a supercharged V6 version with up to 400 Cosworth horses, plus an Elise class full-bodied car based on the same running gear.
Brooke Cars might be a new company but I suspect it's one we'll be hearing a lot more about over the next few years.
© Copyright Graham Bell 2006