The BAC Mono, built by the Cheshire-based Briggs Automotive Company, is the first serious attempt to produce a single-seater driving experience for the public road. And quite some attempt it is, too.
With styling said to have been “heavily influenced” by the Bjork video ‘All is full of love’, with a bit of F-22 Raptor jet fighter thrown in for good measure, the BAC Mono is one of the most extreme road cars we’ve yet come across. But the team behind it is convinced there’s a small but perfectly formed market for such a machine.
The fact that there’s a queue of people wanting to buy the 50 cars BAC will build a year would suggest that the team knows what it is doing. As would the knowledge that BAC's Project Director Neill Briggs was the main consulting engineer on the original Focus RS, and has been involved in the development of “quite a few Stuttgart-based cars” in recent years.
The Mono is powered by a 280bhp, 206lb ft version of the four-cylinder, 2.3-litre Cosworth engine that’s also used by, among others, Caterham in its Seven CSR. This is attached to a six-speed Hewland gearbox that’s lifted straight out of an F3 car, with paddle-operated hydraulic shifts. So although there are three perfectly placed pedals down in the surprisingly roomy footwell, changing gear merely requires a gentle flick on one of the carbonfibre paddles.
A big, green neutral button on the removable steering wheel enhances the ‘F1 car for the road’ impression, as does the fully adjustable pushrod suspension and a set of specially developed Kumho tyres.
And boy, does it all gel together beautifully on the move. Merely climbing into the Mono is an event in itself, but once you’re ensconced, the lack of compromise in the single-seat design becomes immediately apparent. You press a centrally mounted button on the steering wheel and the digital screen comes to life – and, from that moment onwards, the driving experience has an impossibly strong whiff of F1 about it.
You wonder if it’s actually legal to begin with, so obvious is the connection to the competition world, right down to the fact that you have to wear a crash helmet, like it or not, seeing as there’s no windscreen whatsoever. Yet once you get going, the intimacy of the driving experience and the immediacy of its responses are such that you become totally immersed in the business of driving it.
And, amazingly, the suspension isn’t in the least bit skateboard-like on the road, as you’d surely half expect it to be. There’s a real maturity in the way the Mono deals with poor surfaces. I’d say it rides better than a Lotus Elise for much of the time, which is little short of incredible given how much grip there is through any given corner, and how incisive the suspension feels at all times.
It also sounds and accelerates – and stops – in a way that no Elise driver could even dream about. To begin with the acceleration doesn’t somehow feel that nuts, considering there’s 520bhp per tonne and 0-60mph in 2.8sec on offer. Yet you soon realise that the scenery is disappearing at a rather ridiculous rate when you put your foot down, and that the engine seems to be on the rev limiter no more than a couple of seconds after each upshift.
But it’s only when you start to lean on it through a fast corner that the genius of the Mono’s chassis become truly apparent. The balance it displays mid-bend is absolutely epic and the steering precision is near-perfect; and the way you can play with the tail end on entry provides the last and final piece of evidence about just how incredible this car is to drive.
Right now, there is nothing else out there quite like it – although something tells me that this might change when the word gets out.