The latest Porsche 911 Turbo S is one of the fastest road cars that money can buy.
It has 552bhp and 516lb ft of torque, puts its power all over the road courtesy of a complex four-wheel drive system and can, as a result, cover ground more efficiently than almost any other road car on earth. And it costs £140,852.
For less than a third of that, however, you could arm yourself with a device that could lap any circuit in Britain much faster than a 911 Turbo S. And for half of that again, you could pay to enter said device into a bona fide racing championship and find out if you have what it takes to become the next Lewis Hamilton.
Or, more realistically, find out if your son or daughter has what it takes to become the next you-know-who.
But even if you just fancied running a Formula 4 car at track days every now and then, you’ve got to admit that £45k for a fully tooled-up single-seater that could run rings around anything else that turned up is, in all sorts of ways, a mouth-watering prospect.
But how fast, ultimately, can a single-seater like the new F4 machine be when it has but a mere 185bhp from a 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine? Fair enough, the spaceframe chassis and part-carbonfibre safety cell of the F4 car mean that it weighs little more than a cup of tea, but surely it can’t compete with the pure grunt of the Porsche on the straight bits of the average circuit?
And even if the F4 can stop rather well, courtesy of its AP Racing brakes, and changes gear instantly, thanks to its trick new Sadev six-speed paddle-shift gearbox, the PDK-equipped 911 Turbo S also has a reputation for being able to swap cogs faster than you can think. It’s quite good at slowing down, too.
So what actually happens when a 552bhp, 1605kg Turbo S squares up to 185bhp and 470kg of Van Diemen-designed Formula 4 car on a circuit? Does the F4 car just disappear into the distance at the first corner, never to be seen again? Or are there areas in which they overlap? Are there parts of the circuit, in other words, where the heavier but far more potent 911 can keep up or even pull away?
We went to the West Circuit at Bedford Autodrome to find the answer, and we chose the West because it has a decent mix of straights, which would in theory favour the 911, and corners, which would suit the F4 car.
According to fastestlaps.com, the outright road car lap record for the West Circuit is 1min 13.8sec, held by a 455bhp Radical SR8 LM, with the 583bhp Caparo T1 second on 1min 14.8sec. But to give you an idea of what sort of times more normal supercars are capable of, the McLaren 12C is listed at 1min 19.6sec, the 2012 Nissan GT-R 1min 20.1sec and the Noble M600 1min 20.8sec
And to give you an idea of how mighty the new 911 Turbo S is, it thumped in a 1min 19.2sec on its first flying lap of the day. Which was pretty extraordinary for such a usable, everyday kind of supercar.
But what was more surprising still was what happened when we put both cars out on the circuit at the same time, me in the F4 car and Autocar’s resident hired gun, Mauro Calo, in the Porsche.
Because on cold tyres, and with muggins sitting behind its digitised steering wheel, the F4 car was nowhere beside the 911. It understeered badly where the Porsche sliced into corners.
It locked its slick front tyres everywhere and very nearly went into the back of the 911 under brakes at one rather terrifying point. And on the way out of corners, it was left for dead. The 911 would rocket away, not just with better traction but with massively more acceleration as well.