Allowing the Mono’s 2.5-litre Ford Duratec time to warm is your chance to grasp the more prosaic elements of the driving experience. Over-the-shoulder visibility would be superb if only the harness would permit such an act. T-junctions are therefore tricky. The tiny wing-mirrors, held out on stalks, are useful at a trundle but the car’s ferocious, high-frequency vibrations, which also find their way unfiltered into your sternum, render them largely decorative as the pace quickens. Using them is like trying to sip a cup of tea whilst running.
This car’s competition DNA is also detectable in the unassisted steering’s 1.7-turns lock-to-lock, and so five-point turns are the norm. Also important is to dip the clutch when changing gear at lower engine speeds (don’t fret: flat upshifts will ensue), just to give the Hewland-sourced six-speed sequential a bit of help. It is, after all, pneumatically operated and lifted straight from a Formula 3 car, for which the body and suspension take-up points are still easily visible.
There is nothing at all prosaic about the way a BAC Mono goes down a road once your confidence and familiarity has reached a certain level. In fairness this doesn’t take long, because the precision shot-through the controls and the car’s resulting range of responses gives you the unmistakeable impression of a device that’s geared 1:1. You call, it responds.
It’s noisy, and there is wind buffeting, but even next to something as pure as a 911 GT3 RS the Mono feels astonishingly lean and alert, which seems a ridiculous comment to make but one that is undeniably true. Very quickly you appreciate the wonderfully articulate way in which the conversation between that 305bhp motor and such an exact suspension set-up plays out. As the driver you feel you play the puppeteer – a sensation amplified considerably by the airborne feeling sitting so close to the road and in full bathtub repose.
Mind you, on a day like this the Mono certainly isn’t a car in which to go blithely chasing the throttle and an 8000rpm red line. Grip levels are high but the chassis’ inherent stiffness means the front can struggle for purchase in the wet; failure to rev-match on the way into slower corners can also see the lightning-quick gearbox initiate a brutal clutch-kick that spits the rear axle sideways. So much of the car’s mass is inboard so any weight transfer is incisive, and just waiting to catch you out. Such a tight steering rack also demands considerable accuracy with throttle inputs when you’re pressing on. This is is a task made simpler and more enjoyable without the corrupting effects of turbocharging, but the point is that while the Mono is a toy, you need to respect both the machine and the conditions underwheel.
Outright performance? Mind-blowing, at 2.7 seconds to 60mph and 170mph flat-out, though the Mono never feels quite as quick as the latest, turbocharged Atom. Granted, that’s like stating Van Halen never quite matched up to Jimmy Page. Both are blisteringly fast – enough to leave you literally gasping – but if the Ariel’s handling is also the more expressive on the road then the single-seater’s method is that much more intense. Pedals, paddles, steering: each is beautifully positioned and weighted. It means the economy of movement achievable at speed is not only absorbing but also an utter joy, and can flatter the driver with the impression – false or otherwise – that you’re really working a formula car.
On a dry circuit, away from the corrupting influence of ruts and cambers, away from the mud smears, your slack-jawed fellow motorists and the need the keep things reasonably sensible, the Mono must be sublime. It’s something we’ll look to confirm with a full road test and track telemetry next year. On this evidence, no hypercar’s lap time looks safe.