What is it?
Black? Of course it’s black. The mere act of witnessing the most menacing new Caterham Seven on sale as it’s being disgorged from its trailer is an experience laced with excitement and trepidation. Any other colour wouldn’t look right.
The tiny warrior emerges backwards, revealing first its squared-off backside, then the rearmost struts of its very bright and very large roll-cage, followed by the oily sheen of an Avon slick’s fat sidewall. Next up is the rolling-pin exhaust silencer, then the windscreen – or lack thereof – before the exhaust tract splits into four and dives into the long, long nose of the aluminium body just ahead of the big number seven but behind the somehow still cute fenders. A few seconds later and here is it: the Caterham Seven Championship UK Racecar, on show in all its unforgettable, unhinged glory.
This single-seater Seven isn’t the most powerful Seven that Caterham currently sells. That honour goes to the 620, whose supercharged 310bhp makes it a match for any supercar. The Championship is a different proposition.
It’s not supercharged so makes only 175bhp, although even this gives it roughly the power-to-weight ratio of the latest Porsche 911 GT3. In any case, the Championship makes ground elsewhere. As a pure racer designed for the uppermost rung of Caterham’s four-tier single-make championship series, it isn’t bound by rules of the road, as the 620 is. Hence no windscreen and, new for the 2021 season, the fully slick tyres.
The gearbox is also out of the ordinary by road-car standards, being a six-speed sequential unit by Sadev. It has featured in road-legal Caterhams in the past, true, but it’s a rare thing, and with flat upshifts and a scrumptious mechanical action, it elevates the act of cog-swapping to a level beyond the satisfaction offered by even the most exquisite dual-clutch automatics. It sits between Caterham’s fettling of Ford’s 2.0-litre Duratec engine, in this instance naturally aspirated, and a Titan limited-slip differential nestled within the De Dion rear axle.
With the arrival of slicks and the larger forces they generate, that tube has extra bracing, and the A-frame has been made stiffer to prevent cracking. Springs are from Eibach, dampers from Bilstein and, again for 2021, there’s extra camber adjustment, courtesy of new suspension arms.