What if you’ve had your fill of a Porsche 911 Turbo or Porsche 911 GT3? Maybe you’ve exhausted what you’re going to get out of it. Maybe you’ve tried slicks, tried upping the power, but it’s still not enough. You crave more.
How many people are there like that? “You’d be amazed,” says Caterham’s marketing man James Drake. Hence the creation of the car you see here, the new SP/300.R (from whose name, if you’ll excuse us, we might omit some punctuation).
If it isn’t hardcore enough for even a hardened track day veteran, I’ll eat my Nomex gloves. From its every pore oozes the vibe, sight and smell of race-car detailing.
Caterham has made the Super Seven since adopting it from Lotus nearly four decades ago. There’s not much more entertainment to be had on track than peddling a Supersport quickly.
But Sevens don’t translate everywhere. In Russia, the Middle East and the Far East, they understand track days and fast cars. They don’t (Japan excepted) understand Sevens. In short, if you’re Caterham, what do you do if you want to expand the portfolio? You ask Lola if they can help knock something up.
Et voila: Lola hands you back the SP300R, with an aluminium honeycomb passenger tub, a supercharged 2.0-litre Ford Duratec motor hung behind it and an F3-spec Hewland gearbox with paddleshifters.
The SP300R looks and feels every inch the racing car. A one-make SP300R series beckons. It has air jacks as standard, is happiest firing from a slave battery, is snug to slip into and has first-rate fit and finish.
I’ve done a few track days and even a few races. But as I slot into the SP300R’s cockpit in the Rockingham pitlane, I’ll admit to feeling intimidated. It rides on slicks, for heaven’s sake. Despite the ability to post lap times three to four seconds faster than a BTCC car around Brands, the SP300R is completely assembled at Caterham’s Dartford factory.
I also think it looks the business. Clearly a designer’s hand, and not just an aerodynamicist’s, has been at work in the finishing. The detail strip across the back and the LED lights are sweet touches. The detailing inside is easily up to the standards of hospitality types, who will use them to scare corporate punters.
I suspect it’ll do that before it has even reached the end of the pitlane. It feels ‘proper’, as Caterham’s engineer eases it off its air jacks and its pitiful turning circle makes itself obvious on the way out of the garage. The clutch is sharp and there’s precious little response to the first centimetre of throttle travel.