The Sin R1 is the supercar from Bulgaria, a country without a proud automotive heritage.
In fact, there aren’t many countries on this continent that could be accused of having a more dire motoring history.
The former communist state has been home to a handful of car factories over the years, mostly foreign-owned and almost always churning out miserable tin boxes and joyless utilitarian workhorses, but thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of one man, it now has a supercar company of its very own.
Sin R1 – Bulgaria’s saviour?
Sin Cars, based in Ruse, on the Romanian border, is the brainchild of Rosen Daskalov. The company’s first road car, the R1, is a mid-engined, V8-powered arrowhead of a car that produces more power than the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. And that’s not even the really quick variant.
Forty-something Daskalov strides around the Sin Cars factory like a man with too much to do and too little time to do it. His phone never stops ringing. He thinks and talks fast, but when he gets onto describing his cars or telling tales of racing them there’s a child-like enthusiasm and a boyish laugh.
The facade of his sprawling facility in the north of Bulgaria is ultra-slick and modern - the factory doubles up as an official BMW service centre - but in the back, where the R1s are built, the place is rough-and-ready.
"My father raced cars," explains Daskalov, "and I raced karts as a child for the Bulgarian national team. I’ve spent my whole life in garages surrounded by cars."
He stopped competing when he left home to study engineering at university, and then went on to set up a workshop. His spare parts operation grew into a successful business, but having worked hard for many years to build his own little empire, Daskalov one day realised he missed racing. "I bought a kart in Germany the next day and started to race again," he says.
His passion had been reignited. Before long, he found he had an urge to establish a sports car company of his own and, in 2012, Sin Cars was formed.
The company was initially based in the UK, but a number of false starts and a parting of ways from a British business partner meant it would be several years before a car was delivered to a customer. Now based in Bulgaria, Sin Cars has built some 20 R1s, the company has a busy GT4 racing programme and it’s gearing up to produce as many as 30 cars each year. There are more powerful derivatives in the pipeline and all-new models on the horizon, too.
Powering the Sin R1 range
For now the R1 range consists of three models – the 450, 550 and 650, the middle variant which we are driving here. The entry-level 450 is powered by a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine producing 443bhp, while the 550 pumps out 542bhp from its 7.0-litre, naturally aspirated V8. Topping the range is the 650, which pumps out 641bhp from its supercharged 6200cc V8 engine.
The R1 is based on a custom steel spaceframe chassis, constructed on site. The gearbox is a Graziano six-speed manual, although buyers can also specify a sequential ‘box, while the in-board suspension features adjustable Ohlins dampers. The car has a limited slip differential, the brakes are supplied by AP Racing and the carbonfibre bodywork is all handmade at the factory. Daskalov styled the R1 himself.
Its 7.0-litre V8 isn’t simply lowered into the chassis untouched. Sin Cars replaces the pistons and bearings with higher-spec items, adds dry-sump lubrication, a bespoke exhaust and Motec management. The result is 542bhp, 472lb ft, 0-62mph in 3.5sec and 186mph flat out. Dry, the R1 weighs 1300kg. For buyers who want yet more performance, the supercharged R1 650 should tick the right boxes.
Even though the R1 is predominantly a GT4 car built for the road, Sin has peppered it with a few creature comforts including a leather and Alcantara upholstery, electrically folding and heated door mirrors, and air conditioning. Those wanting to use their R1 on track can opt for the RS version, which gains numerous improvements based on the GT4 race car, making it more track-focused.
Even with a near-€200,000 asking price, Daskalov says he has enough serious enquiries to see him through five years of production. He’s busy appointing dealers across the world and UK distributor Clayton Kingman is negotiating with sales outlets right now.
Unleashing the monstrous Sin R1
The R1 is aimed at people who reckon Ferrari 488 GTBs are predictable, commonplace and just a little bit dull. The car’s exclusivity and extrovert styling are its key selling points.
Beneath a blazing Eastern European sun, the R1 certainly has presence. Its snug cabin is neatly trimmed in soft leather and the bespoke seats give a near-perfect low-slung, reclined seating position. The switchgear, though, feels somewhat low-rent.
After turning over a few times on the starter motor, the big engine fires into throaty, rumbling life. On the move, the car’s thundering V8 soundtrack is as authentic and as evocative as they come.
The clutch pedal is quite weighty but the throttle very light, so it’s easy to pull away with an unnecessary burst of revs. The electrically-assisted steering is very light, too, which means the R1 is no effort at all to manoeuvre (there are weightier steering modes). The open-gated manual gearbox, meanwhile, requires a deliberate hand. With inconsistent springing between planes, it’s disconcertingly easy to snag a gear other than the one you were aiming for.
Daskalov prefers a softer chassis set-up, even for a track-focused car like the R1. Rather than jolting over bumps and staying dead flat in bends, the car feels relatively plush and it dips and leans in corners.
Its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres generate massive grip and traction, while the car’s balance is so aggressive that there’s almost no understeer in the chassis whatsoever. In fact, you can agitate the rear end just by turning in too aggressively. A more neutral balance with a smudge of understeer and a stable rear end would help you to find the car’s limits with more confidence, but set up up this way, the R1 will carry as much speed into a bend as your nerves will permit.
Is the Sin R1 a supercar slayer?
The R1 is thrilling and engaging, delivering driving distilled to an essence. The manual transmission feels like a wonderful throwback, while the brawny, thumping engine, which delivers massive straight-line performance in third and fourth gears, is more characterful than a modern turbocharged unit could ever be.
This is an imperfect but likeable supercar. And at long last, there’s a chapter in the story of Bulgaria and the automobile that you’ll actually want to read.