I am an adrenaline junkie with very few outlets for my addiction. Let me explain. You see, I unfortunately have an inordinate fear of heights, which regretfully limits my options for adventure. Skydiving? Completely out of the question! Bungee jumping? Forget it! Cliff diving? No way! This means I have to get my kicks much closer to the ground. Lucky for me I work for crankandpiston.com then, as the job gives me a four-wheeled fix for my habit on an almost weekly basis. Until now though, none of them have threatened to stop my heart. Enter the Caparo T1. In the first part of this feature Jon has set the scene for you on how it became that I would be one of only a handful (literally) of people in the world – and the only one in the Middle East – to get behind the wheel of the fearsome Caparo T1. I am now going to attempt to paint as clear a picture for you of an experience that has been very difficult to put into words. Unfortunately there are few superlatives that can accurately reflect the Caparo T1, but I’m going to try anyway.
I have known for the better part of a month now that I would be driving the Caparo T1, and after the initial smiles and celebrations upon learning of the great news I have done my best to put the impending date out of my mind. Mostly I have succeeded in not giving it too much thought. Part of the reason I had managed to remain relatively blasé about the Caparo, was due to my extensive experience with big power cars. I have also spent a lot of time behind the wheel of various racing cars, including my Radical SR3 1500 which I have successfully campaigned for the best part of three years now. My familiarity with these sorts of cars was the main reason I had got the gig to drive the T1 in the first place. While I was sure that it would be an exhilarating experience (the headline facts and figures pretty much guarantee that) I was confident that I was up to the task.
Fast forward to the night before my date with the T1 and I am sat at home in front of my lap top watching various videos of the Caparo on you-tube, purely for research purposes of course. The on screen footage quickly reminds me of why the T1 had formed such a fearsome reputation. It is no secret that the T1 has had a complicated birth. Despite being touted as the world’s fastest accelerating road legal car, it was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons with a series of high profile problems overshadowing what was meant to be the arrival of the spiritual successor to the McLaren F1. I power down the computer and head to bed where I lay awake for the next few hours staring at the ceiling deep in apprehensive thought before I eventually drift off to dreams of racing cars and oversteer.
The next day I arrive at the Dubai Autodrome pit garage number 1a where I am greeted by the sight of not one but two stunning Caparo T1s, the orange example that I would be piloting today as well as a white T1, which is devoid of engine and gear box and is being used for display purposes only. The first thing that strikes me is how long and wide the car is in the flesh. I wouldn’t call it a beautiful car, quite the contrary actually, but it is captivating to look at. The T1 has a purposeful, brooding air about it and looks like it could be the illegitimate love child of a praying mantis and a hammerhead shark. The GulfSport Racing mechanics are hard at work putting the final touches on the car in anticipation of its first time on track. In conversation I am told that the car I am about to drive is chassis 001 and belongs to Caparo CEO and part-time Dubai resident Angad Paul. As I start to don my fireproof racing gear it starts to dawn on me what a special occasion this is, as a herd of butterflies flap around in my stomach. By now a small crowd had gathered, including the entire crankandpiston team, to watch the Caparo in action for the first time on Middle East soil. As I pull on my Arai helmet, I can hear my good mate Luca Cima taking bets on my stalling or spinning on my first lap. What are friends for?
To climb aboard you need simply to vault up and then down into the cockpit, just like you do in any single seater racing car. Except, of course, to the left and slight aft of the main driver’s seat there’s also a second seat in the T1 which, in theory, can be occupied by a terrified passenger. The driving position is also just like that of a single-seater in that I am almost flat on my back, my feet are stretched way out in front of me, above my backside, and my arms are out-stretched to reach the wheel. The first thing that strikes me is just how comfortable it is. Despite the ultra snug fit, the finishing of the interior is top notch with the inside of the carbon tub lined in sumptuous stitched leather. In front of me the tiny, rectangular carbon fibre steering contains a display with all vital information, as well as the F1-style paddle shifters. Pull the left paddle on the tiny steering column to make sure you’re in neutral. Thumb the starter button and squeeze the throttle hard. The Menard-made 3.5-litre V8 bursts into life, sending vibrations through my entire upper torso. Blip the throttle, and it sounds like you have unleashed the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and they are all carrying chainsaws. The noise is pure race car. Dip the firm but not overly heavy clutch, pull the right paddle and first gear engages with a metallic clunk. I raise the revs to around 3000 rpm and slip the clutch and next thing I know I am trundling down the pit line.
Out on track, I weave left and right in an attempt to put some heat into the Dunlop racing slicks. The T1 darts from side to side with an incredible precision. The steering feels direct and extremely physical. I continue to show restraint through the first lap as I familiarize with my surroundings. The track looks treacherous and is caked with dust and sand, remnants of the dust storm that had hit Dubai the previous week. Exiting the final corner of the Club circuit and onto the main straight I nail the throttle in second gear. What happens next is a truly life altering experience, as the Caparo leaps forward with an unnatural ferocity. The air leaves my lungs as my entire body is viciously sucked to the thinly padded seat. I feel a numbing pressure pushing my flesh against my bones. Amazingly the pulverizing force ramps up as the V8 climbs towards its 10,500rpm limit, unleashing all of its 575bhp. Pull the right paddle again and third gear slams home in the blink of an eye (30 milliseconds to be exact) and the speed continues to pile on unrelentingly. I feel like I am in a time machine as the scenery blurs around me. This car accelerates like nothing else. Forget your Enzo’s and Carerra GT’s, this is more comparable to a space shuttle than any car. It isn’t just in another league, it’s on another planet.
My initial reaction is a mix of euphoria and terror as I hurtle towards turn 1, I hit the brakes much earlier than I normally would and stop short and almost coast through the corner. The plan is for me to do five laps to get a feel for the car and head back to the pits for it to be checked over, as this is essentially its first hot weather test. Considering the temperature is over 40-degrees it’s better to be safe than sorry. The remaining laps are spent building up my confidence on the dusty track and trying to recalibrate my brain to the speed things happen at in this extraordinary car. I park the car and climb out while the Gulf Sport mechanics check all the vitals. Everyone gathers around to see what I have to say. All I can utter is a couple of choice expletives that best express the violence I have just endured.
Ten minutes later I am back in the car with strict instructions to keep an eye on the water temperature, which had been gradually creeping up. Back out on track I start to up the pace braking later and carrying more speed into the corners. This is when I find the first and only negative aspect of the T1: the brakes. They are very difficult to modulate, not helped by the slippery track surface. Brake gently and not much happens but as you apply more pressure the brakes lock which leads to lots of understeer as you attempt to trail brake towards the apex. It almost feels like an invisible giant hand is pushing the nose of the car off course. Once the front tyres have found grip the speed you can maintain through the corners is staggering. Body roll is non-existent as the g forces pin me helplessly to the side of the bolstered seat, I struggle to point the car away from the apex towards the exit. Getting on the power on exit is a very gradual affair as even the slightest overexertion swings the tail out, which requires an ultra quick stab of opposite lock. The need for caution with the throttle becomes all the more obvious after I have a couple of spins due to over ambitious throttle application. Slowly but surely though, I feel I am getting a hang of the T1 as I acclimatize to it’s insanely high capabilities, but before I know it the pit board is out signalling the end of my day, having completed another 10 unforgettable laps.
Back in the pits again the data confirms the incredible performance of the Caparo. In the handful of laps that I completed I have shattered the outright Club circuit record lapping in an unbelievable 56.4 seconds with a top speed of 276kph at the end of the 1 kilometre main straight. With more time in the car and a cleaner track I think I could take at least another five seconds off that time. To realize how monumental that lap time is, take a look at our timing chart on page 108. To think that this car is road legal makes the achievement even more incredible, although you would have to be a complete maniac to drive the T1 on the road. I don’t think that is the point of this car though, as it is with out a doubt the ultimate track day car, with a level of performance similar to that of a GP2 car. This is a day that I will not be forgetting any time soon, the pulverizing acceleration and cornering of the Caparo will remain etched in my brain forever.
|Engine:||V8 / 3496cc|
|Power:||570bhp @ 10,500rpm|
|Torque:||310lb ft @ 9000rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed sequential gearbox / traction control / launch control / rear-wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||Double wishbones / inboard pushrod-operated springs / damper units|
|Rear suspension:||Double wishbones / coil springs / adaptive dampers / anti-roll bar|
|Brakes:||Vented floating discs / 335mm front and rear|
|Wheels:||10 x 18in (front) / 11 x 18in (rear)|
|Tyres:||225/35 R18 (front) / 305/30 R18 (rear) / Dunlop slicks|
|Weight (kerb)||550kg (dry weight)|
|0-100kph:||2.5sec (less with suitable tyre setup)|
|Top speed:||329kph (low downforce setup)|
|Base price:||£210,000 (est $414,400)|