We’re in luck, for although conditions are perfect for a spot of hooning, the Jebel Al Jais road is empty, giving us plenty of scope to test the long, sweeping, high-speed stretch before the twisties kick in. On point, I immediately give the Audi Q5 a bootful and am surprised when the three sports cars following behind begin to shrink in my rear view mirror. By the time I’ve hit the mountain range, they’ve completely disappeared. I’m at a loss when I step out the car, and for a second I worry that one of the guys has taken a rockside cliff-face squarely on the jaw.
Then I remember that I’m with three petrolheads. On a winding road. In sports cars. It’s not long before the sound of a screaming Ferrari V8 can be heard in the distance. Following close behind, the Porsche’s dulcet tones ricochet about the mountains in the way only a boxer flat-six can, the altogether softer but no less aggressive warble of the Lotus’ four-cylinder unit pounding the deep notes in an effort not to be overshadowed. For sheer unadulterated teeth rattling fury though, the Scuderia has the others cooked.
So far the Ferrari has grabbed crowds and enthusiasts by the short ones, in terms of looks and soundtrack. And whilst the Scuderia can legitimately claim to be the fast on the straights, into the twisties the 510hp Ferrari is quickly being hustled by both the 290hp Lotus and 325hp Porsche. And it’s on this road, through switchbacks and kinks, where the Lotus reigns supreme.
“It’s very direct, one step back from a dedicated track car like a Caterham,” Sean explains. “You can really feel everything through the seat of your pants, through the steering, which just talks to you all the time. The brakes are ever so direct. Everything is, but without being harsh. That’s what I love about the Exige Cup: it can find the balance without getting into the next level.”
Diving into turns and throwing out the anchor almost hilariously late, the front wheels bite and the Lotus is through sharp hairpins almost before we realise what’s happened. On the straights it may not be as dramatic as the Ferrari, but through the corners the Exige Cup strives to leave the others for dead.
Nobody seems to have mentioned this to Osie though, the Cayman R latching itself onto the Lotus’ rear bumper through the tight turns, the linear acceleration of the flat-six powering the rear wheels firmly through the turns in hot pursuit of the Exige. Where we had expected a little more sideways action from the Cayman (and Osie freely admits that Sport Plus is slightly too aggressive for today’s shenanigans), the balance of the R really does demonstrate how effective a 55kg weight loss program – and a tad extra horsepower – can be. A little further back, the soundtrack of the Ferrari emphasises its booming power, the aerodynamically proficient nose pointing beautifully through the turns to keep its young contenders in sight, though Farhan is obviously keen not to push too hard.
“Wow!’” Farhan exclaims. “That’s the only way I can really describe this car. It gives you the joy of driving, feeling each direction change through the steering wheel. And the speed! Gearshifts have been reduced from 100 milliseconds in the F430 to 60 milliseconds in the Scuderia. I’ve owned a Porsche, I’ve owned a Lotus, and I’ve driven a lot of friend’s track cars, and the Scuderia is… okay, I won’t say it’s ‘the best’ but it’s one of the best cars for driving on the track and here today.”
“Actually for me,” Osie chimes in, “one of the nicest driving characteristics is how direct the steering is on the Porsche. It’s quite weighty, but because the R is so light it changes direction beautifully, especially under braking. It does rev quite hard as well. It’s very linear, but in the lower gears the acceleration is quite aggressive. This is millimetre-like stuff we’re talking about. You can get 90 per cent of this car’s performance 100 per cent of the time, and you can reach the car’s limits within your own. It’s accessible performance, and that’s the beauty of it.”
Just one run, as you would expect, doesn’t prove enough, and whilst the final crankandpiston shots are being put to bed, the sound of V8, V6 and flat-six engine notes reverberate around the mountain range as these mid-engined track weapons are given another beating. It’ll be another hour before the valley grows silent and another four months before this story is told.
Hopefully it has been worth the wait though, eh guys?
|Porsche||Cayman R (2012)|
|Engine:||Flat boxer 6-cyl / 3463cc|
|Power:||325hp @ 7400rpm|
|Torque:||273 lb ft @ 4750rpm|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed PDK / LSD / rear wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||Anti-roll bars front and rear / McPherson struts|
|Rear suspension:||Anti-roll bars front and rear / McPherson struts|
|Brakes:||Disc brakes front and rear / ventilated 350mm (front) / 350mm x 12mm (rear)|
|Wheels:||19-in front and rear|
|Tyres:||225/45 R19 front 235/35 R19 rear|
|Top speed:||282 kph|
|Engine:||V8 / 4309cc|
|Power:||510hp @ 8500rpm|
|Torque:||346.67lb ft @ 5250rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed automatic / electronic differential E-Diff2 / rear wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||Double wishbones / coil springs over dampers / anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension:||Double wishbones / coil springs over dampers / anti-roll bar|
|Brakes:||Ventilated discs / ABS|
|Wheels:||19-inch front and rear|
|Tyres:||235/35 19 (front) / 285/35 19 (rear)|
|0-100kph:||Less than 3.6sec|
|Lotus||Exige Cup 260 (spec)|
|Engine:||In-line 4-cyl / 1796cc / supercharger|
|Power:||290hp @ 8000rpm|
|Torque:||c174lb ft @ 6000rpm|
|Wheels:||16-inch (front) / 17-inch (rear)|
|Tyres:||195/50 R 16 (front) / 225/45 R 17 (rear)|