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Caterham reckons its 270S is the perfect car for drifting
We take on the Caterham Drift Experience to find out if they’re right
So, you want to learn to drift huh? You’ll be needing huge amounts of power from a highly-tuned engine and a healthy tyre budget then, surely?
Well, perhaps not, because Caterham reckons that the bottom-of-the-range Seven 270S, with its Ford-sourced 1.6-litre Sigma engine and 135bhp, is the perfect car to get you going sideways for the very first time.
And so, as a drifting novice and the newest member of the TG team, I find myself posing as the willing guinea pig for this experiment. Our laboratory for the day is the lower paddock at Brands Hatch – home to the recently re-launched Caterham Drift Experience – and the scientists are a group of instructors with more research hours behind the wheel of Sevens than you’d care to imagine.
The day begins with a short safety briefing, although it mainly consists of being told to wear long sleeves in the springtime sun and where to stand to avoid being squashed by an out of control Caterham. After that it’s time to jump straight into the cars.
Ah yes, the cars. Under the skin these are bog-standard 270Ss – mechanically the same as the 500kg, 122mph version you can build yourself for just over £26,000. The only changes made are to the rake angle (with the rear of the car now sitting much higher than the front) and to the rear tyres themselves, which have come off a van and are pumped up to 40psi for minimum grip. Lovely.
I jump in with an instructor, apply generous throttle into a slalom of orange cones and almost immediately spin. Yep, it certainly is as easy to get the back end out as we were told.
If I’m honest, that becomes a recurring theme of the day. I end up having done more pirouettes than Billy Elliot, but that’s the beauty of learning by doing. After a good few laps of the short circuit I’m sent out unaccompanied and starting to get the hang of keeping it sideways.
At the end of each attempt I come back in to pick up a few tips and try to deploy them the next time around – although the figure of eight quickly becomes my nemesis.
The 270S is fantastic. The lack of weight allows you to feel the effect that each individual input has on the car, and the revvy little four-pot just wills you to give it a kicking. The fact you can see those front wheels also seems to give a little psychological boost, so you’re thinking you’ll definitely be able to catch the slide next time.
This isn’t a right or wrong kind of day though. You want to try lift-off oversteer? Go for it. Fancy slamming the brakes on to unsettle the car? Be our guest. It really is one of the best ways to learn about car control.
The day ends and I’m relieved of guinea pig duties, but I’m now drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs over the Caterham. The 270S is such an easy car to fall in love with, and such an encouraging car to learn to drift in. It just may be the perfect tool for the purpose.
The best part? Those rear tyres only cost £20-per-pair to replace. Maybe I’ll just give it one more shot…