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The Top Gear car review:Elemental RP1
For:Blistering pace, downforce is a genuine USP, stability, gearbox, brakes, steering.
Against:Engine is short on charisma, not as laugh-out-loud as an Atom.
What is it?
A new lightweight sports car from a new lightweight sports car company. It’s British of course, because lightweight sports cars is what we do – and this one has pedigree. The key men behind it used to work for McLaren and the car they’ve developed, the RP1, has an entirely appropriate USP: downforce. And plenty of it. We first drove the RP1 as a prototype back in 2015, but since then a lot of detail work has been carried out and first customer deliveries are now underway.
It’s powered by a longitudinally-mounted 2.0-litre turbocharged Ford Ecoboost engine that develops 320bhp and 332lb ft of torque and pushes that out to the rear wheels via a six-speed Hewland sequential gearbox. It weighs just 595kg.
Built around a central carbon and aluminium tub weighing just 65kg, it features a feet-up seating position, fully adjustable in-board front suspension and double wishbone rear suspension which includes the gearbox as a stressed member to save weight.
At the back there’s a huge low pressure diffuser to increase downforce, while another at the front accounts for the F1-style driving position – air is compressed by the splitter, diffused under your calves and exhausted behind the front wheels. The aerodynamic figures are ridiculous: 200kg of downforce at 100mph, 400kg at 150mph. And not a wing in sight.
There are no doors or roof and just a tiny pair of aeroscreens – although a full windscreen is in development. It is perhaps the most race-derived lightweight of all, although Elemental is keen to point out its ‘practicality’ – a spacious cabin, 50-litre fuel tank and 200 litres of luggage space – twice what an Audi R8 offers. Yes, seriously.