Blistering pace, downforce is a genuine USP, stability, gearbox, brakes, steering.
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.
What's the verdict?
The Elemental RP1 brings something new to the lightweight class. That’s the most important thing. It has actual, real world downforce, and introduces you to it skillfully. It feels and drives differently to anything else out there – it’s more stable and serene on difficult roads even at ordinary speeds. The flip side of this is that it comes across as almost too capable and lacks the bonkers mentality that makes a Caterham or Atom so addictive, something that’s reinforced by the boosty delivery of the turbocharged engine. It has most in common with a BAC Mono – the same sense of professionalism, rather than pure exuberance. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it makes us suspect that it’s as a track car that the Elemental will really come alive.