My entire body is being assaulted. The acceleration I’m experiencing is so incredibly brutal that the only thing close to this sensation would be receiving multiple stab wounds. With every squeeze of the throttle, no matter which of the six gears this car is in, the force is relentless, unstoppable, almost evil. If I didn’t have a crash helmet on with my visor pulled down, airborne insects would become projectiles. Every gear change sends a violent shock through my torso and then, when I’m hard on the brakes, every organ in my body is thrown forward, trying to find some way out.
This is the Caparo T1, and while the Bugatti Veyron remains the king when it comes to top speed, this is the fastest accelerating road-legal car on the planet. It will see off 60 mph from rest in less than 2.5 seconds. Under braking and cornering it pulls up to 3.5g, which you’d normally have to be an aerobatic pilot to experience. If you’re fed up with the latest sports car being referred to as an F1 car for the road then look away now. Because that’s exactly what the T1 is. This is the real deal.
It’s not a new car, the T1. It was first driven and written about three years ago and it’s fair to say the reviews were mixed. While nobody was in any doubt about the Caparo’s formidable pace, it was the dynamics of the thing that were called into question. The problem was that the car was underdeveloped and should never have been given to any journalist until it had been sufficiently refined. At the very least until it could go around corners properly.
Three years down the line and I’m having my day. For once, a car manufacturer’s marketing material is right on the money. Nothing can prepare you for the take-off speed, the sales brochure says. All aspects of the car’s performance are instantaneous: acceleration, cornering, braking. But especially the acceleration. It distorts your perception of time and distance Couldn’t have put it better myself.
The secret to the Caparo T1’s incredible performance is in its power-to-weight ratio. Its V8 engine produces 575 hp, which is pretty average for a supercar these days, but it weighs just 1,200 pounds. Which means its power-to-weight ratio is double that of the Veyron. Which means driving it is rather scary. And you don’t even need to drive it to experience the ultimate four-wheeled adrenaline rush because there’s even a passenger seat in its cramped cockpit, slightly aft of the driver’s.
Caparo could well be the biggest company you’ve never heard of. That garden furniture you have outside the house? If it has steel components they could well have come from Caparo. The steel used to make the taxi you took a ride in may also have been supplied by them. Need ten million nuts and bolts for that skyscraper you’re building? Give Caparo a call and they’ll sort you out. Like many huge corporations, it has many different divisions, and when Caparo got to hear about a project being run by two of the engineers that brought the McLaren F1 to fruition Ben Scott-Geddes and Graham Halsteadthe company decided to back it and Caparo the automobile manufacturer became a reality.
They like to keep everything in-house if at all possible. So they bought the design rights to an engine initially developed by Menard for Indy Car racing. They bought AP, the brake manufacturer, too. So it’s fair to say that money wasn’t really an object in developing the T1 and the car’s design is a result of some of the greatest thinking in the business. There are no pretensions about it being a normal careverything is about shocking speed. There’s no trunk, nowhere to store anything at all apart from a pocket inside the bare carbon-fiber tub for your maps and driving license, not that you’ll hang on to that for long if you drive it on public roads. There’s a canopy available if you don’t fancy the fresh air experience, and it’s manufactured to aerospace standards. The car I’m in doesn’t have so much as a windshield.
In essence it’s the ultimate track-day toy, it just so happens that you won’t need to transport it to the circuit on a trailer. There’s no dashboard as suchjust a row of switches. The steering wheel is a bespoke racing item that needs to be removed and refitted just to climb aboard and it displays essential information like the gear you’re in, revs, speed, whatever you want. Behind it are two paddles to operate the sequential gearbox.