Britain’s days as the world’s greatest car-making power are but distant memory, but in more recent times we islanders have established a reputation as purveyors of some of the most innovative and exciting independent sports cars on the planet. The likes of Ariel, Caterham, Noble and TVR have all stamped their mark on world stage as cult favourites, championing the best in British design and engineering.
Commercial juggernauts they are not, but there’s an infectious sense of dynamism, verve and above all a passion for speed that spurs on these plucky specialist British firms. For every Caterham, there are numerous lesser known names. Often the brainchild of a motor-mad individual, their close-knit band of designers and engineers graft away in inconspicuous warehouses on nondescript industrial estates all over the country, bringing us pure-bred sports cars with a very British licence to thrill.
Hampshire-based Elemental is one such example that’s ready to heave open the warehouse doors and unleash its all-new lightweight sports car, the Rp1, on to a racetrack near you.
Four years in the making, it’s fair to say that Elemental’s small design and production team has poured the utmost care and attention in to its pet project, specifically the Rp1’s super light cockpit. The patented CarbonAl tub is crafted from high-performance F1-grade carbon fibre and incorporates an open-wheel style feet-up driving position.
The cutting edge aero package features a pair of diffusers, one under the front half of the car and another at the rear, to generate almost magnetic levels of downforce. Elemental claim the Rp1’s computer-honed aerodynamic enhancements will produce a whopping 400kg of downforce as the racer hits the 150mph mark – and that’s just in standard road set-up. Just contemplating the Rp1’s potential spider-like grip once the hand-adjustable suspension settings are optimised for track use is a truly mouth-watering prospect.
Ford’s EcoBoost stable provides the power for the new Rp1. It’s a name with some serious performance pedigree, the 1.0 litre unit having powered the Nürburgring-conquering Formula Ford open-wheel racer and the 2.0 litre borrowed straight out of the current production Focus ST. Both are available aboard the Rp1, with the smaller engine providing 180bhp and breaking the 0-60mph barrier in 3.2 seconds. Meanwhile, its more potent sibling delivers a pounding 320bhp and passes the same mark in a blistering 2.8 seconds. It all combines to endow the featherweight Rp1 with a landmark power to weight ratio of 500bhp/tonne.
Elemental’s RP1, like most of its contemporaries, may lack the on-board electronic wizardry of today’s breed of mass production sports cars. However, it does come with various intelligent systems as standard such as switchable traction control, a five-stage setup which modifies engine mapping settings to tailor the car to specific track or road conditions.
For its first public airing, the Elemental RP1 gets to tackle one of the world’s most famous hill climbs at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Elemental will have its second production car on display in the paddock at the legendary motoring extravaganza which runs from the 23-26 June.