Unveiled at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, UK, the Caterham-Lola SP/300.R is a new addition to sit alongside the legendary Caterham Seven sports car, yet it remains true to the company’s lightweight, minimalist DNA to deliver the thrills of driving a fast, confidence-inspiring, sportscar.
Created in partnership with British engineering brand, Lola Cars, the sports prototype will also feature the debut of Caterham Motorsport’s new supercharged version of the Ford Duratec engine, expected to produce around 300bhp.
Caterham is in the final stages of development of the powertrain and handling characteristics of the car, in readiness for a one-make championship to start in 2012, while the feasibility of a road-legal version of the car is also being considered.
Only 25 versions of the SP/300.R will be manufactured each year, allowing Caterham to focus on enhancing the build quality of every vehicle and maximize its one-to-one customer service. The car will provide the natural progression for Caterham’s already successful domestic and international racing ‘ladder’. It will also provide the blossoming premium trackday community with a potent new model.
With Lola as technical design consultant, leading the aerodynamic styling and downforce development in collaboration with Caterham’s design direction, the Seven’s engineers have been responsible for developing the powerplant, braking system and making sure the two-seater’s ride and handling characteristics are firmly transfered into the SP/300.R.
“Motorsport is not only part of the history of Caterham, but it’s been the lifeblood running through the character of our vehicles – race cars for the road,” explained Ansar Ali, managing director of Caterham Cars. “Today, racing is not only the heartbeat of the business, but an intrinsic part of our fabric both here and abroad, and the SP/300.R represents the next logical step in the development of our product offering.”
The Company’s long-standing relationship with Ford has allowed Caterham’s engineers unparalleled technical access to the Ford range of engines. Today, Ford products power the entire range of Caterham cars, from the entry-level Roadsport through the entire Superlight collection.
Caterham’s engineers chose the supercharged Duratec with its drivers in mind. As with all Caterham products, the driving experience is at the core of the SP/300.R’s design.
The supercharged induction module was therefore chosen for its linear torque delivery across the entire engine speed range, which is perfectly-matched to the lightweight architecture of the car. The Duratec is well-known to Caterham’s engineers and already boasts a proven track record as a resilient engine that is cost-effective for customers to run.
Caterham also worked alongside partners such as Pectel to deliver a highly-developed package that will reward drivers with advanced data-logging and features such as ‘push to pass’ power enhancement and an integrated semi-automatic gearshift control.
The SP/300.R will be capable of being adapted to suit alternative engines, but the factory-fit engine will offer unrivalled levels of reliability – together with a perfectly-matched Hewland semi-automatic FTR transmission, Caterham aims to reproduce the enormously-durable drivetrain solution that has been so successful in the Superlight R300 series, where engine rebuilds are virtually unnecessary.
With the styling being aerodynamically rather than aesthetically led, the SP/300.R has been designed using Lola’s state-of-the-art CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) technology, with input and critique from Caterham.
The basic chassis is an aluminum tub with a longitudinally mid-mounted engine, coupled to a stress-bearing rear transaxle. A forward splitter and large rear wing reduce lift, while a flat underbody maximizes ground effect benefits.
A broad aero platform generates optimal downforce and balance, while the aerodynamic performance is fine-tuned by ducts and dive-planes. The SP/300.R bodywork also features an F1-style raised nose section and sectioned panels, which will help reduce repair costs, ease maintenance and, importantly, allow single-handed removal of body panels track-side.
Caterham’s research suggests that most sports prototypes in today’s market require more than one person to assist in the removal of body panels, e.g. oil check, set-up, etc; the SP/300.R will be the only sports prototype that offers this unique, flexible and yet convenient feature. The supercharged Duratec’s 300bhp will propel the sub-1320 lb car from 0-60mph in around 2.5 seconds, translating into 500hp-per-tonne, excluding the driver.
The gearing of the car has been selected to reach maximum RPM in top gear at the end of Spa-Francorchamps circuit’s Kemmel Straight, chosen as it is one of the more frequently-visited race and trackday venues. Top speed will be around 170mph.
The SP/300.R will benefit from full race suspension – front and rear dual wishbones with pushrod dampers, adjustable ride height and bespoke wheels and tires will all make for a race car of exquisite balance and stability.
The rear suspension architecture is derived from that used at the rear end of the Lola Formula 3 and World Junior cars – coupled with the high downforce generated by the aerodynamic package, this will be a direct and rewarding race car to drive.
Thanks to Caterham’s long-standing partner, Cooper Avon Tyres, the SP/300.R will stand on bespoke rubber developed specifically by Cooper Tire for this car, fitted to 13-inch race rims. Measuring a muscular 250mm wide at the rear, and 180mm at the front, the tires have been specifically designed to cope with vast engine torque married to a lightweight chassis. Naturally, the SP/300.R has been built to comply with MSA safety regulations. The main component of the safety system is a rollcage. The chassis has also been designed with the requisite crash structures. Other components include the six-point harness, fire extinguisher, cut-off switch and so on.
In keeping with the SP/300.R’s stature as a premium race product, Caterham has selected fixings and fittings of a very high quality. These include the steering wheel, which incorporates data display (Stack/MOMO), wheels (ATS, Speedline or OZ), brakes (AP Racing) and driver’s harness (Schroth). Inevitably, Caterham Motorsport is planning a one-make series for the SP/300.R.
The details of its own championship are yet to be finalized, but the SP/300.R series will initially focus on UK circuits, with the potential addition of one round in Europe. However, the projected success of the cornerstone debut season is expected to make the SP/300.R and its race series eminently marketable further afield in Europe, which will provide a major boost to Caterham’s already thriving export market. The Caterham-Lola SP/300.R is priced at £60,000 excluding local taxes ($94500).
One-minute montage of Caterham Lola SP/300.R
Two-minute montage of Caterham Lola SP/300.R with interviews