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Ripping around the racetrack

If buying an $80,000 Ariel Atom is beyond your means, you can always try zipping around in the U.K. designed supercar during a track day for $500.

  • Power supply for electric car charging. Electric cars charging station. Power supply plugged into an electric car being charged.

SHANNONVILLE, ONT.–When David Goadby retired from a successful career in the automotive parts business, he decided to expand his hobby, which was, not surprisingly, also automotive – namely running the successful Trak Motorsports racing team.

He heard that Brammo Motorsports of Ashland, Ore., was designing a road-going Grand Touring supercar, specifically aimed at large people. Can you say National Basketball Association, boys and girls?

Sounded like a great idea to him, so he invested in the company.

Turns out Brammo Motorsports also held the North American rights to market and manufacture the Ariel Atom, a spectacular if wacky British-designed supercar, best described as a two-seat Formula Ford race car.

Think 635 kilograms and 245 horsepower…

Goadby decided to try and bring the Atom to a larger audience.

The Atom is one of the most amazing cars you’ll ever drive, as our own Laurance Yap noted in Wheels last July.

Let me recap:

Thanks to its power-to-weight ratio, this thing launches from rest to 100 km/h in about three seconds, blowing any other production car right off the planet.

That’s with the optional 245 horsepower, supercharged 2.0 litre General Motors Ecotec four-cylinder engine. The base 205 hp motor is a little slower; the fire-and-brimstone race-prepped 300-horse version even faster.

The brakes are, predictably, even more impressive.

Handling? Again, race-derived all-independent pushrod suspension, impressively low unsprung weight and your-wish-is-my-command steering make this the best-handling car you can buy. Seriously.

Drawbacks? Well, there are no cup holders.

In fact, there’s no bodywork at all, apart from tiny little windscreen bug deflectors, and even they are options.

The chassis looks like an insect’s exoskeleton, the tube frame surrounding the cockpit.

The car is amazingly roomy – thinking of those well-heeled NBA prospects again, perhaps. The form-fitting seats hold you well in corners.

But they really should put more stuffing into the head restraints. Rocketing down the back straight on the Fabi circuit at Shannonville Motorsport Park, your head is flung so far back all you’re looking at is the sky.

If you want creature comforts, better wait for Brammo’s Grand Touring supercar.

There are optional side body panels for the Atom, but drive this thing in the rain and you’re gonna get wet.

The Atom is primarily designed to be a track car. But it can be licensed for the street if you’re as clever and dedicated enough as Mississauga lawyer Chip Petrillo.

“I wanted something fast and unique,” he told me, standing beside his Atom, which looked only slightly weird with headlights, taillights and a licence plate.

“I looked at a Ferrari, but the salesman wouldn’t even fire one up for me, let alone let me test-drive one.

“Then I heard about the Atom, and decided, `this is it!'”

He had to jump through hoops of real fire to make it street-legal – being a lawyer didn’t hurt. But he did it.

Now, perhaps you don’t have the $41,895 to $89,035 (U.S.) you’ll need (depending on specs, which can be customized to an amazing degree) to buy your own Ariel Atom.

And this is where David Goadby’s new idea comes in: the Ariel Atom Experience.

Starting from $495 (Canadian), you can arrange half-day or full-day driving sessions in the Atom.

Events are planned for Shannonville and at Race City Calgary this summer, with various U.S. locations also in the works.

Designed primarily for corporate groups, these events are run by Targa Newfoundland competitor Mark Swain.

While not a driving school as such, you can’t help but learn something here, especially if you can convince Swain to take you for a couple of laps. No wonder he did so well in Targa.

Attendees will be supplied with driving suits and helmets (you get to keep the gloves and balaclava).

It’s a first-class operation too, in a lovely tent complete with a floor and a catered lunch – not your usual mystery-meat-in-a-bun racetrack fare.

For more information, visit www.arielatom.com (for the car) and www.arielatomexperience.com (for the, um, experience).


wheels@thestar.ca;

jim@jimkenzie.com

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