After nearly half a century of continuous production, the Caterham Seven British two-seater sportscar continues to re-write the record books.
The Surrey based firm’s flagship Superlight R500 road car has broken its own world record for speeding from a standing start to 100mph and then breaking back to zero again in a time of just 11.25 seconds. This compares to its 11.44 seconds performance in 2002, and the previous best time of 11.5 seconds set by the £750,000 McLaren F1 LM sportscar in 1999. The hand-built Superlight R500, which boasts 500bhp per tonne, costs just £36,200.
In the record breaking run, which requires perfect gear change and weather conditions, Colin Chapman’s legendary design sped to 60mph in 3.47 seconds (three hundredths slower than last year), got up to 100mph in a stunning 7.26 seconds (half a second quicker than previously!) and then came to an abrupt halt in less than four seconds later.
The record was set during Autocar magazine’s annual review of some of the world’s quickest cars at the Bruntingthorpe airfield, Leicestershire. Ben Oliver, road test editor of Autocar said: "Once again, Caterham and Autocar have raised the bar; we doubt that even Michael Schumacher aboard an Enzo (Ferrari) would beat our 11.25 sec time in the R500. It will take a whole new kind of car to improve significantly on that."
Simon Nearn, managing director of Caterham Cars, took a different view. He explained: "This is the best example of why the Caterham can be genuinely viewed as one of the safest cars on the road. Engineering and design is not just about speed and performance, the ability to accelerate out of trouble, and stop on a sixpence safely is unmatched. There is nothing as nimble and quick as a Seven."
Incredible as it may seem, Jez Coates, technical director of Caterham Cars, believes the R500 can go quicker. "This is as much about the performance of the car, and the technical ability of the driver. We’ve not reached the limits of both yet…who knows sub-11 seconds may even be possible."
The Caterham Seven celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year after Colin Chapman’s Lotus firm handed over the rights to the former dealer in 1973.
Prices start from £15,200 for the 1.4 litre Classic.Published 29 July 2003