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  • Post is under moderation
    / #Caterham-Seven-Sprint / #Caterham-Seven / #Caterham / #2017 retro looks meet modern underpinnings for a celebratory seven. #Lotus / #Lotus-Seven / #Lotus-7

    Test location: Thundridge, Hertfordshire
    GPS: 51.839570, -0.051380
    Photography: Aston Parrott

    I struggle to know what to do with my elbows in a Caterham. If I tuck them in front of me, between the transmission tunnel and the side panel, certain gears are impossible to select. Alternatively, if I splay them wide over the side panel and the transmission tunnel, steering becomes tricky. Consequently I frequently change where I point my elbows. Sometimes they’re in and other times they’re out, but it’s impossible to move position without banging an elbow on something. And that’s in an ordinary Caterham fitted with a tiny, 260mm steering wheel. Worryingly, to complement a host of other retro embellishments, the new seven sprint has a larger, 330mm, wood-rimmed #Moto-Lita wheel.

    Just 60 sprints will be built to celebrate 60 years since the launch of the original lotus seven. the sprint sees the return of the traditional flared front wings, so it looks very much like a series 2 lotus seven, an appearance aided by the six traditional ’60s British paint colours being offered (this one is Camberwick green) and the interior’s period-style smiths dials and red leather seats.

    Underneath ye olde veneer, however, the sprint is essentially a modern Caterham Seven 160. That means it’s powered by a 660cc, three-cylinder turbocharged #Suzuki-engine producing 80bhp and 79lb ft of torque. Yet with only 490kg to shift, the sprint can, er, Sprint to 60mph in 6.9sec.

    As in the 160, that #Suzuki motor feels lethargic, the needle of the rev counter taking an age to creep up to its 7700rpm limit. It also sounds gruff and industrial, and more than a little out of place here when you lift off the throttle and the turbocharger makes itself known with a flutter and chirp. It’s like someone infiltrating the set of Heartbeat wearing a tracksuit.

    The gearbox feels convincingly dated, though, being notchy and so reluctant to engage a gear that it’s essential to rev-match when changing down. Sadly, the lazy engine response means that a quick blip of the throttle as you heel and toe doesn’t generate enough revs for a smooth shift.

    But the seven built its reputation on its chassis, right? And it’s here where the sprint starts to shine. Not necessarily in tighter turns, where the limited grip from the narrow rubber has the inside rear tyre spinning excessively (there’s no limited-slip differential), but in wider corners there’s real fun to be had. With just 80bhp, maintaining pace is vital. Ease off the throttle – you rarely need to brake on the road – and turn in aggressively, feel the back axle roll on its tyres and the grip bleed away. Now add a touch of opposite lock and a fraction of throttle to neutralise the oversteer. Rather than fully correcting the slide, you ride it through to the apex, gradually straightening the wheel until you exit the corner.

    Driven thus, the sprint makes almost every corner feel like you’re at the Goodwood Revival, sliding through woodcote corner, and it’s incredibly satisfying when you get it right. It sounds considerably more heroic than it actually is; the sprint is so small that you have a huge amount of space to play with on the road and you simply aren’t travelling very fast. You do need to pick your roads carefully, though.

    The sprint is stiffly sprung and the back-end hops and bounces around, limiting the progress you can make on rougher tarmac. Being sat so close to the live rear axle magnifies the pogoing effect for the driver, too.

    So the sprint behaves exactly like the 160. However, that steering wheel does create a problem. With your hands set further apart, so are your elbows, and that makes them even more likely to collide with parts of the interior or your passenger. It seems ludicrous to mark a Caterham down for its ergonomic shortcomings – all Caterhams are horrifically uncomfortable by modern standards – but anything that exacerbates the issue, such as the sprint’s retro steering wheel, makes them less enjoyable to drive.

    ‘It makes almost every corner feel like you’re at the Goodwood Revival’

    + Progressive, transparent and delicate handling
    - Big steering wheel restricts interior space evenmore

    Rating 4

    Engine In-line 3-cyl, 660cc, turbo
    CO2 n/a
    Power 80bhp @ 7000rpm
    Torque 79lb ft @ 3400rpm
    0-60mph 6.9sec (claimed)
    Top speed 100mph (claimed)
    Weight 490kg (166bhp/ton)
    Price £27,995 (sold out) ‏ — at Thundridge, Ware SG12, UK
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  • Post is under moderation
    The legend #Derek-Bell
    Last year saw me celebrate a bit of history on the quiet. In March #1964 I competed in my first ever race and, against expectations, I won it aboard my #Lotus Seven. That maiden outing at #Goodwood was the jumping-off point for a career that would encompass #Formula-1 inside a decade, but I am best remembered as a sports-car driver.

    As I have mentioned in this column before, I had no great desire to race them; they were a means to an end once my single-seater career faltered. The opportunities to race a competitive GP car simply weren’t there so sports cars were the best alternative. The thing is, I grew to love the category - and one race in particular.

    This year marks the 40th anniversary of my first win at Le Mans. To be honest, it makes me wince a little just thinking of how many years have passed by since #Jacky-Ickx and I stood on the top step of the podium. But what a win! The #Cosworth -engined #Gulf we raced that year was successful against the odds, as the #DFV most definitely was not an endurance engine. It was designed to run for a few hours in the back of an #F1 car and not around the clock.

    What’s more, Gulf nearly didn’t compete that year. The backstory is that, after the #Porsche-917 adventure was over, the Gulf team became an also-ran as #Matra and #Ferrari went head-to-head. When our team principal John Wyer went to see Keith Duckworth at Cosworth with a view to using the DFV in endurance racing, he asked him: ‘What would you do?’ Keith replied: ‘I wouldn’t, lad.’

    In the #1974 race, there were no works Ferraris but our cars were still outpaced by the wailing Matras. I raced that year alongside the much-missed Mike Hailwood. In about the second or third hour, I handed over the reins and told him: ‘For heaven’s sake, Mike, take it easy. There is the most awful noise coming from the gearbox.’ He looked me straight in the eye, smiled and said: ‘Oh well, let’s get it over with quickly so we can all get back for a few glasses of wine!’ Motor sport was a lot more relaxed back then, especially with ‘The Bike’ around. We finished fourth.

    A year later, the team’s programme was trimmed to the bone. Much of this was down to Gulf’s Grady Davis - who was thick as thieves with John - retiring from the board. Not only that, there was a US senate enquiry into American oil companies, with Gulf chief among them. It was something to do with off-the- books financial incentives for certain South American countries to import their oil and theirs alone.


    I was driving elsewhere for #Willi-Kauhsen in the mighty #Alfa-Tipo-33 s and for a time it looked as though Gulf would be sitting out the entire season. It was only late in the day that a two-car Le Mans bid was announced. I was delighted that Jacky asked if he could be my team-mate, with Vern Schuppan and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud sharing the sister car.

    Following the Fuel Crisis, the organisers took the initiative in trying to promote an economy-conscious formula. As such, we were obliged to run a minimum of 20 laps between fuel stops in addition to restricting the size of the tanks. That meant that our cars had to return more than 7mpg just to qualify. Our GR8 wasn’t a bad car, but there was no way we could run the DFV at the usual 9500rpm: it wouldn’t stay together and we would be way off on fuel efficiency. It also had a frequency problem at about 8200rpm.

    There were all sorts of issues during the race, too, not least the most awful vibration and accompanying graunching noise each time you went around a right-hand corner - and there are a lot of right-handers at #Le-Mans .

    With three hours left to run, we had a long stop to change a cracked exhaust manifold, which wasn’t the work of a moment. When I got back in the car, the prior vibration was now a loud thump-thump. With the second-place Ligier of Louis Lafosse and Guy Chasseuil gaining on us, it was a fraught time to put it mildly. Fortunately, the car held together and Jacky and I won by a lap. We discovered subsequently that the graunching noise was due to rear suspension pick-up point fractures. When the car moved, the rear end began to flex and steer...

    I wouldn’t say that it was a lucky win. We worked bloody hard to be that lucky, but good fortune was on our side, that’s for sure. I still get goosebumps thinking about it all these years later.


    Derek took up racing in 1964 in a #Lotus-7 , won two World Sportscar Championship titles in 1985 and 1986, the 24 Hours of Daytona three times in 1986, 1987 and 1989, and Le Mans five times in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987. He was speaking with Richard Heseltine.
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