Friday, May 29, 2009

speads single seater & sports prototype

Track test.
by Pierre Martins

IMG_2179 I’ve tested some great race cars in my time and if I had to select a couple of personal favourites the SPEADs would definitely rate very high on the list.

Some cars are quick, but they’re hard work. The SPEADS are so easy to drive fast it’s a joke, to put it mildly. I’m talking about a lightweight single seater that resembles a Ferrari F1 car and an open top sportscar that resembles a LeMans sports prototype, both powered by motorcycle engines, but don’t let that fool you. These things are proper race cars and they’re seriously quick!

Let’s talk about the SPEADS single seater first. What we have here is a car at 92% the scale of the 2007 Ferrari F1 car. In other words, it’s 8% smaller than the real thing and people let me tell you, the workmanship on this car is simply outstanding. The bodywork in particular is the best fiberglass work I’ve ever come across.

IMG_2098 Under the skin the car features a seamless mild steel space frame chassis with a 110hp Suz GSXR 1000 power plant, chain driven with the rear sprocket ingeniously crafted onto a custom Quaife limited slip diff. This means you can change ratios like you would on a kart without having to mess with the gearbox internals, and you have the added bonus of a six-speed sequential shift, enabling you to fit an actuator on the shifter and F1-style paddle shifts on the steering wheel.

I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture - we’re talking about a serious race car here. Brakes are Willwood clamps on floating discs. Wheels are 13” diameter, 9”wide in front and 10” in the back. Shocks are Sax units, dual adjustable for compression and rebound with coilovers. The car weighs in at 360kg without driver

So what is the single seater like to drive?

Well, it’s perhaps the best handling single seater I’ve ever driven. To cut a long story short, it’s so good it’s almost boring. This is the kind of car to be in if you wanna hone your driving skills. In any race you wanna get away from the guy IMG_2191 behind you, or you need to chase the guy ahead of you, reel him in. That’s when you drive against the clock, when you’re on your own in a race with nobody around you. That’s when your driving has to be picture-perfect. No mistakes. From my test drive I got the idea that this car will make that easy on the driver. It never stepped out of line, even when I pushed it. It was just so smooth everywhere…

Dislikes? Yes, I have two. I never thought I would call a car capable of 1’05”s around Zwartkops “underpowered”, but I’m afraid it is.

The 1000cc Suzuki motor is woefully weak in this car. You’d come out of a corner and have the car poised perfectly, plant your foot and expect all hell to break loose, but nothing happens. The thing’s got no grunt. It needs double the power – It needs that 220hp 1400cc tweaked ‘Busa motor they run in the SPEADS sportscar. That engine will probably put this car in the sib-one minutes around Zwartkops, on par with Formula VW times. Now we’re talking business!

shelby 010 The other thing I didn’t like was clutch-less down shifts. This car was set up for left foot braking, so you can’t heel and toe. Call me old-school, but I don’t like banging it down the box without the clutch when the gears are grating. I have too much mechanical compassion, and yet, I love crash-boxes and straight-cut gears.

This gearbox however, cried for a paddle shift that cuts the power momentarily and blips the throttle on the down shift. Yes, that would would be much nicer…

The SPEADS sports prototype.

This car is equally impressive in the handling department, but you feel the extra 20kg of bodywork in the corners. But man oh man, the stroked 1400cc 220hp IMG_2233b Hyabusa motor makes up for it down the straights! Keep in mind, this car only weighs 380kg. Do the power to weight maths and you’ll soon realize we’re talking about a car capable of 1’03”s around Zwartkops. During my test drive I dawdled around conservatively in the 1’05”s and the car was an absolute hoot to drive.

These cars are very confidence inspiring, no doubt about that. I tested a Shelby CanAm a few weeks prior to the SPEADS test and I can tell you the Shelby is a far more violent car. It’s bigger and heavier and requires more effort to drive, whereas driving the SPEADS is a walk in the park by comparison.

That just goes to show that South Africa still has the ability to produce some world class race cars thanks to people like Peter Bailey with his brilliant LeMans replicas, Owen Ashley with the cars he builds for the newly formed Masters Series and Chris Costas, the guy behind the SPEADS. (And that’s only naming a few.)

The SPEADS story started when Chris Costas started building an Audi R8 replica and somehow found out about an abandoned project in Cape Town. Some guy had a mould for a complete body-shell for a car similar to the Radical. Chris acquired the mould and made a deal with John Sadsed to manufacture the chassis, whilst CC Motorsport would handle the assembly and sales of the cars.

IMG_2240 The acronym SPEADS comes from playing around with the letters of Sadsed’s last name. The SPEADS sports prototype was born and the single seater followed suit, based on the same mechanicals. Both cars were originally intended for overseas markets and to date sales total 25 sports prototypes and 88 single seaters sold in Europe and the United States. These export cars are being raced in various classes with tremendous success overseas.

SPEADS in South Africa -

You can buy one of these jobbies and race it locally. The sports prototype is eligible to race in any of the local Sports Car Association races. The single seater can be run in Formula Libre and there is a strong possibility that the Formula GTi association will allow them to run in their series until there are enough SPEADS single seaters to start their own one-make series.

The only drawback with the SPEADS is the cost to acquire one. They don’t come cheap. We’re talking purchase prices on the wrong side of R300k and that’s a bit steep if you ask me. It would have been nice if they were more affordable given the state of the current economy and it will probably take a while before we see a one make SPEADS series in South Africa.

Be that as it may, you’d probably have to spend four or five times as much if you wanted a tin top capable of similar lap times. The SPEADS are really great cars and if you want one you can arrange a test drive with Chris Costas personally on [011] 883 6074. Go on, call him. You know deep down you want to...


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