Of the seven people on the Elemental payroll four of them worked at McLaren, on both road and race side. These aren’t just grade A car nuts building a sports car together; these are ex McLaren Grade A car nuts…
Making space for the front diffuser did, however, require a bit of a rethink inside the cabin, the result of which provides the RP1’s other USP: a feet-up driving position where your ankles are just slightly higher than your hips. There’s no other road car in the world like it, but Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber should feel instantly at home here.
Alas GRR didn’t get a chance to try this F1/LMP1-style driving position but those who have say initial uncertainties disappear within minutes. And from then on it feels entirely natural – quite a neat trick then for a car that in other ways is designed to be everyday usable. Twin 100 litre storage bins for shopping (or, more appropriately, helmets) are built in, there’s room for drivers well over 6ft, the ride in road setting is said to be exceptional and even the turning circle, at 10.2m, is more Lidl car park then Le Mans pit lane.
As Elemental’s tech director and founder John Begley says: “Hopefully you will be able to take your wife out in the car and she won’t want to kill you at the end of it.”
All this in a car that claims to be as focused and potent a track weapon as you could hope for. So what, and who, is Elemental? Back to remotest Hampshire….
AFTER HOURS HOBBY PROJECT
The evolution of the Elemental project is laid bare in the firm’s building. Against the far wall is the motorcycle-engined 750 Club racer where the RP1 has its roots. It was the after-hours hobby project of a group of friends, most of whom worked at McLaren at the time. This first project might never have been finished but there are things about it – notably that feet-up driving position – that define the project to this day.
Over on the far wall is the first carbon tub they had made to replace the aluminium of XP (experimental prototype) 1. Then there’s the yellow XP2, the car that turned hobby into business for Elemental Cars.
Since its Goodwood 2014 unveiling, the yellow car has racked up tens of thousands of test miles and been praised to the hilt by journalists who have driven it. Even in hard-used prototype form, Autocar mag ranked it their first choice of track-day special – no easy feat in a market populated by so many talented cars from Lotus, BAC, Caterham, Ariel, Radical, Vuhl, Zenos and KTM.
Elsewhere in the building a new car is coming together that will form part of a static display on Elemental’s show stand at FoS (open from Moving Motor Show day on Thursday, 23 June). And then there’s PP (pre-production) 1, the blue car which will be let loose on the hill, with seasoned driver/race coach Ed Moore behind the wheel.
Seeing this blue car close up, and hearing John and Mark explaining its essence, is to understand the Elemental ethos, one they have no hesitation in saying was inspired by their former employers in Woking.