Karen's Supercar Showdown


Karen was surprised with drives in several supercars at the Prodrive test facility in Warwickshire for her birthday recently. Karen was astounded to discover she would be driving a Nissan R35 GT-R, Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, Ariel Atom, McLaren MP4-12C and an Aston Martin DBS!

Karen's first drive was in the Nissan R35 GT-R. At least the GT-R shared four wheel drive like Karen's race car and Richard's road car. However, it had around 500 horsepower and a flappy-paddle gearbox. Unfortunately for Karen, it began raining just as she began her drive.

Karen had been offered a drive in full automatic mode, but she took the decision to use the flappy-paddle manual mode and had absolutely no problems. It felt natural almost immediately, which bode well for the rest of the day as most of the other cars used the same gear changing method.

The instructor gave Karen a score of 35/40 for her drive in the Nissan R35 GT-R.

The next car in line was the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. Karen was a little intimidated by the car's size and massive 640 horsepower figure.

This time, the weather was dry although sections of the track were still damp. Karen could certainly feel the immense torque of the Lamborghini V12 over the top of engine of the GT-R. Karen was surprised how much she enjoyed her drive and was certainly grinning from ear to ear when she stepped out of the car.

The instructor on her Lamborghini drive gave her a score of 35+/40.

Karen's next drive was in the Ariel Atom.The Atom is a mid-engined rear wheel drive car open to the elements. Luckily, although cool and windy it was still dry for Karen's drive.

Karen had been supplied with a helmet and gloves, but unfortunately the wind was catching under the helmet along the main straight and making it ride up which affected her confidence. This was the only car on the day which used a conventional clutch and manual gear change with a gear stick.

Despite the problems with the helmet, Karen really enjoyed her drive in the Atom. Although not as powerful as any of the other cars, it was much lighter and nimble and the power delivery felt just as fast. Karen's legs felt like jelly afterwards and we took that to mean she enjoyed it!

The instructor gave Karen a score of 36.5/40 for her drive in the Ariel Atom.

Richard had been eagerly anticipating Karen's next drive. This was the McLaren MP4-12C, a twin-turbo V8 engined car producing nearly 600 horsepower. The chassis is supposedly exemplary and the car can provide all the required performance without sacrificing comfort.

Once again the car used a flappy-paddle gear change, but Karen was now an old hand at this. Karen felt the steering to be initially quite light compared to the previous cars. Acceleration was simply in a different league and it took Karen's breath away!

The McLaren astounded Karen with its performance, both in terms of power and handling. It was also so easy to drive it was a devastating combination. The instructor was so impressed with Karen's drive that he gave her a big hug when they got out of the car!

The instructor gave Karen a score of 38.5/40 for her drive in the McLaren MP4-12C.

Finally, a real touch of class as Karen's ultimate drive was in the Aston Martin DBS. Not content with the car used by Daniel Craig as James Bond 007 in the film Casino Royale, this version was a convertible!

Karen found the car to have a wonderful interior with a very upmarket and executive feel. If that lulled her into a false sense of security, then the performance soon shattered that. The DBS was nearly as fast as the McLaren!

The instructor gave Karen a score of 39/40 for her drive in the Aston Martin DBS!

Karen thoroughly enjoyed all her drives, but she was left trying to decide her favourite between the McLaren MP4-12C and the Aston Martin DBS. She's decided on both. The DBS as her daily drive and the MP4-12C as her weekend weapon!

All photographs of the day can be found here: Karen's Supercar Showdown

Race Report – Oulton Park 28th September


Image used with kind permission of InMotionImages

Karen arrived at Oulton Park on the day before the Nippon Challenge races for an afternoon of practice. The plan had been to save the semi-slick Silverstone tyres for late in the day and for the races. As Richard removed them it was discovered that one of them had a rather large egg shaped defect in it. Without the Silverstone crew in attendance there was no option but to run in practice and the races using the Federal 595 RSR tyres that had been destined for wet weather.

The weather was most definitely not wet! In fact it was a totally glorious weekend of weather, with a light breeze and warm sunshine. Probably not the best conditions for wet weather tyres. However, the Federals held up excellently and maintained decent pressures and seemed to last very well. However, Richard doubted they had the same ultimate grip as the Silverstones and thus Karen was already running at a disadvantage.

As the practice sessions continued, Karen noticed that a hesitation or "hiccup" as she described it was afflicting the car when accelerating hard in 5th gear. It seemed this may be down to overboost, but there was nothing that could be done about it.

Karen's practice times seemed pretty good and fairly consistent. She finished the afternoon of practice with a best time of 2:08 and consistent laps in 2:09.

Race 1 started well with Karen having qualified in 16th position. She overtook the MX5's of Kevin Middleton and Simon Fleet before the first corner. On lap 2, Simon got on the inside at the hairpin and was away. Karen spent the rest of her race trying to chase down Simon and Rob Jefferies in his MK1 MR2 Turbo. Karen finished 15th Overall and 2nd in the GT300 class.

Race 2 began with Karen getting passed by Kevin's MX5 at Cascades, but she out-dragged him immediately along Lakeside. Kevin got passed her again into the hairpin and Karen had to wait until Hilltop when she could overhaul him again and stay in front at Knickerbrook. Karen was now chasing after Rob's MR2 whilst trying to stay ahead of Simon's MX5. Meanwhile, Andy McLennan was forcing his way through the field in his Suzuki Swift. Karen allowed him past at the hairpin and Simon pounced to follow on Andy's coat-tails! She nearly had him back into Old Hall, but Simon held his nerve and went around the outside. Then Kevin rubbed salt into the wound at Cascades again, before Karen reclaimed the position. Karen finished 14th overall and 2nd in the GT300 class again.

Image used with kind permission of Lance Wittenberg

Karen's overall results looked pretty dismal, but this was due to the number of very quick French Trophy cars that were sharing the grid with the Nippon Challenge. Mostly populated by racing Clios, the cars were powerful, light and very nimble.

It seems that a tweak to the ECU may be required to fix the problems with turbo boost in 5th gear, as well as the fight against weight to help make the car accelerate faster, stop more quickly and be more nimble in the corners.

About Karen Phillips

  • Karen races her Impreza WRX in the Classic and Sports Car Club (CSCC) Modern Classics series, with her husband Richard as a 2nd Driver. The races are mini-endurance events involving a driver-swap. Karen has previously raced in the Nippon Challenge, a race series for Japanese and Asian cars. Karen has been racing since 2006, having started in the MR2 Challenge.
  • Please check this site regularly for updates on Karen's progress through the season and developments with her race car.

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