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IFR Aspid Supersport (2008) review

Published:12 November 2008

IFR Aspid Supersport (2008) review
  • At a glance
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The IFR Aspid Supersport? Just where the hell did that thing land from? Well, Spain as it happens. Specifically just outside Barcelona and the twisted imagination of a gang of ex-rally engineers who decided a mad-looking, open-wheeled carbonfibre rocket is the perfect tool for demonstrating their mastery of high tech engineering.

So it’s not just a tarted-up, overpriced Spanish Caterham then?

No, no, no! And don’t you dare suggest that to IFR main man and ex-Prodrive/Mitsubishi WRC race engineer Ignacio Fernandez. He gets really upset when you do. Ask us how we know…

The superficial resemblance to Colin Chapman’s lightweight hero is purely coincidental, though the Aspid is fully signed up to the Lotus founder’s mantra of less weight, more speed. And then a bit more. Yes, the Aspid looks mad but that’s nothing compared with the performance.

How about 0-62 in 2.9 seconds? Or, perhaps more relevantly, the fact that Fernandez reckons it’s as fast along the local rally stage roads as a full-blown tarmac-spec WRC car. Fanciful? Until you here the tale of one prospective owner who was 1.5 seconds faster round his local track than in his racing-slick shod Ferrari 430 Challenge car. This on his second ever lap in the Aspid.    

OK, so it’s fast. But is there anything more to it than that and the wacky looks?

Oh yes. A lot more. So much in fact it’s hard to know where to start. So let’s try with the chassis, a hand-welded aluminium space frame weighing just 55kg, onto which aerospace-grade aluminium honeycomb plates are bonded for added strength and FIA-spec crash protection.

IFR showed us an example of this honeycomb which had been subjected to a 10-tonne static load and had barely deformed. And the sides have two layers of this stuff, sandwiching energy absorbing foam. So it’s strong. Very strong. And extremely stiff too, which leads us neatly to…

…the suspension. IFR places great importance on a stiff chassis to enable the suspension to work to its best ability. Unsprung weight of about 21kg per corner – on a par with an F1 car – comes via patented aluminium extrusions and beautifully machined end pieces. That open wheeled look? The better for showing off the craftsmanship.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our IFR Aspid Supersport first drive

All very trick. What about the engine?

About the only thing IFR doesn’t fabricate itself, the engine is a dry-sumped Honda S2000 unit fitted with a bespoke exhaust system and Vortech supercharger delivering 395bhp at a VTEC-tastic 9000rpm redline.

This in a car weighing just 740kg. The result is as dramatic as the looks. With the supercharger offsetting the VTEC top-end charge, acceleration is relentless from pretty much any point in the rev range, building to an ear-piercing crescendo as you reach the redline.

At the wheel you’re too busy trying to comprehend how quickly you’re travelling up the road to even notice the noise. Guaranteed, it’ll be at least twice as fast as you intended, or thought possible. It’s up there with the Ariel Atom – also a beneficiary of supercharged Honda power – in pure pace. But then we get to the handling.

What, it goes round corners quickly as well?

Oh yes it can. But it’s pretty unconventional. With a wheelbase of 2160mm and width of 1870mm the Aspid’s footprint is as near square as makes no difference, the sticky Toyo R888s forced right out to the extremities. It rides quite high too, with a ground clearance of 160mm.

Then there are the brakes. Up front there are double discs, clamped by single caliper and able to generate 1.5g of braking force. On road tyres. And they do this again and again and again, without a hint of fade. Driving along roads used just weeks before for the Rally Catalunya you can pick your braking points by the black lines left by the rally cars, the Aspid shrugging off speed as rapidly as it accumulated it.

Then there’s the way it changes direction. With such a short wheelbase this happens suddenly. But it’s the way the suspension swallows the violent camber changes of these Catalan roads that really impresses. You can try anything to upset the balance, including stamping on those fearsome brakes mid-corner should you suddenly encounter a herd of goats (…which we did) or simply run out of bottle (ditto) and the Aspid refuses to deviate. With the chassis fully loaded you can even ride up the inside kerbs of roundabouts and the suspension just swallows it up – try doing that in your stiffly sprung trackday special and see how far you get.

The interior looks pretty minimal – typical stripped out minimalist chic I guess…
True enough, there’s not much to see in there beyond an F1-style button heavy carbon-fibre steering wheel, a couple of vents and – hang on, is that a touchscreen there? Yes it is, and very clever it is too.

It seems the boys at IFR are as accomplished with the computers as they are with the more traditional engineering skills, having developed a touchscreen interface that’s clearer, faster and more intuitive than anything seen in more mainstream cars. Everything from on-board wifi, lighting and MP3 music to steering settings and full telemetry info can be accessed from it. And quickly.

You can choose the colour of the LED shift lights on the detachable steering wheel. There are personalisation options that put tech-fest limos like the new 7-series to shame. And you can download telemetry from IFR test drivers that flag up favoured gearshift and braking points for you when you’re trying to learn a new circuit. In fact, there’s enough geekboy technology packed in here to make even a Nissan GT-R owner feel short-changed on the gizmo front. That’s if he could get his chunky frame behind the wheel – the Aspid being distinctly cosy in its accommodation even if there’s plenty of legroom available.

Verdict

IFR makes no bones about the fact the Aspid is a means of attracting attention to technology it hopes – in one form or another – to be able to sell on to mainstream manufacturers. A rolling showcase if you will.

But don’t for one minute think this is simply showfloor eye candy. On a tight and twisty back road nothing, not a GT3 RS, not a Scuderia and definitely not a Veyron, is going to stand a chance of keeping the little Spaniard in sight. OK, it’s not going to win any autobahn bragging rights. But since when was driving in a straight line interesting?

What the Aspid does is offer Ariel Atom performance but with little extras like bodywork. A roof. Air con and other such luxuries. All without diluting the hardcore appeal or lunatic performance one bit. Yes, it costs a lot. But given the technology and expertise that’s gone into its construction you can appreciate exactly where that money has gone.

Specs

Price when new: £90,000
On sale in the UK: Summer 2009
Engine: 1997cc supercharged 4-cyl, 395bhp @ 8600rpm, 240lb ft @ 7800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 2.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph (claimed)
Weight / material: 740kg/aluminium honeycomb spaceframe, carbon fibre bodywork
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3750/1870/1160

Rivals

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