How Fast is an A1-GP Race Car ?


After all has been said and done, straight-line acceleration continues to be the most widely accepted benchmark for a car’s performance and certainly most beloved by hard-core car enthusiasts. There’s something primordially seductive in the process of going ‘pedal-to-metal’, with the engine screaming wildly through the gears and with quick-shifts when the tacho needle bounces madly against the rev-limiter.


The standard benchmark measurements have always been the ‘standing-start’ acceleration tests; 0-60mph/96kph/100kph or the more representative 0-400m/quarter-mile. In recent times, a new benchmark has begun to be used, mainly for testing the more ‘exotic’ varieties - the super-cars. This is the new 0-100-0 (mph) timed tests and comprises a mad standing-start acceleration run to 100mph (~160kph) followed by an even madder braking run back to stand-still again.


Equally if not more popular amongst hardcore enthusiasts would be our obsession with anything racing related. I myself fully admits to being guilty of putting ever more items marked ‘competition use only, not for road use’ into my Integra. And while I won’t go to that extreme, I have more than several friends who drives around with a roll-cage, a striped interior, and full bucket racing seats, citing ‘better safety’ as their excuse (justification).


Putting these 2 things together results in what is probably the most debated question amongst hard-core enthusiasts “Just HOW FAST is a race car ?”. The inspiration for this unusual article is the recent newsletter I received from the A1 Grand Prix press office. “A1 race car put through its paces” screams one of the section headlines. You bet that grabbed my attention very fast !.


The source for that newsletter section was a recent test by AUTOCAR magazine of the U.K. who put together an assembly of the world’s most powerful and fastest vehicles and subjected them to the 0-100-0 test mentioned above. All the vehicles (the assembly includes 1 super-bike as well) are road-legal but to put things into perspective, and no doubt to spice the test up, AUTORCAR got in touch with the A1 Team of Great Britain and got them to put their A1 GP race car into the same test as well. The results, as the saying goes, are extremely interesting (to say the least).


Reproduced below is the relevant section of the A1-GP newsletter (the photo is taken from the A1 Team Great Britain website).


A1 race car put through its paces


The A1 race car was tested for sheer speed last month, when international magazine Autocar pitched it against the most expensive supercars in the world.  Recording a time of 8.4 seconds from 0-100-0mph, the 550bhp V8 A1 car was unsurprisingly top of the time sheet. 


It was the first run for an A1 car in the UK, since being flown around the world for A1’s first season after the inaugural race at Brands Hatch in September 2005.  Since then, the A1 cars have raced on six continents, completing 102,905 racing miles.  Despite this, the A1 car functioned perfectly during the test, reaching 60 mph in 3 seconds and 100 mph in 5 seconds.


A Bugatti Veyron was the car that got closest to the A1 car’s time, but it was still a second and a half slower, despite being the most powerful and fastest production car in the world. 


A1 Team Great Britain driver Robbie Kerr was on hand to show what his race car could really do, ‘It was really great to be behind the wheel of an A1 car again, it seems ages since I last drove it at Laguna Seca!  I was determined to get the best time possible out of the car, even though conditions were a little slippery.  I’m busy racing in World Series now, but I’m really looking forward to the start of the A1 series again in the autumn.’ 


The second season of the A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport will kick off on 1 October at Circuit Park, Zandvoort in the Netherlands.  Over 100,000 tickets have already been sold for the event. 


To get more details of the test, I googled the net. The ‘official’ Autocar U.K. site do not contain anything on this test but I found a site which has a nice summary of the test, including a full listing of the results. The test result below is reproduced based on the information from the Gizmag article. For more readings, the link to the full gizmag article is here


1.                       A1 GP                           8.40

2.                       Bugatti Veyron              9.90

3.                       Suzuki GSX-R1000       10.70

4.                       Ariel Atom S'Charged    11.00

5.                       Ariel Atom 450              11.05

6.                       Atom Private Owned     11.05

7.                       Caterham CSR260        11.95

8.                       Brooke Double R           12.50

9.                       Porsche 911 Turbo        12.50

10.                  Ford Focus WRC           13.57

11.                  Lambo Gallardo             13.65

12.                  Ascari KZ1                    13.80

13.                  Corvette Z06                13.80

14.                  Alpina B6                      14.80

15.                  BMW M6                       14.95

16.                  TVR Tuscan 2                15.00

17.                  BMW M5                       15.20

18.                  Audi RS4                       15.80

19.                  Aston V8 Vantage         15.81

20.                  BMW Z4M Roadster      15.95

21.                  Porsche Cayman S        16.46

22.                  Lotus Exige S                16.60

23.                  Nissan 350Z                 18.80

24.                  Vauxhall Astra Sprint     18.85

25.                  Vauxhall Astra VXR        19.05

26.                  Renault Megane F1        20.55

27.                  Mazda 6MPS                 21.00

28.       Ford Focus ST               21.35

29.       Vauxhall Vectra VXR      22.35

30.       Vauxhall Astra Thurlby   22.65

As can be seen, the A1 GP race car of A1 Team Great Britain did the test in a time 1.5 seconds faster than the most powerful and fastest road-legal car yet built, the 16cylinder 987hp engined Bugatti Veyron (also said to be capable of a true 400kph/250mph top speed) which can do the standard 0-60mph runs in only 2.8 seconds. In 3rd place is the single Super-Bike entrant, the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Google searches shows that this uses a 999c.c. 4-cylinder engine generating 178ps. This bike is supposedly the new King of the Hill as far as super-bikes are concerned based on the google listings. With the older 2003 version having been tested for a 0-60mph run of 2.56seconds and a quarter mile of 10.04sec at 142mph, the new 2005 version should be seriously faster. Yet it is beaten by the Veyron by almost a second in the 0-100-0 run.

By sheer coincidence, a nice Honda twist was added to this article by the Ariel Atom which occupies the 4th, 5th, and 6th ranking overall. This road-legal open-seater race-car uses the 220ps K20A from the DC5 Integra Type-R (U.K. version, Ariel Atom 2) and is spec’ed for a 0-60mph time of 3.5 seconds. The photo on the left is taken from the Gizmag website and has been downsized for this article. I chose to do this because it has the nice Honda logo on its side. The original photo is available for download at the Gizmag site (url is above).

To put the A1-GP’s domination of the 0-100-0 test into perspective, it is useful to note that an A1-GP race car is a standard spec’ed design with carbon fibre bodywork over an aluminium chassis. A ‘ready-to-run’ A1-GP car without fuel or driver weighs just 600kg, i.e. the same as a Formula-1 car. They come with ‘standard’ engines from Zytek; 3.4l V8s and spec’ed for 520bhp in ‘normal’ mode and 550bhp when in ‘powerboost’ mode (meant for quick overtaking runs in A1 GP races). A1-GP says an A1 race car can generate G-forces of up to 3.5Gs or around that in a jet-fighter. The gearbox is a lightweight magnesium cased 6-speed sequential shifting unit with paddle actuators.

Of note would be the intriguing entry that lies quietly buried in the 10th position, a Ford Focus WRC race car which did the 0-100-0 test in 13.57 seconds.

The question burning on every enthusiast’s minds would of course be how would a Formula-1 car fare in this test ? I remember a similar test done by the now extinct British car mag Performance Car who did the test on the Jaguar Formula-1 car from late last decade. The F1 car in question did the 0-100-0 test in just 6 seconds ! The car burned up the 0-60mph in just 2.2 seconds and reached 100mph in 4 seconds, and then took only 2 seconds to come back down to a complete stop. It proves the stupendous performance that F1 cars are capable of delivering (and answers the question of why so many hardcore enthusiasts are so fascinated by them) though sadly with the impending de-specification exercise by the FIA, soon F-1 cars will probably be barely capable of making it into the middle of the list above. Imagine the ‘pinnacle of race cars’ being beaten in a straight-line run by a road-legal super-car.

Rather surprisingly, F1 cars, even the original 3.0l V10s of the last decade are not the fastest accelerating race cars. The Guiness Book of World Records used to list the 1990s Can-Am Porsche-Audi 917/30 1000+hp race-cars as having the fastest acceleration for a ‘normal’ 4-wheel race-machine, with a 0-60mph of only 1.9 seconds. The photo of the 917 on the left is taken from Wikipedia. Then of course, we have the ‘abnormal’ 4-wheel race machines, the famous Pro Dragsters (I think they are also called ‘Funny Cars’) and Top-Fuel Dragsters from the United States. Performance Car tested 1 before and apparently Top-Fuel Dragsters gets from 0-60mph in around 0.2 seconds (on their way to quarter mile times of around 4-5 seconds).

Hard Core enthusiasts are greedy fellows in general so to me, the list is still not complete. Other ‘top-level’ racing cars to dream about testing would be the Super-GT GT500 race cars but they will not do well. Super-GT cars are designed for rolling starts and does not feature blinding standing start sprints in their races. Similarly ineffective too would be the Touring Car race cars. However I personally would absolutely love it if someone is to subject a MotoGP or WSB (World Super Bike) race-bike in this test, if only to satisfy the eternal debate of which is faster – 4 wheels or 2 wheels.


July 2006

© Temple of VTEC Asia