How do the Ariel Atom, BAC Mono, and Drakan Spyder Compare: Showdown
We live in pretty great times if you're in the market for a hardcore performance car. From Chevy, you have the Corvette Z06 that weighs in at 3,524 lbs. From Porsche, the 911 GT3 RS comes in at 3,153 lbs. The most track-capable Mustang ever, the GT350R, comes in at 3,650 lbs. The Viper ACR, Dodge’s newest street-legal racecar weighs 3,431 lbs. And so on... What do all these cars have in common? They're all purpose-built track cars direct from major manufacturers. These are supposed to be the "lightweight," race-focused iterations that inspire confidence to flog the hell out of them anywhere you go. Essentially, racecars for the road. But when is lightweight not light enough? When you have vehicles like the BAC Mono, Ariel Atom 3S, and Drakan Spyder at your disposal, that's when. We put all three of these track toys to the test to see how they stack up. RELATED: See More of the Ford Mustang GT350R
Horsepower: 420 (at the wheels)
Weight: 2,000 lbs
0-60: 3.2 seconds
As we hope you learned in our full review of the Drakan Spyder, this car is absolutely amazing. It’s essentially a muscle car with Ariel Atom characteristics. It's direct in everything it does, and you can have it with an exhaust that would have you believe that you were in a Formula 1 racecar.
The Drakan Spyder is the brainchild of Sector 111 founder Shinoo Mapleton, who's also the man that let us play with the rest of these toys. The Drakan was built to find a way to get the handling characteristics of the other two cars, but do so while meeting the stringent emissions regulations that the company is currently facing. And because V8.
It not only makes use of the “simplify and add lightness” mantra but also “keep it simple stupid.” The Drakan Spyder takes a racecar tube frame, drops a LS3 E-Rod motor into the center of it, and lets the entire car lean on the mechanical grip provided by the massive tires both front and rear. Think of it as road-course NASCAR racecar for the road without any body panels, or more in tune with an older Can Am racecar from the 70s.
The party piece of this car is obviously the handling. It sticks to the pavement like glue, and Sector 111 has further plans to increase the downforce of the car drastically for the future. This means, the Drakan Spyder could be the most racecar-like American car ever built for the road. Though, the experience you have in the BAC Mono is quite different than the Drakan.
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Weight: 1,300 lbs
0-60: 2.8 seconds
This is Mark Webber piloting a LMP1 Porsche down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. It's Lewis Hamilton driving one of Mercedes' Formula 1 cars. This car is about as precise as precise gets.
That’s everything that goes through your head when you're driving in the BAC Mono. It is seriously a racecar, plain and simple. There are no frills. No stereo. No AC. No form of creature comfort to speak of. Just a single seat, an open top, and a sequential paddle-shift gear box that makes you believe you’re a real racing driver, driving a real racecar.
The BAC Mono is a stunning piece of engineering. Standing still, you can easily lose a few hours just staring at the car. Every piece, every nuance just makes you drool a little bit more. Then you slide yourself into the single seat cockpit, strap yourself in with the 5-point harnesses, lock the steering wheel in place, and press the starter.
Unlike the Drakan with its brimstone and hellfire upon startup, the BAC Mono is more buzzy, more static-y. It’s almost as if a low-level of electricity is running throughout the entire vehicle and yourself. Everything is vibrating—and it is good. You get a real tingly sensation when driving this car, one that is definitely reminiscent of what James May described as “the fizz.”
That said, this car turns like nothing else. We’ve been fortunate to drive a lot of crazy track-focused cars with massive tires and great suspensions, but that BAC Mono takes the cake and runs away with it. You take turns at such immense speeds, it frankly belies belief. You’re not just taking the turn at 10-20 miles per hour over what the suggested speed limit is, but closer to 40-50 miles per hour over it.
It isn’t what you would call, all-out fast, but because of its low weight, it is as close to driving a real racecar on the road as you’ll ever come. What isn’t a serious racer, however, is the Ariel Atom.
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Ariel Atom 3S
Weight: 1,500 lbs
0-60: 2.8 seconds
The Ariel Atom 3S can be described in only one way: a frantic psychopath aimed at mutual destruction. And that’s sort of what makes it great. The Atom is as insane as Gary Busey, and even crazier than Amanda Bynes.
The car is loud. As in, you’ll-need-a-new-eardrum loud. The induction noise from the turbo right behind your ear alone is amazing. All you hear is it spooling up and sucking in more and more air as you plant your foot further and further into the accelerator. Then you hear the Honda motor revving to crazy rpm’s and the entire world turns into a giant blur.
That blur effect is due to its low weight, and 365-horsepower motor. This combination makes the Atom superbike-fast. It gets up to speed in fractions of a second. And being as exposed as you are, it makes the experience all that much more enjoyable. It seems hardly possible to have more fun behind the wheel of a car. Words genuinely fail to do the Atom 3S justice.
The Ariel Atom is everything we could have ever wished it to be, and more. Of course, when the tires are cold, it tends to be a bit snappy. Hit the brakes going into a turn and you can expect lockup as the entire car begins to rotate. But that doesn’t matter. This car was meant to make you giggle.
Owning an Atom should be among the life goals for any true car enthusiast.
RELATED: The Ariel Atom is Frighteningly Fast
Simplify and Add Lightness: The Next Auto Tech Leap Forward
We’ve said this before, but cars will need to become lighter in the future to meet impending regulations. No amount of hybrid or turbocharged tech alone will be able to combat the environmental pressures we are facing. While these cars aren’t exactly what we’d call shining examples of where the mainstream auto industry will go, they at least provide a look into how automakers can decrease some of a vehicles weight.
These are three of the most fun cars we’ve ever driven. While they each do things very similarly, they each have completely unique characters. The Drakan is a stripped down Can Am racer, the BAC Mono is the serious racer ready to set the fastest lap time, and the Ariel Atom is the knife wielding crazy person trying to cut your toes off for no good reason. Honestly, these are some of the best cars out there, and every enthusiast should drive one at some point or another.