There are two big highlights in such a boxing match: the weighing – as a staging of the fighters and as a hot-brand for the fans – and the wrestling match itself. This is also the case in this story. First the CCK-Westfield Sport 300, KTM X-Bow R and Radical Rapture are weighed, then they enter the ring – in our case it’s the Hockenheimring with 17 curves instead of the four ring corners and a few straights instead of the ring ropes.
No music, no TV cameras, but a gloomy look from the KTM, which the bug-eyed Westfield returns with a grin, while the Radical turns up his nose. The candidates roll into the small house with the scales embedded in the floor with their upper bodies free. First the front axle is put on to determine the weight distribution, then the whole vehicle. 625 kilos for the Westfield, 797 for the Radical, 868 for the KTM. With full tanks!
Against the current
So it is clear that we are not in the heavyweight boxing class here, but in the flyweight class. Free of fat pads, but with extremely flexible limbs and still plenty of punch – thanks to turbo engines. In fact, this lightweight festival knows no loser even before the start.
Their basic idea is still rooted in the past, when sports cars only had what was necessary to drive. No ABS, no driving assistants to interfere, but only the car and the driver.
It is a fact that sports cars are getting bigger and heavier. More technology, more comfort, more safety, more cables, more sensors: you inevitably get heavy bones. But there are still the purists who oppose this course. The three here embody this counter current. Only their on-board computers are digitalized. And that really shouldn’t have been necessary.
Their basic idea is still rooted in the past, when sports cars only had what was needed to drive them. Just like back then, when a Porsche 911 weighed less than 1.1 tons – instead of today’s over 1,500 kilograms. No ABS, no driving assistants to interfere, just the car and the driver – in the you and me. The driver determines the gear and gear selection at the Hockenheimring. In two cases with the right hand over the gear stick, in the case of the Radical over the paddle shifters of the semi-automatic system on the steering wheel.
The clouds over the track thin out, the dugouts warm up, the slalom is set: the Westfield sets the first stitch. In 8.54 seconds or with an average speed of 75.9 km/h, the orange flounder nuzzles around the pylons and pushes behind with the stub tail. From the outside it looks playfully easy. Left, right, left, right – the body remains stable and obviously resists the centrifugal forces. The only one who slides back and forth is test driver Uwe Sener, whom it pushes back and forth on the leather seat. Facial expressions and gestures anticipate the conclusion: a broad grin under the helmet and a raised right thumb.
The Westfield is made for quick changes of direction: hardly any weight, slim stature, stiff in structure, yet agile, sensitive but not hyper-nervous – neither when steering nor when accelerating. So it is not difficult for the driver to adjust to it. With all this lightness, you just have to be careful not to overwind yourself. Otherwise, the rear end may buckle out. At some point, even the semi-slicks will lose their lateral control.
The Recaro seat shell of the KTM is placed between the axles, but because of the knee-high front end and the overview, you feel like you are practically on the front axle. This allows a perfect view of the turning points.
In the X-Bow R the ambience is completely different, not only because of the missing windshield. You just have to put the two next to each other. The Westfield feels like it fits twice into the rectangle from Austria. In the Englishman you sit in the back like in a stretch limousine, while the Recaro seat shell of the KTM is placed between the axles, but you feel like you are practically on the front axle because of the knee-high front end and the overview. This allows a perfect view of the turning points. Nevertheless, the rear axle is not remote, but wired to the popometer. And yet the X-Bow, which steers a little more smoothly, cannot keep up with the Westfield on the tight course. It is missing 2.5 km/h for this.
Neither can keep up with the Radical. The X-Bow sweeps like a hurricane in 8.27 seconds (78.4 km/h) over the slalom – so precisely that the cones still stand afterwards. The thing looks like an LMP racing car and also drives like one. All it takes is a little push on the five-spoke steering wheel with the six yellow buttons for indicators, lights and horn and the red knob for the rear wheel slip (wet sport race) and the Rapture is between the cones. The semis of the type Yokohama Advan A052 resin on the asphalt. The wind above the front splitter and the rear wing presses and the airflow along the underbody sucks it onto the road. As you steer, you feel the handlebars rotating on your big toe. This makes you feel smooth as a part of the mechanics.
Glinicke Motorsport, which has taken over the distribution of the Radicals in Germany, wants to approve it for public road traffic. The long TÜV list has already been worked off. The noise mapping and the exhaust gas test according to WLTP are still missing. Nice for those who want to drive to the race track with him themselves. In this country these are probably only the fewest of the few buyers. Actually it does not need the road approval. The potential of a radical can only be experienced in a closed-off area – the aerodynamics only unfold their effect at higher speeds, which are not built up at all on country roads.
Too hot for the Westfield
The charm of these three sports cars is that they do not have to compensate their weight with power like so many modern sports cars. The two-liter four-cylinder turbocharged Ford engine in the Westfield delivers 299 hp. This makes a power-to-weight ratio of 2.09 kilograms per PS. The two-liter Audi TFSI in the X-Bow unleashes 300 hp. Each PS only has to accelerate 2.89 kilograms. In the Radical, which draws 365 hp from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo, the figure is 2.18 kilograms per hp. The cast parts of the Ford base engine are replaced by forged parts by the English: Large-series technology as the starting point, which ensures reliability and is refined by the purists for the respective vehicle concept.
On the fast lap the Sport 300 suffers from sunstroke. According to the manufacturer, it is not intended for that, but rather for country road fun.
The three are so similar in their idea of pure driving pleasure, but so different in their technology and fulfillment of the whole. The Westfield does not belong on the race track, but on winding country roads or in the mountains. One sits so deep in it that without the doors and side windows one could easily pick flowers by the wayside for the wife. Driving fast is nice, but so is slow cruising. He is a connoisseur who wants to be enjoyed. He likes stress as little as getting up in the morning. The KTM can do both: country road and race track, the multi-talent that doesn’t radiate the serenity of the Westfield, but also doesn’t have the doggedness of Rapture in its genes. The Radical is, as the name suggests, a radical – one that doesn’t care about compromises and for whom performance oozes from the airbox. The lap time alone says a lot: It is almost five seconds faster than the X-Bow – the Westfield doesn’t even note a time. Why?
Its four-cylinder turbo gets too hot on the race track at an outside temperature of 30 degrees. The radiators are at their performance limit, the cigar threatens to burn. The cooling concept is obviously designed for the 252 HP Sport 250. Almost 50 hp more power in the case of the Sport 300 also means more heat is generated. To achieve this, the intercooler would have to be designed more efficiently. The crux of the matter: English customers hardly ever go to the race track, but move their Westfield somewhere between 97 and 113 km/h in everyday life, says the manufacturer. And for this – and also for higher speeds on German highways – the cooling concept is sufficient.
Source of the joy of cornering
But not for the permanent stress on the race track. It seems as if the long stem pushes the hot air in front of it like a wall. The engine temperature climbs and climbs until the control unit pulls the rip cord halfway through the parabolics. A pity, because in the curves the Westfield is a source of joy.
The torque of 411 Newton meters is more than enough, in fact it is even too much for the sports car, which is based on a grid tube frame, which is covered with GRP parts.
When braking, the driver must be careful not to accidentally touch the gas pedal with his right foot. The pedals are as close together as piano keys. It helps to wear narrow shoes as well as a long upper body. Then the apex of the curve can be located via the front wheel covers. The steering angle follows the eyes, the Westfield combs the vertex and pushes itself out of the curve with its massive torque.
It is easy to handle, does not bitch, but rubs the transition from static to sliding friction under your nose. The torque of 411 Newton meters is more than enough, in fact it is even too much for the sports car, which is based on a tubular frame with GRP parts. Plastic instead of aluminum: that’s one of the differences to Caterham. Although this makes the Westfield a bit heavier, it is easy on the wallet. Base price and spare parts are cheaper. The quality of workmanship is a clear argument in favor of Caterham.
Curves can be driven confidently in the next higher gear. This also means that the torque does not affect the rear tires as much. At 5,500 tours, the display prepares the driver for changing gears. Three times green, three times yellow, over 6,500 revolutions red, please change gear, otherwise the Ford engine will rattle into the limiter. The five-speed transmission is from the Mazda MX-5 – the lanes of the stub are similarly short. The turbo fits the Westfield. In well under four seconds, the four-cylinder is supposed to lift the lightweight to country road speed. A high-revving naturally aspirated engine with less torque, but screeching through the exposed sidepipe, would suit it even better – we think.
The Gaudianer from KTM
High-volume technology from Audi individually packaged: The X-Bow R weighs only 868 kilos and accelerates to 100 in 3.9 seconds.
Out of the front-engine charmer and into the Gaudian from KTM, which, according to the factory, accelerates to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. The Audi engine – known from the TTS – makes the clutch sweat at 420 Newton meters. A six-speed transmission transmits the power to the rear axle, where it manages a mechanical limited slip differential from Drexler. An aluminum spaceframe carries the drive train, while a carbon monocoque carries the driver. This is the difference to Westfield and Radical, which are based on grid tube frames.
The KTM rides wonderfully refreshing. At the entrance to the curve, the Batmobil under-steers only marginally, if at all. When decelerating, the rear end can be adjusted via the brake pressure and the X-Bow circles into the corner. And that’s where the mechanical grip and aerodynamic downforce come into their own. Even at 100 km/h, downforce is 48 kilograms. This means you can step on the gas very early – much earlier than we are used to from the sports cars we normally test at Hockenheim. In the north curve, for example, or out of curve two or in the dip. That’s where you usually stroke the gas pedal and sensitively balance the steering angle. In the case of the KTM, you steer in, tap into the curve and immediately step on the gas pedal. The higher the speed, the higher the downforce. At 200 km/h it is almost 200 kilograms.
Overcoming the head
The Rapture is based on a tubular grid chassis with FIA-compliant safety cell and crash structure. Composite body with double-decker rear spoiler.
On the parabolics, it slowly pulls the helmet up until the X-Bow seems to stand up a bit. A lot of downforce usually also means a lot of drag. Only on the long straight down to the hairpin bend does one miss a bit of power. This thought is forgotten again when braking. Even less experienced drivers will quickly find their way around the R. The limit is wide. This means: You have to accelerate very early and turn sharply so that the rear axle overtakes the front axle. Just like now, at the exit of the Mercedes grandstand. The exit zone is large enough to test this.
The Radical zooms you into the next level. You only have to push the throttle fully once. The sound becomes rougher, the contours of the track edge blur in the corners of your eyes, the ideal line becomes a tunnel. Especially from 4,500 rpm up to a top speed of 7,000 rpm the Rapture pushes relentlessly. The racing car-like sports car gets the time on the KTM especially when accelerating out and on the straights. Speed difference on the home straight: 206 to 189 km/h. Speed delta on the Parabolika: 36 km/h. In the fast corners, the Radical generates even more downforce and lies even more firmly on the tarmac. In the right-hand bend in front of the Mercedes grandstand, it travels ten km/h faster than the X-Bow.
But this is also the crux of the matter. Probably the Rapture could be moved even faster in Hockenheim. But that would require more track time and more information. An example: In the fast right-hand bend described above, the fully loaded left rear tire gives you the feeling that you don’t want to grip it right away. A slight sideways step is announced, which unsettles the driver. The tire only moves on the rim.
Understanding and grasping: Where your head actually advises you to slow down, you have to accelerate in the Rapture, so that the body and underbody with a large footprint can build up even more downforce.
You have to understand and grasp this car in detail before you can develop its full potential. Where your head actually advises you to slow down, you have to accelerate so that the body and underbody with a large footprint can build up even more downforce. And thus allow correspondingly higher cornering speeds. That’s why buyers are first introduced to their radical through simulator and racetrack training. The driver feels the effect of aerodynamics in fast corners and in deceleration. But watch out: The more the Radical decelerates, the lower the downforce and the greater the risk of the front wheels locking.
Racing like in the past
Give in: Already you are rattling over the curb. Accelerate: The engine speed is almost back to 7,000 rpm. Racing for the ambitious gentleman driver! The Rapture doesn’t want to cruise, it wants to be driven. It is once again significantly faster than the X-Bow, but can also be driven more sharply. The next level of performance wants to be mastered. If you shift at half throttle in lower rev ranges, you will nod your head afterwards. Only when the sequential transmission is allowed to change forward gears under load does it run smoothly.
With more practice, a lap time below 1:50 would have been possible. This would not have changed anything in terms of expressiveness. The Radical is the fastest of the trio, which reminds of the good old days without looking old-fashioned. That will probably still be the case in 20 years. Accelerating out of the second curve one last time, the on-board computer reports: “low fuel pressure” – low fuel pressure, the Radical rolls out, parks. The tank is empty. Racing like in the old days, when perfection did not yet dominate motor sports.
These three are unique. Let us enjoy such cars while they are still being built. They all weigh significantly less than a ton, accelerate fast, fly low and arouse great feelings of happiness in every curve. There is nothing between the car and the driver, no driving assistant or the like. You are on your own and live out your driving experience every second.