Testing the Elan NP01 Prototype Race Car at Road Atlanta
Thanks to my friends at DeltaWing Technology Group, including Glenn Carver, and Elan Motorsports Technologies, and officials from NASA (National Auto Sports Association) I had the honor of scheduling a test drive of their new Elan NP01 prototype dedicated race car at Road Atlanta. The problem was that rain was anticipated on the proposed test date - a Sunday.
I was lucky enough to have been in the area of a NASA race that Saturday, at Road Atlanta, and was fortunate to run into Dave Balingit, who helped to design the new race series at and for NASA. Dave could not have been nicer, even offering to allow me to drive his own race car for my test. And then I was told something that really made me smile; my friend Bryan Putt, who drives both an NP01 prototype and an IMPSA Lights prototype racecar, was in the race paddock that weekend. I went to see Bryan to say hello, and before I knew it he was offering for me to drive his MP01 prototype -- that same day. He wanted to offer this to make sure that I would avoid the rain altogether and have a successful test drive. If the race officials were okay with it, then he was, he told me. He trusted me (which I was honored by).
Thanks to Emmanuel Baako of NASA and other officials on site I was able to secure the clearances I needed to drive. The only problem - my test drive time was 45 minutes away.
I had to get my gear from my truck (luckily I travel with it), get suited and prepared, get my head in the game, get registered and briefed on rules and regulation for the session, and most of all -- get instructions from Bryan and his race tech on how to drive this amazing new car. Everything fell in place -- but I still found a way to stall the car just before entering the track. And then, before you knew it, I was rolling with my group up turn 1 at Road Atlanta.
The NP01, powered by a special purpose, sealed Mazda engine, and purpose built chassis by Elan Motorsports, is a wonderful and well sorted race car for sports racing enthusiasts.
I was very impressed with its stability, its balance through the apex and even over curbing on the track. The sequential shifting seems natural and purposeful with each and every shift, and downshifting is equally solid. This is not a clutch or transmission you overwhelm easily. The braking is reassuring -- and possibly even more than you need for a car of this weight and size. I also like that the car is modularized -- meaning that you can repair the right front corner alone, for instance. And the parts are affordable and accessible, as prototype race car parts go.
The only problem I had with the NP01 -- was me. I just refused to push it beyond 7th/10th's -- as it was not my car. My goal was to not spin, stall or wreck my friends prized car. Succeeded on all fronts. I was able to complete the test without incident, but feel like I just needed more time on track. Next step: arranging a follow up drive. Keep you posted.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a dedicated, entry level prototype race car -- you can look no further. Call the pros at Elan Motorsports.
John Hope Bryant, Bryant Group Motorsports