Ariel’s endurance racing Atom — an ultimate one-of-a-kind machine

The fastest Ariel of them all? Simon de Burton looks at an endurance racer with a claim to being the ultimate track-day car

2015 Ariel Atom 3.5R Britcar

This isn’t an Ariel Atom Cup car – it’s a unique endurance racer that was a class winner in its prime

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The phrase ‘ultimate track-day car’ will be familiar to anyone who regularly scans the adverts in search of race-ready exotica – but it could be a description that’s wholly justified in the case of this Ariel Atom on offer at Andreas Hicks’s young Klasikó dealership.

No sooner had the original Atom gone into production in 2000 than it began to establish its position as the utmost racer with which to take part in the fast-emerging track-day scene.

The combination of a Rover K-Series engine offering up to 190bhp, an all-up weight of just 612kg and a doorless, roofless, screenless tubular frame that guaranteed razor-sharp handling made it a difficult car to beat. And, despite its Mad Max appearance, the car’s road-legal specification and good, low-speed manners meant it was as capable of being driven to the shops as it was (in later incarnations) of out-accelerating Porsche 911s and BMW M cars.

2015 Ariel Atom 3.5R rear

The car is race-ready and comes with a good-sized spares package

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A decade ago, meanwhile, an Atom 3.5R was even fitted with pursuit lights and police livery before being presented to the Avon and Somerset force, ostensibly “to support motorcycle safety”…

As the years went by, the original Rover unit was replaced by increasingly powerful versions of the Honda Civic Type R engine which, combined with regular chassis tweaks, kept the mighty Atom consistently ahead of the pack.

And in 2012, track-day fun turned into serious racing with the launch of the dedicated Atom Cup series for identical cars combining special chassis with 250bhp engines, Öhlins suspension and MSA-approved safety features.

But even that specification paled in 2015 when the Ariel works in Crewkerne, Somerset created the car pictured here – the only factory-built Endurance racing Atom that was ever made.

2015 Ariel Atom 3.5R engine

Its engine is mapped to 400bhp but you could get more from it.

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2015 Ariel Atom 3.5R interior

Welded-in rollcage. Inset: now, go steady at first

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Campaigned by Holden Autosport in the British Dunlop Endurance Championship, it scored four class wins out of four races as well as a second and a third overall thanks to its unique combination of a Cup chassis, 3.5R running gear and a highly tweaked Honda engine that’s capable of being mapped to produce anything from 400bhp (the state of tune it’s currently in) to in excess of 550.

After completing the championship, the car was retained by race preparers Neil Garner Motorsport and Kudu Automotive which, between them, gradually developed it into what it is today – at a considerable cost over and above the original £120,000 sale price.

Now offered in turnkey condition and ready to take on track (but not on the road – it isn’t street legal), the car will be sold with a comprehensive spares package that includes three sets of wheels and tyres, various  suspension parts, radiators, front wings and other assorted bodywork.

Described by Hicks as “probably the fastest Atom available”, it should be eligible for events such as the Britcar Trophy and GT Cup Championship – or, of course, it could be put to work as a formidable track-day car.

Although whether it really will prove to be the ‘ultimate’ depends entirely on whether or not the driver can tame it.

2015 Ariel Atom 3.5R steering wheel

2015 Ariel Atom 3.5R ‘Britcar’
On offer with Klasikó, Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
Asking: £84,995.

Granger things: coupé with a star past

  • As British stars of screen Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons were tying the knot in 1950, they splashed out on a pair of 1949 Bristol 402s, including this one. It’s one of only 20 402s built, although NPF 2 is unusual – in 1958 it was fitted with a Frazer Nash sports engine, which it still has today. SLJ Hackett in Warminster say that the coupé has seen a large amount of restoration, and is available for £235,000.
  • The DVLA is asking for your opinions on how best to preserve classic cars for future generations. “The way we restore and protect these cars has not kept up with the times and evolving technologies,” says Mark Harper, transport secretary. Forms can be found online at
  • While Valentino Rossi was way out front in 2003’s MotoGP, Aussie rider Troy Bayliss was behind on a Ducati Desmosedici GP3. It was Ducati’s return to the premier class of bike racing and Bayliss played his part pushing the Italian maker to second in the constructors’ standings. His steed is on sale with The Bike Specialists in Sheffield, price £350,000.
  • Jaguar is once again a used-car dealer’s dream, re-entering the Retail Margin Monitor top 10 for brands at No2, says digital remarketing platform dealer auction. The average mark-up for a Jag is now £3300 – just behind Land Rover (£4000).
  • Looking like a vehicle created for the Dakar Rally on Minecraft, Tesla’s new all-electric Cybertruck, left, is on an Odyssey tour of Europe. Catching the craft at King’s Cross, we asked a Tesla staffer about the public response so far. “Marmite,” he said. Oof! LG
    Tesla Cybertruck front.jpg